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Deadline looming for PVC pipes to be heavy metal free

Manufacturers of PVC pipes in South Africa have less than six months left to ensure products are compliant with the Southern African Bureau of Standards’ (SABS) ruling that all locally manufactured be free of heavy metals by July 2015.

This announcement was made for the first time on the 30th October 2013 by Sibongile Dhlamini, General Manager at the SABS Certification (Gauteng,) following an amendment of a series of standards by the technical committee of the SABS Standard Division.

The Southern African Plastics Pipe Manufacturers Association (SAPPMA,) representing more than 80 % of the country’s pipe manufacturers, welcomed the announcement.

“SAPPMA’s aim is to support the industry in promoting quality products.To this end, we work closely with the SABS in matters of standards and quality through implementing various quality-assurance measures and initiatives, as well as demanding additional good practice measures from its members,” explains SAPPMA Chairman Jan Venter.

According to Venter, SAPPMA members had already embarked on a voluntary removal of heavy metal stabilizers from their PVC pipes as early as 2006. The policy was fully implemented by SAPPMA in July 2009 and applied to drinking water systems as well as sewer, drainage and mine pipes.
“Removing heavy metals from their PVC pipes was done at considerable cost to our members, but was wholly supported because it was in line with SAPPMA’s life cycle thinking. It took into account end-of-life issues and waste management options and it was based on health and environmental considerations,” Venter said.
“Although lead does not leach from the plastic pipes and does not pose any danger to people once installed, we felt compelled to create a safer environment for the manufacturers where lead poisoning does pose a risk for their workers.  As a result, all PVC pipe manufactured by SAPPMA members are lead-free and are stabilised with environmentally friendly materials such as Calcium Zinc or organics based stabilisers instead. Adherence to the policy has been a requirement for SAPPMA Membership over the past eight years, and as such has formed part of the regular SAPPMA factory audits,” Venter said.

The SABS gave local manufacturers of PVC pipes who are SABS certified a window period of 24 months to get their house in order and to comply with the new relevant standard requirements. However, this grace period ends on the 1st of July 2015.Pipes bearing the SABS mark of quality will also have to be resubmitted for testing in order to be issued with new permits.

“In the interest of the consumer and good business practice, the SABS strongly promotes the highest possible product quality standards as well as environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and materials.We therefore urge companies to ensure they comply with the standards and that all heavy metals are removed from their manufacturing process in time for the deadline,” concludes Venter.

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