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Signed into law last summer, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) set new federal lead standards for children's products, including jewelry. On Aug. 14, the limit drops from the current 600 parts per million (ppm), or 0.06 percent, to 300 ppm. For paint or a similar surface coating on children's jewelry, the standard goes from 600 ppm to 90 ppm on the same date.
Moreover, the CPSIA mandated that jewelry designers and manufacturers must certify through third-party tests that their children's jewelry meets those standards. The tests must be performed by labs accredited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and any children's jewelry without certificates of compliance cannot be imported or distributed in the United States.
The CPSIA pre-empts all state lead laws except California's. (California, however, requires that all jewelry - not just for kids - be tested against that state's lead content limits: 600 ppm now, 300 ppm beginning Aug. 14).
To prepare the following guide for complying with the CPSIA, MJSA 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. The latter two consultants participate in the MJSA Lead Quality Assurance Program.
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 risk is low. 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, "rendering components brittle and unworkable." 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.
Makers and importers of children's precious metal jewelry (karat gold, sterling silver, and platinum group metals) are temporarily exempt from sanctions or penalties by the Consumer Product Safety Commission related to testing, while the CPSC determines whether to permanently exempt precious metal jewelry-an action MJSA is strongly pressing in Washington, D.C.
If you make, assemble, or import jewelry for children 12 and under, and that jewelry is crafted with base metals, your risk is higher. See Step 2.
Step 2: Know the Chemical/Material 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). MJSA has negotiated special member discount rates with ESS (esslaboratory.com), a division of Thielsch Engineering in Cranston, Rhode Island.
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.
However, 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. He recommends that you ask your lab or a consultant to help you design a testing program that's complete and will satisfy CPSIA regulations.
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 and 4. the cohort information.
The labeling requirements for children's jewelry are effective Aug. 14, 2009. But the CPSC acknowledged, in a policy issued July 20, 2009, that manufacturers would need more lead time to comply, and said it would recognize manufacturers' and importers' good faith efforts towards 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.
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