Since February 10, 2009, manufacturers and retailers of children's products (including small business crafts producers) are prohibited from selling products that do not meet strict new lead levels. According to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), "any children's product that contains more than 600 parts per million (ppm) of lead in any part that is accessible will be treated as a banned hazardous substance."
In terms of jewelry, the law only affects makers of children's jewelry, and defines children as 12 years of age or younger (the law does not apply to adult jewelry, as adults are less likely to ingest their jewelry).
A stay by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) temporarily delayed the need to have children's products tested by a certified third-party laboratory. However, according to a CPSIA timetable, third-party testing of children's metal jewelry IS NOW required. Lead-content limits: Starting on February 10, 2009, consumer products intended for children 12 and under were not allowed to contain more than 600 parts per million [PPM] of lead in any accessible part. On August 14, 2009, the allowable lead content level dropped to 300 parts per million [PPM]. The allowable level will eventually drop to 100PPM if the US government "determines this level to be feasible."
Because Rings & Things' components are not intended for children's jewelry, the Federal law does not affect R&T's product lead classifications, which are based on California's lead law for adult jewelry. While California's law remains the strictest law in the USA regarding lead in adult jewelry, its adult jewelry requirements are not as stringent as the new Federal law for children's jewelry. Nevertheless, our classification system does provide information about lead content in our products.
To Test or Not to Test
Testing is expensive and destructive, so it can be difficult for a small craftsperson, or anyone making one-of-a-kind goods, to give up their finished products for testing, or to be able to know definitively what the lead content is in every component of their goods. One good thing to come out of the turmoil at the beginning of the century, is that the CPSC began providing specific and practical information about what materials can be used in children's jewelry without being tested. They say this list is preliminary, which suggests it can change. But, for now, the Commission "preliminarily determines that the following natural materials do not exceed the ... 300 ppm lead content limits under section 101(a) of the CPSIA. These preliminary determinations are based on materials that are untreated and unadulterated with respect to the addition of materials or chemicals, including pigments, dyes, coatings, finishes or any other substance, and that do not undergo any processing that could result in the addition of lead into the product or material":
Precious gemstones: diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald
Semi-precious gemstones, "provided that the mineral or material is not based on lead or lead compounds and is not associated in nature with any mineral that is based on lead or lead compounds" (unacceptable stones include aragonite, bayldonite, boleite, cerussite, crocoite, linarite, mimetite, phosgenite, vanadinite & wulfenite).
Natural or cultured pearls
Natural fibers such as cotton, silk, wool, hemp, flax and linen
Other natural materials including coral, amber, feathers, fur and untreated leather
The Commission also "preliminarily determines that the following metals and alloys do not exceed the ... 300 ppm lead content limits under section 101(a) of the CPSIA provided that no lead or lead-containing metal is intentionally added":
Precious metals: gold (at least 10 karat), sterling silver (at least 925/1000), platinum, palladium, rhodium, osmium, iridium and ruthenium
Unfortunately, the CSPC seems to have geared their legislation for testing factory-made finished jewelry being imported into the United States from large businesses overseas. At the time this article was written, they've failed to take into account thousands of US artisans and crafters who 1) don't have the same overhead as large factories and 2) might be using components that have already been tested, either by the parts manufacturer or by the distributor. Even more unfortunate is that the CPSC's initial assessment about the impacts of testing requirements on small businesses concludes that "the proposed rule would not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities."
We're all in favor of keeping children safe. Let's hope that the US government and US crafters can continue having a dialogue that will fix prohibitive, and possibly unnecessary, costs built into the current law!