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children’s jewelryThe CPSIA & State Lead Laws

A guide to compliance

Determining Risk | Raw Materials | Testing | Assurance Certificate | Labeling | State Laws


Signed into law in the summer of 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) set new federal lead standards for products (including jewelry) intended for children age 12 and under. The lead content limit was initially set at 600 parts per milliion (ppm), or 0.06 percent. On Aug. 14, 2009, the limit dropped to 300 ppm, and it is currently 100 ppm (0.01 percent).

The 100 ppm limit applies only to jewelry made after the Aug. 14 date, thanks to a bill (H.R. 2715) passed by Congress just prior to the 100 ppm implementation. Jewelry made prior to that date must still meet the previous 300 ppm standard.

For paint or a similar surface coating on children’s jewelry, the standard is 90 ppm.

Exempted Items: Precious metals (karat gold, sterling silver and platinum group metals) and gemstones are exempted from the testing and certification requirements of the CPSIA, provided that the named materials hadn’t been treated or changed in ways that would result in the addition of lead. MJSA had long lobbied for the exemption and, with the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association, was able to prove that the above products are either lead-free or contain so little lead as to be below CPSIA lead safety requirements.

Makers and importers of base-metal children’s jewelry, however, must still comply with the third-party testing and certification requirements of the CPSIA. The tests must be performed by labs accredited by the CPSC, and any children’s jewelry without certificates of compliance cannot be imported or distributed in the United States.

The following step-by-step guide will help you to ensure compliance with the CPSIA. It also includes an overview of state lead laws that jewelry makers and designers should know about.

Step 1: Determine Your Level of Risk

• If you make, assemble, or import fine jewelry for children 12 and under, and that jewelry is crafted ONLY with precious metals, your jewelry is exempt from the test and certification requirements of the CPSIA (provided those materials haven’t been treated or changed in ways that would result in the addition of lead). Precious metal jewelry has very little chance of containing lead—and if it did, you’d know about it, since “even in minute quantities, [lead] can wreak havoc in a goldsmith’s shop,” says consultant J. Tyler Teague. In consultation with other metallurgists, Teague has estimated that any amount of lead above about 30 ppm can cause problems in precious metal jewelry, such as cracking in karat gold. In the highly unlikely event that lead contamination occurs in precious-metal jewelry, its entry would likely be through gold alloys that may have accidently used free machining brass scrap as a master alloy component. This type of brass can contain lead, says Teague.

• Determine if your jewelry is for children 12 and under. The CPSIA primarily considers the following factors when looking at a product: 1.) a manufacturer’s statement and/or label of intended use; 2.) the packaging, display, promotion or advertising of the product; and 3.) whether it is commonly recognized by consumers as intended for children 12 and under. It comes down to intent — if a consumer buys a child a silver bangle marketed to 20-somethings, it probably wouldn’t be considered children’s jewelry. But silver bangles in Disney character packaging would likely be viewed as a children’s product.

• If you make, assemble, or import jewelry for children 12 and under, and that jewelry is crafted with base metals, you must comply with the requirement of the CPSIA and ensure that your products made after Aug. 14, 2011, contain less than 100 ppm of lead; products made prior to that date must contain less than 300 ppm of lead. See Step 2.

Step 2: Know the Content of Your Jewelry’s Raw Materials

• Get assurances that your children’s jewelry suppliers don’t use lead-containing alloys. This is the key to avoiding problems, says Howard Schachter. Assurances should come in the form of a written document in which your suppliers assert that their products are not made from lead-containing alloys.

• If the materials in your children’s products are found to exceed the new lead limits, consider substituting lead-free alloys. These alloys have a higher content of tin and/or several other ingredients. (The most common lead-free alloys have anywhere from 92 percent to 98 percent tin, with varying additions of antimony, copper, bismuth, or silver.) They result in good-looking lead-free products, says Schachter, who developed lead-free alloys used in pewter and solders. However, those alloys typically have a higher cost—about 25 percent higher than the commonly used leaded alloys, according to some observers—and can produce rougher castings that require more finishing. Experts can help manufacturers switch to these alloys; importers can ask overseas base metal jewelry suppliers to use lead-free alloys as well.

• You cannot rely on plating to mask lead content in children’s jewelry. No matter how well plated or encapsulated base metal jewelry is, the CPSIA’s required testing (acid digestion) may still turn up lead amounts over the designated limits. The law states: “paint, coatings, or electroplating may not be considered to be a barrier that would render lead in the substrate inaccessible to a child.”

Step 3: Get Tested

• All non-precious-metal children’s jewelry manufacturers and importers are required now to submit samples of their products to a CPSC-certified, independent lab for lead testing. A listing of certified labs is available on the CPSC website (cpsc.gov/cgi-bin/labapplist.aspx).

A single sample of a children’s jewelry product line may be all that has to be tested, says Schachter, if the line is “materially identical and made in the same fashion.” Changes in materials or design, however, could alter testing results, so you may need help from a quality assurance expert to determine how much to test.

• Each component in a piece of children’s jewelry must be tested. That includes elements such as jump rings, closures, beads, paints or coatings, says consultant James Troiano.

• Ask your lab or a consultant to help you design a testing program that can satisfy CPSIA regulations at the lowest possible cost to your company.

Note: Due to the passage of H.R. 2715 in August 2011, the CPSC is now required to hold hearings to consider possible relief from third-party testing. If it determines that such relief is justified, the CPSC could then issue regulations within twelve months. The new law sets forth some of the possibilities CPSC could entertain as a basis for such relief, including whether:

1. A product is already subject to rules from another government agency that requires third-party testing.
2. A substantially similar product has already been tested by another importer.
3. A product already has evidence of compliance with other national or international standards.
4. A product can be tested using alternative techniques or technologies than ones currently required by the CPSC, which  might lower costs without compromising the benefits of third-party testing.

In the fall of 2011, the CPSC noted that companies can meet the CPSIA’s testing and certification requirements by providing the results of component and finished-product tests conducted by their vendors.

• If there is a material change to the product (such as changes in the product design, manufacturing process, or the source of component parts), companies must re-test and re-certify that the product complies with CPSIA  standards.

• Records must be kept of all testing and certifications.

Step 4: Put It in Writing

• A certificate must accompany your shipments of children’s jewelry, in paper or electronic form. The certificate must show that testing against CPSIA requirements was conducted. The CPSC-certified lab that tested your products can assist you in ensuring all necessary details are included.

* The CPSC has created a PDF of the facts that must be included on the certificate, instructions for completing it, and a list of FAQs (cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/faq/elecertfaq.pdf), which your chosen lab will use for guidance.

Step 5: Create Marking and Tracking Labels

• The CPSIA requires, “to the extent practicable, the placement of permanent, distinguishing marks on children’s products and packaging,” that allows a product to be tracked to its specific source. The marks, according to the CPSIA, are to enable the manufacturer to ascertain:

1. The location and date of production (a date “range” is OK, and the date of production means the date of the final product’s assembly or placement into one package);
2. cohort information (including the batch, run number or other identifying characteristics).
3. any other information needed to find the source of the product.

The marks should also allow consumers to ascertain:

1. The name of the country and the city and state or administrative region where the product was manufactured.
2. The name of the manufacturer or private labeler.
3. The location and date of production.
4. The cohort information.

• The labeling requirements for children’s jewelry went into effect Aug. 14, 2009. But the CPSC acknowledged, in a policy issued July 20, 2009, that manufacturers would need more time to comply, and said it would recognize manufacturers’ and importers’ good faith efforts toward compliance.

• CPSC also ruled on July 20 that when items are too small to be marked or if the aesthetics of the product would be ruined by a mark and a mark cannot be placed in an accessible but inconspicuous location, the required tracking information could be included on the packaging for the product instead. An adhesive label might be sufficient for a packaging mark. (MJSA, among others, had complained that many small jewelry items lacked the surface space for the permanent labeling required by the law.)

• CPSC also decided that small volume manufacturers and crafters of children’s products don’t need to create a labeling system using lot, batch or run numbers, as long as they keep adequate records of the components used in their products, as well as the factories and time frames in which they were made.

Note: Due to the passage of H.R. 2715 in August 2011, the CPSC may, by regulation, exclude a specific product or class of products from the tracking label requirements, if the commission determines that it is not practicable for such a product or class of products to bear the marks required by the CPSIA. The commission may establish alternative requirements for any product or class of products so excluded from the requirement.

State Lead Laws

The CPSIA includes language stating that it pre-empts most state lead laws. However, there are three categories of state lead laws to which manufacturers and importers of all children’s jewelry must pay attention.

In the first category are laws specifically not exempted. Here you have California’s Proposition 65. Enacted in 1986, it requires warning labels for products that contain toxic substances, including lead. Proposition 65 is not preempted because the CPSIA includes a clause saying the act does not preempt laws in effect on or before Aug. 31, 2003—and Prop 65 meets that standard.

Next are laws that don’t focus specifically on children’s jewelry, but require certificates of compliance be available for all jewelry items, including those for adults. The first of these is California’s Lead-Containing Jewelry Law, passed in 2006 and revised in 2009; it restricts the lead content allowed in adult jewelry. Any company selling this type of jewelry in California must conform to the law’s requirements–which are in addition to the lead limit requirements on children’s jewelry in the federal CPSIA. Click here to see California’s Lead in Jewelry webpage.

Minnesota also revised its statutes in 2008 to include language nearly identical to California’s Lead-Containing Jewelry Law. Click here to see that statute.

Finally, Illinois amended its Lead Poisoning Prevention Act in 2009 (and amended it again in 2011) to include a warning label requirement, which the state asserts is also not preempted by the CPSIA—because CPSIA does not include warning requirements. Effective Jan. 1, 2010, the Illinois law requires that certain children’s products, including jewelry, with a lead content that’s below the CPSIA’s 100 ppm limit but more than 40 ppm must have a label with the following language: "WARNING: CONTAINS LEAD. MAY BE HARMFUL IF EATEN OR CHEWED. COMPLIES WITH FEDERAL STANDARDS". Illinois’s recent amendment to the act added clearer definitions and other minor changes. To see the new version indicating the changes to the law, click here.

A Note on the Preparation of This Guide

To prepare the MJSA Guide to the CPSIA & State Lead Laws, the association reviewed U.S. government actions and statements regarding the CPSIA, and interviewed several industry experts on lead in jewelry. Special thanks to consultants Howard E. Schachter of Aquatronics Industries Inc. in Riverside, Rhode Island; J. Tyler Teague of JETT Research in Johnson City, Tennessee; and James Troiano in Cranston, Rhode Island.


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