CPSC Extends CPSIA Lead Content Testing and Certification for another year!

XRF analyzer on toys

XRF analyzer on toys

I haven’t had time to digest this yet but I had to post that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted to extend the lead content testing and certification stay for an additional year, or until 2/10/11.  This should provide welcome relief to many, many manufacturers. This means while children’s products must meet the current standard of 300 ppm total lead content limit, manufacturers and importers will not have to begin 3rd party testing as of 2/10/10.

And, this means that XRF testing can continue to be use to verify compliance for many products. So, if you need testing, just let me know.

Mama Got Her Gun on Fox & Friends

jennifertaggartfoxandfriendsI can’t believe I never blogged about this. Really can’t believe it. So, just a little bit late, I’m excited to announce that I appeared on Fox & Friends on July 18, 2009. I was supposed to talk about chemicals in common household products and simple steps to reduce exposure, but we got a little bit hung up on the Niton XRF analyzer and lead in toys and other consumer products.

So, here’s the clip of my little bit more than 3 minutes of fame.

Yep, mama got her gun on TV.

TheSmartMama – CPSIA Solutions – XRF Testing for Lead Content CPSIA Compliance

Okay, so this is a service pitch.  Just skip it if you are not in the market for lead content testing. 

As you know, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 set mandatory lead content standards for all children’s products sold or distributed for sale in the United States, among other requirements. While the testing and certification requirements are stayed, you still cannot distribute in commerce any children’s product, or any part of a children’s product, that exceeds 600 parts per million (ppm) lead. That level drops to 300 ppm. 

Trying to figure out whether your products comply?  TheSmartMama provides x-ray fluorescence (XRF) screenings for lead content to support certification claims for CPSIA compliance.  I can provide handheld XRF screenings in my facility (you mail the product) or onsite at your location – whether it be your sales showroom, your warehouse or your store.   

XRF testing is non destructive and is relatively quick.  Components identified with levels of lead potentially of concern can be further tested for lead content, or can be replaced.  The XRF testing is recognized by the CPSC for lead content testing.  Please note that lead in metal children’s jewelry and lead in paints and coatings must be tested using 3rd party accredited testing.  Also, XRF screening cannot identify phthalates.

CPSIA FAQ #2: Do I have to test products manufactured before February 10, 2009?

Updated January 15, 2009.  My husband actually read my blog, and said my answer below wasn’t that clear.  So I’ll try again.

Second in my so far pretty popular Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) frequently asked questions is:

FAQ #2:  Do I have to test my existing inventory for lead?

So, as you probably know if you are even reading this post is that on February 10, 2009, the CPSIA establishes a lead content limit for children’s products of 600 parts per million (ppm).  For items manufactured after that date, and before August 14, 2009, the manufacturer of domestically produced products and the importer of foreign produced products must issue general conformity certificates (GCCs) certifying that the products meet that 600 ppm lead content.

Additionally, the CPSIA interprets the February 10, 2009 600 ppm lead content limit to apply to all children’s products, regardless of when they are manufactured.  In other words, the CPSIA is retroactive.  This is because the CPSIA defines those products that don’t meet the lead limit as being banned hazardous substances, and banned hazardous substances cannot be distributed in commerce.

But do you have to test products manufactured before 2/10/09? Not necessarily. The law itself doesn’t require you to test. You just can’t sell products that exceed the 600 ppm limit.  But the law doesn’t dictate what information you use to make that determination – you could use suppliers’ certifications.  You could use your knowledge about the manufacturing and components, provided it is informed.  And you can test.  According to CPSC spokesperson Julie Vallese in some raw interview footage, you just need to make an “informed decision” and have a “level of confidence.”

The no testing but can’t sell if limit exceeded may be a distinction without a difference.  You can’t legally sell children’s products that don’t meet the limit, and you may not have any idea without testing.  For most companies and businesses with inventory, they are going to have to do some form of testing, or get the information from the appropriate supplier.  You really don’t want to be arguing in court (such as a claim from a competitor for unfair competition) that you just looked at the products and made a decision.

Of course, if the product is a coated or painted product, it is subject to the lead in coatings rule and is subject to 3rd party accredited testing as of 12/22/08.

XRF Testing Services for CPSIA Compliance

Updated May 17, 2009 

TheSmartMama offers XRF testing services for lead content for compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). 

I offer the services by mail and in person. The cost is $5 per test or $100 per hour. Generally, hourly rate is more cost effective. I photograph the product to be tested, and prepare a report with the photograph and the XRF test results by product part. I provide the calibration information for quality control on the XRF test report. This test report can be used for the general conformity certificate (GCC). 

Generally, the manufacturer (or importer) prepares the GCC because there may be requirements in addition to the lead content. Remember, the GCC is supposed to certify the product for all applicable regulations. So, for example, all clothing is supposed to make the flammability requirements. Virtually all clothing, with the exception of children’s sleepwear, meets this requirement BY THE EXEMPTION for weight of fabric – that’s why you never worry about it. The GCC should reflect both the lead content certification and the certification for weight of fabric exemption for flammability. 

Because of the stay of testing and certification, you still do NOT need to do third party accredited testing for most children’s products. Yes, third party testing is required for lead in paints and coatings manufactured after December 22, 2008. Yes, third party testing is required for lead in metal children’s jewelry manufactured after March 23, 2009. But, for most children’s products, lead content testing can be performed using XRF technology, at least until the stay expires on February 10, 2009. 

What is XRF Analysis? 

I use a Niton XRF analyzer.  X-ray fluorescence basically involves exciting the electrons in elements and reading the characteristic energy emitted.  The Niton XRF analyzer can read lead, cadmium, chromium, etc. 

XRF and the CPSIA 

XRF testing can be used to comply with certain provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).  Specifically, XRF can be used to determine whether existing inventory is compliant with the lead content limit for children’s products.  The Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC) has explicity stated that XRF can be used as the basis for a reasonable testing program for lead content in children’s products.

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.


Update on Home Lead Testing Kits

Consumer Reports released a report of its testing of home lead test kits, and found that three of the five home lead test kits were a "useful though limited screening tools if you are worried about specific items in your home."  The story indicates that Homax Lead Check and the Lead Check Household Kit (made by the same company) were the easiest to use and identified accessible lead, although low concentrations could take up to 2 hours to turn the test stick "pink" to indicate the presence of lead. 

Although I published a blog yesterday about the CPSC's rejection of the home lead test kits because the CPSC found them unreliable, Consumer Reports' story suggest that the test kits remain a useful tool if you recognize their limitations.  In my complete unscientific testing, I have used the lead test kits and found them to be a good screen.  The positive indication of lead were confirmed with subsequent laboratory testing.  However, the lead test kits cannot detect lead beneath the surface and they are subject to intereference (like a red painted item may result in red paint turning the test kit's tip pink, as opposed to the presence of lead). 


CPSC Finds Home Lead Test Kits Unreliable

Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission  (CPSC) issued a press release reporting that the home lead check test kits are unreliable.  The CPSC found that of 104 total test results, fifty six (56) were false negatives – that is, reporting no lead present when in fact lead was present.  Two (2) reported false positives – that is, erporting lead was present when it was not.

The CPSC noted that the test kits were developed to detect lead in paint at concentrations much higher than the regulatory level of 0.06%.  It also pointed out some common interferences with te testing – including a non-lead coating over a lead containg base or paint colors that interfere with the color change.

As a result of this recent testing, the CPSC does not recommend that consumers use the home lead test check kits to test for lead.  The CPSC's press release states that "testing by a qualified laboratory and trained personnel is the only way to accurately assess the potential risk posed by a consumer product that may contain lead."

Well, that may be well and good, but I don't think the average consumer can afford to have a qualified laboratory test each and every toy in the toy box.   If you are concerned about the toys already in the home that aren't currently subject to a recall, you may well decide that the home lead test kits are a useful screen.