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CPSC Announces New, Lower Limit for Lead Content in Children’s Products

Release Date: July 15, 2011

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted (3-2) that there was insufficient evidence to make a determination that manufacturers of children's products sold in the United States could not meet a total lead content limit of 100 parts per million (ppm) for a product or product category. The new total lead content limit, which is called for in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), goes into effect on August 14, 2011 for manufacturers, importers, retailers and distributors of children's products.

Through the CPSIA, Congress set tough new levels for lead content in products designed or primarily intended for children 12 and younger. Lead is a heavy metal that is toxic for children, and associated with lowered levels of learning, impaired hearing, brain damage and, at high levels, can be fatal.

Congress directed CPSC to phase in the reduced levels for lead content over a three year period, starting with 600 ppm on February 10, 2009. The level dropped to 300 ppm on August 14, 2009. Finally, Congress directed the total lead content limit be set at 100 ppm, unless the Commission determined it was not technologically feasible for a product or product category.

The Commission was not able to determine that 100 ppm total lead content is not technologically feasible, as staff found that materials containing less than 100 ppm total lead content are commercially available in the marketplace for manufacturers. CPSC staff also found many products currently on the market, that have been tested by CPSC or other organizations, that are already in compliance with the new 100 ppm total lead content limit.

Starting on August 14, 2011, manufacturers, importers, retailers and distributors of children’s products must comply with the new 100 ppm federal limit for total lead content. CPSC will not enforce the CPSIA’s independent third party testing requirement for total lead content until December 31, 2011, due to a stay of enforcement that is already in place.

The stay of enforcement does not apply to children’s metal jewelry, which currently must undergo independent third party testing.

The new 100 ppm lead content limit does not apply to inaccessible (internal) parts of children’s products and certain component parts of children’s electronic devices, like electronic connectors and plugs, including headphone plugs.

Lead content levels for children’s products are different from the levels Congress set for lead in paint or surface coatings. The limit for lead in paint or surface coatings is .009 percent. The .009 percent level has been in place since August 14, 2009 and independent third party testing is required for all paints or surfaces coatings used on children’s products.

Commissioner's Statements: Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, Commissioner Nancy Nord and Commissioner Robert Adler (all PDF).

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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