Lead Regulations FAQ
Q: What is lead?
A: Lead is a heavy bluish-gray metal with a low melting point that occurs naturally in the Earth's crust. It is usually found combined with two or more other elements to form lead compounds.
Q: What is lead used for?
A: Lead has many uses; metallic lead is resistant to corrosion (i.e., not easily broken down by environmental exposure). When exposed to air or water, thin films of lead compounds are formed that protect the metal from further attack. It is easily molded and shaped for different uses. Lead can be combined with other metals to form alloys. Lead and lead alloys are commonly found in pipes, storage batteries, weights, shot and ammunition, cable covers, and sheets used to shield us from radiation. The largest use for lead is in storage batteries in the automotive industry. The second largest use is for ammunition. In the cable industry, lead has been used for the stabilization of PVC. Lead stabilizers are added to PVC compounds to prevent degradation from heat and light, and to improve processing properties.
Lead compounds are also used as a pigment in paints, dyes, and ceramic glazes to provide bright and vibrant colors and provide increased durability. Over the years, the amount of lead used in these products has been reduced to minimize potential harmful effects on people, animals, and the environment.
Tetraethyl lead and tetra methyl lead were once used in the United States as gasoline additives to increase octane rating. However, their use was phased out in the 1980's, and lead was banned for use in gasoline for motor vehicles beginning January 1, 1996. Tetraethyl lead may still be used in gasoline for off-road vehicles and airplanes.
Q: Why is lead so highly regulated?
A: Lead has long been recognized as a hazard to consumers. Lead is a highly toxic substance, exposure to which can produce a wide range of adverse health effects. These effects include neurological damage, delayed mental and physical development, attention and learning deficiencies, and hearing problems. Because lead accumulates in the body, even exposure to small amounts of lead can contribute to the overall bio-accumulative level of lead in the blood and to the subsequent risk of adverse health effects.
Q: Is lead more hazardous to children than adults?
A: Both adults and children can suffer from the effects of lead poisoning, but childhood lead poisoning is more frequent. In 2004 there were more than 310,000 children under the age of six who had elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Babies and young children are more susceptible to lead poisoning than adults because they often put their hands or other objects in their mouths. Exploring their environment by mouthing objects is a developmental behavior which they outgrow somewhere between 24 - 36 months. Lead can enter the body when they put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths. Infants and children are more susceptible to lead exposure because of their smaller size and weight. Their growing bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Adults, while not as prone as children to severe effects, can react to lead exposure with: difficulties during pregnancy, reproductive problems (found in both men and women), high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle joint pain.
Q: What level creates a concern for lead?
A: Consumers are exposed to lead in a variety of ways: through deteriorating paint, household dust, bare soil, air, drinking water, food, ceramics, home remedies, hair dyes and cosmetics (http://downloads.nsc.org/pdf/factsheets/Lead_Poisoning.pdf). The scientific community has set a level of 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood as a threshold level of concern with respect to lead poisoning. To avoid exceeding that level, young children should not chronically ingest more than 15 micrograms of lead per day from consumer products (http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/frnotices/fr99/lead.html).
Q: Where is lead found?
• Paint. In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint. Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint.
• In soil around the home (from gasoline exhaust, prior industrial emissions, and paint)
• Household dust (from leaded paint or PVC cords, mini-blinds, etc.)
• Drinking water (solder joints and leaded pipes)
• Old painted toys and furniture
• Food and liquids (i.e., leaded glass, ceramic ware)
• Lead smelters (air emissions)
• Hobbies (i.e., from pottery, stained glass, or refinishing furniture)
• Folk remedies
Q: Who regulates lead?
A: The hazardous effects of lead have resulted in its being highly regulated in a wide range of consumer products and by both federal and state agencies.
• The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the primary federal agency that regulates lead in consumer products.
• The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has responsibility for lead in products like food, food contact articles, drugs and cosmetics.
• The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helps regulate lead in the environment, i.e., air, water, soil, emissions and disposal.
• Lead has also been the focus of state regulations such as the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (commonly known as Prop 65) and is enforced by the Attorney General's Office and bounty hunters. The Illinois Lead Poisoning Prevention Act is enforced by the Attorney General's Office.
• Lead found in older painted homes, especially in urban settings, is often regulated by local county or city health departments.
Q: Examples of the federal, state and industry lead requirements?
A: Federal Requirements
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates lead in consumer goods, especially children's products. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) provides new lead limits for substrates in children's products and a lower lead limit for paint and surface coatings on furniture and children's products; and makes ASTM F963 standard, including the heavy metals requirements, mandatory for all toys.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates extractable lead limits for all food contact ceramic ware (FDA Compliance Policy Guides, Sub Chapter 545, Food Related, Pottery (Ceramics), Import and Domestic- Cadmium Contamination, CPG 7117.06; FDA Compliance Policy Guides, Sub Chapter 545, Food Related, Pottery (Ceramics), Imports and Domestic-Lead Contamination, CPG 7117.07, as well as lead content in food.
• California regulates lead in both adult and children's products through their Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, more popularly referred to as Proposition 65 or Prop 65 (California Health and Safety Code. Section 25249.6, et seq.). California also regulates lead content in all jewelry materials under California Health and Safety Code. Division 20. Chapter 6.5 Section 25214.1 (AB 1681).
• Illinois regulates lead through their Lead Poisoning Prevention Act. This act includes both specific limits and warning requirements and places restrictions on both children and adult consumer products.
Under the Toxics in Packaging Coalition, 19 states regulate lead in packaging materials (California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin). For more information, visit http://www.toxicsinpackaging.org/.
The Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators (SGCD) has created limits for extractable lead and cadmium for the lip and rim of drinkware products.
Q: Are there any international lead requirements?
A: Lead is universally recognized as a toxic substance. Some examples of other countries that regulate lead include:
• Canada: regulates lead through Health Canada under their Hazardous Products Act which utilizes limits and methods similar to the United States.
• Europe: Countries that are members of the European Union restrict lead in consumer products through directives such as Directive 76/769/EEC which restricts lead in children's products.
• Australia: regulates lead through the Consumer Affairs Act of 1971. This act places restrictions on children's toys and candle wicks.
• New Zealand: regulates lead through the Unsafe Goods (Lead in Children's Toys) Indefinite Prohibition Notice of 2009. This Notice places restrictions on lead in children's toys.
Q: Food contact lead restrictions for countries outside of the United States?
A: Some of the lead restrictions for food contact articles in other countries include:
• Columbia: Resolution No. 1900, July 21, 2008 regulates lead in glass and ceramic that has contact with foodstuffs.
• Thailand: B.E. 2551 (2008) regulates lead in ceramic ware and requires health certificates on any ceramic ware imported into the country.
• Canada: lead is regulated by Health Canada under their Hazardous Products Act (R.S.,c. H-3, Part 1 of Schedule 1, Item 2), which utilizes limits and methods similar to the United States. Ceramic and glassware are regulated under the Glazed Ceramic and Glassware Regulations included in the CHPA.
• The European Union: 2005/311/EEC regulates lead in ceramic articles.
• Australia: Australian Statutory Rules 1977, Number 373, Food and Drug Standards (amendment no. 17), Regulations 1977 regulates materials that come into contact with foodstuff.
• Brazil: Decree No. 27, March 18, 1996 regulates lead added to items to come in contact with food.
• Japan: Food Sanitation Law, Law No. 233, December 24, 1947, et seq., Specifications and Standards for Food Additives, No. 370, 12/18/59;
• Mexico: Mexican Official Standard NOM-010-SSA1-1993, Environmental health. Glazed ceramic articles. Limits for soluble lead and cadmium; Mexican Official Standard NOM-011-SSA1-1993, Environmental health. Limits for soluble lead and cadmium in glazed pottery articles.
Q: Additional Resources:
A: EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a major role in addressing residential lead hazards.
• Homepage: http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadinfo.htm
• Basic lead information and resources: http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadinfo.htm#facts
FDA: The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), based in Atlanta, Georgia, is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ATSDR serves the public by using the best science, taking responsive public health actions, and providing trusted health information to prevent harmful exposures and diseases related to toxic substances.
• Lead Facts: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/tfacts13.html
• Briefing Information: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/cabs/lead/index.html
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