21 February 2013

Harmful zinc-alloy taps ‘the tip of the iceberg', warns expert


Potentially lethal taps manufactured from cheap zinc-alloy could be just a small part of a much wider problem, according to Ideal Standard brassware expert Haydn Newcombe.


In our February issue, Jonathan Bull from Synergy Bathroom Distribution (pictured) accused certain Chinese manufacturers of selling the taps to a number of large internet dealers based in the UK. 


Responding to the story, Newcombe warned that it “could merely represent the tip of the iceberg of our own industry’s ‘horsemeat lasagne’ issue”, adding that although the use of zinc-alloy (or zamak) in some tap components is cause for great concern, the contents of brass-alloys is also completely uncontrolled.


Newcombe said that the problem has been caused by “materials of production being progressively removed from product norms, with no legislation to cover the intervening period”.


“There is an assumption that ‘brass is brass’, but this is not so I’m afraid”, he said. “This situation means, with the exception of safety group products, there are no brass specification requirements in theUK; if it’s yellow and you can call it brass then good enough!”


Newcombe told kbbreview that there is hope for the industry as regulators from four countries, including theUK,Germanyand The Netherlands are coming together to regulate the industry and hopes to use a ‘Positive List’ of materials that have been tested, approved and certified.


But he also warned that a previous European Approval Scheme (EAS) was supposed to come into force, but collapsed without an agreement being made, meaning that there are no brass specification requirements for the UK market currently in place. “Given that there is a step change in cost between all three categories of brass, it is inevitable that the unscrupulous will, and are, in fact, passing off inferior and sometimes unacceptable products into the market-place.


Francesca Chiorando Meredith, of Cheshire-based bathroom distributor APC said the issue had worrying implications for the entire industry: “Unfortunately many buyers are not as aware of the product as they used to be, and so rather than question how this tap can be so cheap, they are always chasing the cheaper alternative, putting their clients at risk,” she warned. “As a long established and strong company, while these low price products do play on our minds, we can continue to offer the best products and hope that quality shows through.


“We have seen in the last few weeks what happens when the British buying public is fobbed off with false selling with the horse meat scandal. Thankfully there were no lethal ramifications of this. However, with these cheap zinc alloy taps, we could see the whole thing happen again, and the outcome could be a lot more sinister.”

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