New Federal Lead Law Now in Effect

It is now illegal for children’s products, including jewelry, to contain more than 600 parts per million (ppm) lead. In August, this limit will drop to 300 ppm. It will be reduced again, in August 2011, to the lowest level that is technologically feasible. This recent federal legislation applies to all products, even those already in inventory as of the effective date of the law, Feb. 10, 2009.

Besides setting lead-content limits, the law also requires third-party testing of children’s products, and certificates that the lead content of the products is within legal limits. The new law, known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), has a substantial impact on the manufacture and sale of children’s jewelry.

Children’s Products

Determining whether the new law has an impact on a specific company or jeweler requires a close look at the definition of children’s products. For purposes of CPSIA, these are products designed or intended for children 12 years of age or younger. Whether or not a particular product meets this definition depends primarily on these factors:

  • A statement by the manufacturer, assuming it’s reasonable, about the intended use of the product. This would include any labels on the product.

  • Whether the product is marketed—in packaging, display, promotional materials, or advertising—as appropriate for use by children 12 and under.

  • Whether consumers recognize the product as being intended for use by a child 12 and under.

Precious Metals and Stones: Possible Exemption

Some materials, by their nature, are highly unlikely to exceed the lead limits. These include several materials that are commonly used in children’s fine jewelry, such as precious metals and stones and many semiprecious stones. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is considering whether products made exclusively of these materials should be relieved from the CPSIA’s testing and certifying requirements.

Until the decision is made, the CPSC has stated that these materials can be sold as children’s products without risk of penalty under this law, provided the seller had no knowledge that the products exceeded the acceptable lead limit. These materials include coral and amber; precious gemstones; many semiprecious stones, provided the material is not based on lead and is not associated with any mineral based on lead; natural or cultured pearls; gold (at least 10k); sterling silver; the platinum group metals; and surgical steel.

The materials listed above are often combined with other materials that are not eligible for the possible exemption. For that reason, before forgoing testing and certification, jewelers should be careful to determine all the components of the product. Some of the materials that are common in children’s jewelry that would, or might, make a product ineligible for the possible testing exemption are solder; base metals; and electroplate, clad, or fill applications.

The possible exemption would also not apply if materials underwent any process that could have added lead to the finished product.

Impact of CPSIA on Retailers

Retailers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the new limit. Complying with CPSIA means retailers should do one or more of the following concerning their pre–Feb. 10 inventory:

  • Dispose of any inventory that is not subject to the possible exemption, described above, or

  • If the product is not subject to the possible exemption, have it tested and certified by an accredited third party to determine the lead content, or

  • Obtain assurances from the manufacturer concerning lead limits.

As for children’s products that are not covered by the possible exemption, and that re-tailers acquire after Feb. 10, retailers should demand proof of testing, and the CPSIA certification, from their suppliers.

Impact on Importers and Domestic Manufacturers

Children’s jewelry that does not meet the fairly narrow exemption currently under consideration must be manufactured in full compliance with CPSIA. These products must conform not only to the lead limit but also to the testing and certifying requirements of the law.

Testing is the responsibility of manufacturers and importers and must be performed by third-party accredited testing labs. An effective quality assurance program should help eliminate any raw materials or component parts that exceed the lead-content threshold, although a quality assurance program would not replace the need for third-party testing. Accredited testing laboratories can be found on the CPSC Web site at www.cpsc.gov/cgi-bin/labapplist.aspx.

Manufacturers and importers must also comply with the certificate requirements of CPSIA. The certificate, which verifies that the product has been tested and is in compliance with the lead limits, must accompany the product in either paper or electronic form. A sample testing certificate, with explanations, is available at www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/faq/elecertfaq.pdf.

If a manufacturer is producing multiple units of the same product, and the units are “materially identical“—that is, all made in the same manner and with the same equipment—then a single testing sample may be adequate.

California Lead Laws

California has enacted a law that is more stringent than CPSIA in that it limits lead content in adult, as well as children’s, jewelry. Jewelry manufacturers and suppliers that operate and/or sell in California must comply with these limits and must also obtain technical certification of that fact. A more detailed description of this law is available at www.dtsc.ca.gov/LeadInJewelry.cfm.

more info

The CPSC has a Web page with information about CPSIA at www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html. They have also issued a Guide to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters and Charities. This is downloadable on the CPSC Web site at www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/smbus/cpsiasbguide.html. The JVC Web site at www.jvclegal.org details relevant developments regarding the new lead law and all other laws affecting the jewelry industry.