American Foundry Society Disagrees with the UCLA Copper Alloy Research Report
June 26, 2017
The American Foundry Society (AFS) refutes and challenges the incorrect conclusions of a newly released research report, "Lifecycle-Based Alternatives Analysis of Lead-Free Brass Substitutes in the Potable Water Supply System." The project, which was conducted by Peter Sinsheimer, executive director of the sustainable technology and policy program at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), studied no-lead alloys used for cast brass components in water applications.
AFS believes the study contains many inaccuracies in the data and methodologies and contests the report’s conclusion that the use of copper bismuth alloys for potable water applications should be discontinued. Researchers incorrectly assumed scrap from alloy and component manufacturers cannot be recycled because it is a contaminant that cannot be separated from copper.
On the contrary, AFS members produce most of the metal castings used in water applications and have been successfully recycling bismuth alloys daily and returning them to the foundries in the form of new castings.
From the beginning of the UCLA project, AFS raised red flags about the study because it seemed to be focused on identifying a single best commercial alloy for all applications. The marketplace has already demonstrated that multiple alloys are required, and this assumption that there could be a single alloy solution continues to raise questions that undermine the study.
The 2011 Federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires that all cast copper components used in potable water applications contain less than 0.25 percent lead. No-lead alloys have been in the marketplace for more than two decades and multiple no-lead alloys already in-service meet and exceed government regulations, with even more new alloys in development. No single alloy will produce all the various components used in water systems, and unnecessarily narrowing the field of alloy choice will drastically limit the design and application options for municipalities and other casting users.
AFS is working on a comprehensive factual response rebutting this research in detail. AFS strongly contests the technical findings in this study and urges casting buyers, users and the water works industry not to act on the report conclusions until reading the AFS technical report refuting the project.
Among the factors that caused AFS to challenge the project’s conclusions are:
All the melt testing was done at a single facility, which is not representative of others in the industry, and AFS does not believe that the testing was conducted using metalcasting industry standard procedures.
Only a few of the most common no-lead alloys were tested. Several prominent no-lead alloys are currently in use in the marketplace that were not included in the research.
The limited scale of testing did not include the effect of the total foundry manufacturing process, including foundry melting, production, machining, and recycling.
AFS disagrees with the project’s estimates regarding the future volume of cast no-lead components and alloys that will be required to meet those needs.
AFS disagrees with the project’s conclusions regarding the recyclability of current bismuth containing no-lead alloys, leading to misleading estimates of future needs.
The research does not address recent no-lead alloys under development which may significantly affect the future volumes of alloys currently being used.
AFS believes that the project has not sufficiently responded to metalcasting industry input from AFS, member foundries and other project Advisory Committee members. The metalcasting industry input is important, as it provides the expertise from those foundries most active in producing the type of components that the research is intended to address.
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The American Foundry Society is a not-for-profit organization formed in 1896. With its headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., AFS provides members and consumers with information and services to promote and strengthen the $30.3 billion metalcasting industry.