CPSC Proposes Exempting Certain Materials from Lead Content Testing

On Christmas Eve, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offered some manufacturers a Christmas gift and some holiday cheer – a proposal to exempt certain materials from the lead content requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Basically, the CPSC staff is proposing that the CPSC find that certain materials do not contain lead at levels that exceed the newly established lead content limits for children’s products.  Those limits are 600 parts per million (ppm) effective February 10, 2009, and then the lowered limit of 300 ppm that will go into effect on August 12, 2009. 

What this means is that the materials will NOT be subject to testing requirements to establish lead content because they will be deemed by definition not to exceed the limits.  However, the proposed rule is limited in scope.  It applies only to certain natural materials that are untreated and unadulterated by the addition of materials or chemicals including pigments, dyes, coatings, finishes or any other substances and have not undergone any processing that could add lead.

The materials are wood; natural fibers such as cotton, silk, wool, hemp, flax and linen; precious gemstones such as diamonds, rubies and emeralds; certain semiprecious gemstones provided that the mineral or material is not based on lead or lead compounds; natural or cultured pearls; and other natural materials such as coral, amber, feathers, furs and untreated leather. 

The CPSC has also proposed that surgical steel and precious metals be exempted provided that no lead or lead containing metal is intentionally added and that the determination not extend to the non-steel or non-precious metal components of a product such as solder or base metals in electroplate, clad or fill applications.

The proposal must be voted on.  Votes are due by January 5, 2009.

This is good news for many, particularly those using undyed, untreated organic fabrics.  But, again, the ruling is limited.  Most manufacturers do something to natural materials – stain, dye, ink, or something.  And such treated natural materials will NOT be exempt from meeting the lead content limits.

But it is a start.  And it is consistent with what I have found.  I have tested a lot of materials and products with my Niton XRF analyzer.  In clothing, I find lead in a decal, or rhinestone, or coating, not the base fabric. 

An article in the Los Angeles Times gives even more hope.  It quotes CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese as stating, “the agency is diligently working on providing rules that would define some exclusions and some exemptions.”  This is evident by a companion proposal released by the CPSC setting forth proposed procedures and requirements for CPSC’s determinations to exclude products and materials from the lead content rules.

This proposal sets forth what information the CPSC will require to exempt a product or material.  This will allow the CPSC to implement the portion of the CPSIA that allows an exemption for a product or material from the CPSIA’s lead content limits if the product or material will not result in a child absorbing lead, taking into account normal and reasonably foreseeable use and abuse by a child.


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