DR Brass in a Nutshell
Myth: DR Brass is lead free
Brass is made by combining primarily copper and zinc. Copper has little tendency to react chemically, is very malleable and can be easily damaged. Zinc is reactive and vulnerable to corrosion but strong. By combining the two, at about 58% copper and 40% zinc, we have a product that is unreactive and strong, which is good for plumbing fittings in most circumstances.
DR Brass and DZR Brass are the same thing. They stand for “dezincification resistant brass”. Dezincification is where, under certain circumstances, some of the zinc is removed from the brass allowing water to seep through the brass causing a leak. DR Brass reduces dezincification from the fitting. It is achieved by increasing the copper content slightly and reducing the zinc. At the same time, lead is slightly reduced and a little arsenic and tin are typically added.
There are several factors which predispose brass to dezincify. These include exposure to highly acidic or highly alkaline water, concentrations of chlorides, high temperature, low water usage, polluted atmosphere, hard water, sea water and corrosive soils such as salty soil or acid peat.
Producing a fitting made in DR brass usually adds about 15% to the cost. DR Brass will make a product more suitable in corrosive environments. It is usually mandatory that fittings which go underground are made from DR brass.
Are tapware fittings in New Zealand required to be made of DR Brass?
No. But it is a requirement in Australia as part of their Watermark Certification process. However, it has long been argued that this requirement is more about protection from overseas imports than it is about addressing a genuine health risk.
So where does lead fit in?
Lead is a small component of brass. Lead-leaching can occur when:
1. the water is at least moderately corrosive to brass,
2. brass with a high lead content is present, and
3. plumbing lines have relatively low water demand.
Why aren’t taps lead free?
Lead is a tiny but necessary component of brass, which improves machinability. You would find about 2-2.5% in DR brass and about 3-4% in standard brass. Be assured, lead is expensive. No right-minded manufacturer would choose to put more lead than necessary into their brass. In California, they are required to use what is called “Lead Free Brass”. However, that still has a content of 0.25% lead, of the total product weight, including handles, cartridge, tails etc. Once these non-brass components are removed from the calculation, the lead content is actually higher than the 0.25%. So, even lead-free is not free of lead, because lead makes the brass machinable.
How can I make sure my family are safe from lead-leaching into the water?
The World Health Organisation recommends that every morning, you run about a cup of water first before drinking from the tap.
Amongst other things, the filter on the Aquatica water filter mixers reduces any Lead in the water by 85%, Aluminium by 97% and Arsenic by 96%.
Good for 2 years or 30,000 litres, the filter reduces a host of contaminants and is hostile to algae, fungi and bacteria. It is also Cryptosporidium, Giardia and Cyst safe. As well as filtered tap water, these taps also deliver hot and cold water as normal.
Does Aquatica produce products in DR Brass?
Aquatica produces a number of products made in DR Brass for the Australian market, but also available in New Zealand. These products are registered in Australia for Watermark. There are two levels of watermark certification – Grade 1 and Grade 2. Aquatica is certified to Grade 1, the highest level. Certification lasts 5 years.
Certification involves more than just testing for DR Brass. There are cartridge tests, water taste tests, tests for microbiological growth and endurance. The volume of water in the tap cavity is measured and the lead level is calculated in parts per billion of the water in that cavity. The tap is assessed for being “fit for purpose” and the purchasing process within the company is also examined.
The DR Brass requirement for Watermark covers all parts up to the shut-off valve (or cartridge). Thereafter, the parts can be standard brass. So, spouts are not DR Brass.
As at 2019, the following Aquatica products are certified for Watermark:
Saluto Basin Mixer
Oblio Vessel Mixer
Oblio Basin Mixer
Oblio Sink Mixer
Oblio Sink Mixer Coil
Oblio Sink Mixer Water Filter
Mia Sink Mixer Gooseneck
Cascata Basin Mixer
There are also a number of additional products in DR Brass made solely for the Australian market.