CPSC Announces New Policy Addressing Lead in Children's Metal Jewelry

February 3, 2005
Release Number: 05-097

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today announced a new enforcement policy (pdf) to reduce the potential for health risks from lead in children's metal jewelry. The new policy gives manufacturers, importers and retailers clear guidance on steps they should take to minimize the risk for children. The CPSC is also specifying the laboratory test procedures (pdf) it will use to analyze lead content.

The new policy explains how the CPSC staff will test for lead in children's jewelry and identifies the lead levels that will trigger further attention. CPSC staff will first conduct a screening test to determine the lead content of each type of component in a piece of jewelry. For example, a necklace may consist of a chain, a clasp, a pendant and one or more types of beads. If the lead content of each component is less than or equal to 600 parts per million (ppm), the staff will not pursue a recall or other corrective action. If the lead content of any component exceeds 600 ppm, Commission staff will then conduct further testing using the acid extraction method. If the acid extraction test yields an amount of accessible lead less than or equal to 175 micrograms (ug), no corrective action will be sought.

Pieces of metal jewelry with accessible lead greater than 175 ug could result in elevated blood lead levels in children. In these instances, CPSC staff will decide what corrective action may be appropriate on a case-by-case basis. Staff will consider the age of the children who are most likely to wear the jewelry, the level of accessible lead, the size and shape of the jewelry components, the probable routes of exposure and other factors.

Commission staff recommends that firms intending to sell children's jewelry in the United States keep lead levels as low as possible and test their own products following our guidelines to ensure that they contain no more than 600 ppm lead. "We do not want children's jewelry to have accessible lead that could cause elevated blood lead levels," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "We urge manufacturers to reduce the lead content of their products to the greatest extent possible below the 600 ppm benchmark."

While deteriorating lead paint in homes is the leading cause of lead poisoning in children, lead exposures from other sources add to the overall risk. The scientific community generally recognizes a blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl) of blood as a level of concern and recommends various lead poisoning prevention activities. To prevent young children from exceeding the 10 ug/dl blood lead level, CPSC seeks to limit exposure to lead from all consumer products, including children's metal jewelry.

In 2004, CPSC announced recalls of more than 150 million pieces of toy jewelry sold in vending machines and through other outlets. The Commission is aware of several cases in which children developed high blood lead levels after swallowing or repeatedly sucking on jewelry items. Lead poisoning in children is associated with behavioral problems, learning disabilities, hearing problems and growth retardation.