The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), by a 3 to 2 vote, found that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s presumptive limit of 100 parts per million (ppm) for children’s products (i.e., those intended by use for children 12 years of age and younger) was not technologically infeasible. As a result, effective August 14, 2011, the allowable total lead limit for these products is no longer 300 ppm, but 100 ppm (i.e., 99.99 percent lead-free), (see 76 Fed. Reg. 44,463 (July 26, 2011), available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-07-26/pdf/2011-18510.pdf). Therefore, on August 14, 2011, it will be illegal to manufacture, import, distribute, or, for retailers, to sell children’s products that exceed this lead limit. The CPSC staff found there was insufficient evidence of infeasibility. Additionally, CPSC will not enforce the requirement for independent third-party testing for total lead content of these children’s products (except for children’s metal jewelry), until December 31, 2011 (due to the CPSC’s existing stay on enforcement of this testing). Further, this new 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.
The CPSC apparently relied on very little product-specific information in reaching its decision. The majority of the CPSC commissioners emphasized the fact that the testing data in one submission showed that between 96 percent and 99 percent of the thousands of products or materials tested complied with the 100 ppm limit. Similarly, the Hong Kong American Chamber of Commerce submitted the results of testing 13,000 metallic parts, 99.54 percent of which were found to contain less than 100 ppm of lead. However, Nancy Nord, one of the dissenting commissioners, urged the CPSC to consider costs in its feasibility determination. As a result, according to Ms. Nord, consumers will find fewer choices and higher prices on the shelves, even though products containing 300 ppm of lead (99.97 percent lead-free) are generally not considered to present a significant health risk.