FAQs: Lead In Paint (And Other Surface Coatings)

What is the ban on lead in paint, and where can I find the law?

Children's products, including toys, which are designed or intended primarily for use by children 12 years of age or younger, must not contain a concentration of lead greater than 0.009 percent (90 parts per million) in paint or any similar surface coatings. (The concentration is based on the weight in the non-volatile portion of the dried paint film.) Some furniture, for adults and for children, that contains a surface coating must also comply with the lead in paint limit of 0.009 percent (90 ppm). Household paint must also meet this requirement.

 

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) (Public Law 110-314) lowered the concentration of lead in paint that is permissible-from 0.06 percent (600 ppm)-to the new limit of 0.009 percent (90 ppm).

 

You can find the law in section 101 of the CPSIA (pdf) and 16 CFR part 1303.

 

Is the law currently in effect?

Yes, the lowered limit has been in effect since August 14, 2009. There are no exceptions for small batch manufacturers. There are, however, certain limited exemptions, which are described below.

 

Which products must meet this regulation?

The lead limit in paint and surface coatings applies to: (i) paint and other similar surface coatings; (ii) toys and other articles intended for use by children; and (iii) certain furniture articles.

 

Pieces of moveable furniture that contain a surface coating, such as beds, bookcases, chairs, chests, tables, dressers, and console televisions are covered by the regulation.

 

Appliances such as ranges, refrigerators, and washers, fixtures such as built-in cabinets, windows, and doors, and household products, such as window shades and venetian blinds, are not covered by the regulation.

 

In addition to those products that are sold directly to consumers, the ban applies to products that are used or enjoyed by consumers after sale, such as paints used in residences, schools, hospitals, parks, playgrounds, and public buildings or other areas where consumers will have direct access to the painted surface. Paints for boats and cars are not covered by the ban.

 

What is a paint or similar surface coating material?

These terms apply generally to liquid or semi-liquid products that change to a solid film when you apply a thin coating to wood, stone, metal, cloth, plastic, or a similar surface.

 

Printing inks, materials such as pigments for plastic that become part of an article itself, and materials such as ceramic glaze and electroplated coatings that become bonded to the surface of a product are not paints or similar surface coating materials. See 16 CFR §1303.2(b)(1) for more detail. Printing inks refer to inks used for printing on paper. Inks used to print on textiles are addressed in another question in this document.

 

I cannot tell if the design on my product is considered a surface coating or part of the substrate. How do I determine whether my product is subject to third party testing for: (i) the limit in total lead content for the product's substrate, or (ii) the limit in lead in paint or other similar surface coatings?

While it is best to make the determination regarding whether the substance meets the definition of a "surface coating" before it is added or applied to the product, CPSC staff generally applies a "scraping test" to determine whether a substance on a product is a "surface coating," as defined by 16 CFR §1303.2, and subject to the ban on lead in paint or other similar surface coatings.

 

In most cases, if a substance can be scraped off and separated from the underlying substrate of a product, such as paint on plastic substrate, it is treated as a surface coating that must comply with the 0.009 percent (90 parts per million) limit for lead in paint or any surface coating. Likewise, if a substance cannot be scraped from the substrate without also removing the substrate, such as colored plastic substrate, ordinary ink on paper, or fired-on decorations on glazed ceramic, it would be treated as part of the substrate that must comply with the lead content limit of 100 parts per million. A single product may have some components that bear a surface coating and are subject to the lead paint rule and have other accessible component parts, made of metal or plastic, subject to the lead content rule.

 

(Note: The testing methods approved by the CPSC differ for the ban on lead in paint or other similar surface coatings and the limit for the total lead content in the product's substrate. When testing for the concentration of any lead in paint or another similar surface coating, the concentration is based on the weight in the non-volatile portion of the dried paint film. However, when testing for total lead content, for example, a product where a topically applied material has bonded with the accessible substrate, such as a fired-on decoration on a ceramic mug, the proper laboratory testing method is to grind or otherwise homogenize the entire substrate for testing. The limit for lead in substrate (content) applies to this entire homogenized "part.")

 

What must I do to ensure that my product complies?

If you have a product subject to the ban on lead in paint and similar surface coatings, you must be able to certify, in a written certificate of conformity, that your product does not contain levels of lead in excess of the 0.009 percent limit (90 parts per million). In order to draft the written certificate of conformity properly, you must do either of the following, as appropriate:

 

Children's Products: Conduct third party testing on each children's product from a CPSC-accepted laboratory. Based upon compliant test results that indicate that your product does not contain levels of lead in paint that violate the limit, you must issue a Children's Product Certificate (pdf).

 

General Use Products (e.g., furniture that is not designed or intended primarily for children 12 or younger): You must test your general use product or institute a reasonable testing program before you can certify that your product does not contain levels of lead in paint that violate the limit. You must then issue a General Certificate of Conformity (pdf). (You may, but are not required to, conduct third party testing on each product from a CPSC-accepted laboratory.)

 

Because the lead in paint ban in the United States is longstanding, can I assume that commercially available paint complies with the lead in paint limits?

No. If you are manufacturing a children's product, you must ensure that your product, or all of the painted components of your product, have been third party tested by a CPSC-accepted laboratory before you can certify that your product does not contain levels of lead in paint that violate the limit. No distinction is made depending upon where a product is manufactured. You may be able to rely upon a Component Part Certificate issued by a supplier, provided the supplier complies with the rule on Component Part or Finished Product Testing or Certification, 16 CFR part 1109. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or similar document is not sufficient to certify compliance for a children's product.

 

If you are manufacturing a general use product, like non-children's furniture, then you must test the paint (in its dried state), test the finished product, and/or institute a reasonable testing program to ensure that your products do not contain levels of lead in the paint that violate the limit. Contacting a paint manufacturer and asking for written assurances that their paint does not contain lead and/or asking for their test reports may be one part of a reasonable testing program. Due care must be taken to ensure the compliance of the paint or the surface coating.

 

Are any products exempt from the lead containing paint requirements?

Yes. Some consumer products are exempt, with restrictions, and there are others that are exempt without restriction.

 

Exempt with labeling restriction:
The following products are exempt as long as they are labeled with specific warnings indicating they contain lead: coatings used to refinish industrial or agricultural equipment; building and equipment maintenance coatings; products marketed solely for use on billboards, road signs, and similar products; touch-up coatings for agricultural equipment, lawn and garden equipment, and appliances; and catalyzed coatings marketed solely for use on radio-controlled model airplanes.

 

Please refer to the regulation for the specific label statements required and the location where those statements must appear on product labels. Some of the above-mentioned products may be banned by other federal authorities (e.g. the EPA has restrictions on the use of leaded industrial coatings for bridges).

 

Exempt without labeling restriction:
Mirrors that are part of furniture articles with lead-containing backing paint, artists paints, and metal furniture (other than children's furniture) that has a factory-applied lead coating, like powder coating, are exempt from the regulation and require no labeling.

 

Is X-ray fluorescence (XRF) testing approved for use by CPSC- recognized laboratories?

Currently, the applicable test methods for the ban on lead in paint and other surface coatings are:1

 

- CPSC Standard Operating Procedure for Determining Lead (Pb) in Paint and Other Similar Surface Coatings, Test Method CPSC-CH-E1003-09.1 (pdf); and/or

 

- ASTM F2853-10 "Standard Test Method for Determination of Lead in Paint Layers and Similar Coatings or in Substrates and Homogenous Materials by Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry Using Multiple Monochromatic Excitation Beams."

 

Are small areas exempt from lead in paint testing?

No. Small, painted areas are not exempt from the applicable lead limits. The law2 does allow the Commission-not manufacturers or importers-to rely on x-ray fluorescence (XRF) testing or other alternative means to screen for products bearing lead paint, where the total weight of such paint or surface coating is no greater than 10 milligrams, or where the surface area of such paint or surface coating covers no more than 1 square centimeter of the surface area of such products. This alternative method for measurement may not allow more than 2 micrograms of lead in a total weight of 10 milligrams of paint or other surface coating or in a surface area of 1 square centimeter or less.

 

Is composite testing allowed to test for lead in paint and other surface coatings?

Yes, provided that certain conditions are met. See our additional FAQs on composite testing.

 

Is component part testing allowed for testing for lead in paint and other surface coatings?

Yes, but the component part testing must be conducted on the dried paint film that is scraped off of a surface in order to measure properly by weight. Consistent with the regulation, testing paint or similar surface coatings in their liquid form cannot provide a basis for properly issuing a Component Part Certificate. See our additional FAQs on component part testing.

 

Must the dried paint film be scraped off of samples of the actual product?

No, the paint does not need to be scraped off of a sample of the finished product. The paint may be applied to any suitable substrate in order to dry, and the substrate used need not be of the same material as the material used in the finished product. For testing purposes, a larger quantity of paint may need to be tested than the quantity actually used on the finished product.

 

Is electroplating considered paint or a similar surface coating?

No. Electroplating is specifically addressed in the definition section of the lead paint banning rule, and it is not considered to be a surface coating for purposes of the rule.

 

Product-Specific FAQS

Are textile printing inks considered to be a surface coating?

It depends on whether the textile ink bonds with the fiber or if it can be scraped off of the textile substrate.

 

The majority of ink systems used in textile screen printing are plastisol-based or water-based and, if applied properly, fuse with the textile substrate and will not be able to be scraped off the substrate. (Each case may vary, depending upon the type of ink system used and the individual characteristics of the screen print and substrate.)

 

Accordingly, where the ink cannot be scraped off the textile, CPSC staff treats the ink as being part of the substrate. Therefore, an entire children's garment (i.e., both the textile garment and the screen printing on the garment tested together), must comply with the 100 parts per million limit for total lead content and must be tested using the test methods set forth here.

 

Importantly, the Commission has already determined that many natural and manufactured textiles (dyed and undyed) will not contain lead in excess of the 100 ppm limit and therefore, are actually exempt from testing. See 16 CFR §1500.91. Thereafter, if you choose to apply a screen print to such a textile, as discussed above, the resulting garment would need to be tested for compliance with the total lead content requirement. However, if you are able to obtain a Component Part Certificate for the ink or paint used to screen print, or you can test the ink or paint used to screen print using composite testing, you may not need to test the entire finished garment and may only need to third party test the ink or paint. In so doing, you must remember that testing the ink or the paint is based on the weight in the non-volatile portion of the dried paint film, not its liquid state.

 

If you intend to rely on the Commission's determination to avoid testing the textile substrate of your children's product for total lead content, you must secure assurances (for your records) from your supplier or manufacturer that the materials are, indeed, what your supplier or manufacturer claims they are.

 

Certain specialty textile ink systems may use inks that effectively act like dyes. Those inks are absorbed into the fabric and bond with the fabric substrate, effectively acting like a dye. CPSC staff treats such textile ink systems as a "dye-like ink." In that case, the garment would likely be treated as a dyed textile and not subject to any testing for lead in paint or for total lead content. (Each case may vary depending upon the type of ink system used and the individual characteristics of the screen print and substrate.)

 

Finally, all garments for adults and children are also subject to other regulatory requirements, such as requirements on the flammability of wearing apparel (pdf) and children's sleepwear (pdf). In addition, certain child care articles used to facilitate sleeping and eating, such as children's sleepwear and bibs, are also subject to the ban on phthalates.

 

Are there additional limits for other heavy metals in paints and surface coatings for toys?

Yes. For toys, ASTM F963-08, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety, places additional limits on the amount of antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, and selenium based on the soluble portion of that material using a specified extraction methodology given in the standard.

 

It is necessary to conduct ASTM F963-08 solubility testing on applicable toys for antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and selenium because those are not covered by 16 CFR § 1303.1. For lead, however, testing for the soluble limit is not necessary for products subject to 16 CFR § 1303.1 because the maximum total lead content in paint is 90 ppm in 16 CFR § 1303.1, which is a more stringent requirement in all cases.

 

This testing, and other requirements specifically for toys, are addressed in our frequently asked questions on toys and the mandatory toy standards.

 

This additional requirement is only for toys and not for other children's products.

 

Are outdoor playground products required to comply with the lead in paint limit?

Yes, provided that the outdoor playground equipment is designed for and primarily intended for use by children 12 years of age or younger.

 

Is ordinary printing on paper subject to compliance with the lead in paint limit?

No. Printing inks are not considered to be paints or similar surface coating materials. See 16 CFR §1303.2(b)(1). Ordinary printing on paper is subject to compliance with the total lead content requirement of 100 parts per million. However, the Commission, in 16 CFR §1500.91, has exempted paper and other similar materials and CMYK process printing inks commonly used in printing on paper from third party testing for compliance with the lead requirement. In addition, Congress specifically exempted ordinary books and ordinary printed materials from third party testing for compliance with the total lead content requirement.

 

 


 

1 The CPSC also continues to recognize third party laboratories that are approved to use the prior versions of these test methods.
2 See CPSIA § 101(f)(3).