Safer Products

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Frequently Asked Questions about Lead in Jewelry

How do I locate an appropriate laboratory to have testing done, and at what expense?

The California Department of Public Health maintains a List of Accredited Laboratories. You can contact a lab near you and request cost information for conducting EPA Methods 3050B, 3051A and 3052 to comply with the Metal-Containing Jewelry Law. Since lead and cadmium limits vary depending on the type of jewelry component, each component type must be tested and analyzed separately. The price of testing may vary depending on the number of jewelry components and the complexity of the components you have tested; laboratories can give you pricing information.

Note: California’s Metal-Containing Jewelry Law requires the jewelry manufacturer or supplier to provide certification regarding the lead content of the jewelry and cadmium content in children’s jewelry. The manufacturer or supplier of jewelry or jewelry components providing the required certificate should ensure that the laboratory that tests the jewelry is qualified to do the type of testing required, i.e., the laboratory should have familiarity and experience with the specified sample preparation and testing techniques required by the law. It is in the manufacturer’s or supplier’s best interest to use a qualified laboratory. Additionally, the certificate should cover all of the jewelry materials that the law requires to be tested.

I am a very small business owner. Is it my obligation to perform the testing described in EPA Methods 3050B, 3051A, and 3052?

If, as a “small business owner,” you sell, offer to sell, or offer for promotion jewelry in California, it is your obligation to ensure you do not sell or offer to sell or promote jewelry that violates California’s Metal Containing Jewelry law.

California’s Metal-Containing Jewelry Law requires the jewelry manufacturer or supplier to provide certification that that manufacturer’s or supplier’s jewelry does not contain a level of lead or cadmium that would prohibit the jewelry from being sold in California pursuant to the law. The manufacturer or supplier must provide that certification directly to the person who sells the jewelry or must display the certification prominently on the shipping container or packaging of the jewelry.

DTSC highly encourages businesses that sell, offer to sell, or offer for promotion jewelry in California, to obtain certificates of compliance and other detailed information about the composition of materials purchased from jewelry component suppliers. The law specifies various factors that will be considered when assessing penalties for violations, including whether good-faith measures were taken to comply with the law.

What about people who sell vintage jewelry? How are we supposed to know if the jewelry contains lead? These pieces are often one of a kind and could contain lead since they were made a long time ago.

Currently, the law does not make a distinction between new and vintage jewelry. However, EPA Methods 3050B, 3051A, and 3052 are destructive testing methods; therefore, jewelry cannot be salvaged after testing is conducted using these methods. DTSC acknowledges that it is not feasible to test one-of-a-kind vintage jewelry items using these destructive test methods. Since these older jewelry items were made prior to any awareness about the harmful properties of lead and they were produced on virtually a “one-of-a-kind” basis, DTSC is currently focusing its limited enforcement resources on primarily new and mass-produced jewelry.

However, as mentioned in the previous question, the only way to know for certain if an item is in compliance with the law is to have it analyzed by a laboratory using the methods specified in the law (EPA Methods 3050B, 3051A, and 3052). Some laboratories may be able to screen your jewelry without destroying it by using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers. XRF screening results can provide you with an estimate of the amount of lead and other constituents in your jewelry. However, since XRF results are only estimates, they may not necessarily agree with laboratory results using EPA Methods 3050B, 3051A, or 3052.

Vintage jewelry, like all jewelry — regardless of its lead content — should be stored in areas away from children. Children should also be monitored to ensure they do not put jewelry in their mouths.

I did not see copper or bronze listed anywhere in the suitable materials list. For artists/jewelers working in these materials, should we check with suppliers about the lead content?

Copper and bronze would fall under Class 2 materials for adult jewelry. For purposes of complying with the law, requirements referring to metal include metal alloys, so the percentage of lead allowed in adult jewelry would depend on whether the copper or bronze is electroplated or unplated. Metallic materials used in children’s jewelry must be a Class 1 material, contain less than 0.06% lead by weight and less than 0.03% cadmium by weight, under California law. Please note, however, that under the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), all children’s products must currently contain less than 100 ppm (0.01%) Lead by weight. The CPSIA defines “children” as age 12 and under.

DTSC strongly encourages you to check with your suppliers and obtain certificates of compliance and other detailed information about the composition of the materials you purchase from them.

Can I sell jewelry containing lead as long as I label that it contains lead?

The requirements under the Metal-Containing Jewelry Law are completely separate from Proposition 65 warning requirements. Complying with the Proposition 65 warning requirements does not relieve you of complying with the requirements in the Metal-Containing Jewelry Law. The Metal-Containing Jewelry Law places limitations on the amount of lead that can be present in jewelry but does not specify any warning requirements. You may still be responsible for warning requirements under Proposition 65 if you sell jewelry containing lead and/or other chemicals listed under Proposition 65. To find out if your business must comply with the warning requirements under Proposition 65, please visit the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s Proposition 65 web page.

What are the requirements for body piercing jewelry?

The law defines body piercing jewelry as “any part of jewelry that is manufactured or sold for placement in a new piercing or a mucous membrane but does not include any part of that jewelry that is not placed within a new piercing or a mucous membrane.” Beginning March 1, 2008, a person shall not manufacture, ship, sell, or offer for sale body piercing jewelry — the part of the jewelry that is placed directly within the new piercing or mucous membrane — for retail sale in California unless it is made up entirely of one or more of the following materials:

  • Surgical implant-grade stainless steel
  • Surgical implant-grade of titanium
  • Niobium (Nb)
  • Solid 14-karat or higher white or yellow nickel-free gold
  • Solid platinum
  • A dense low-porosity plastic, including but not limited to Tygon or Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), if the plastic contains no intentionally added lead.

DTSC will be focusing its enforcement resources on whether the materials used for new piercings or mucous membranes contain detectable levels of lead.

Jewelry that is not placed directly within a new piercing or mucous membrane, such as a bead on a belly button ring, must meet the requirements specified for other “jewelry.” Therefore, for adult jewelry, any components of the body piercing jewelry not placed within a new piercing or mucous membrane must be made entirely from a Class 1, Class 2, or Class 3 material, or any combination of these three classes of materials. Any jewelry made for children ages 6 and under that is not placed directly within a new piercing or mucous membrane, such as any component attached to a starter earring stud that does not go directly through the piercing, must meet the requirements for “children’s jewelry” as defined by the law.

Is leaded crystal, such as Swarovksi crystal, allowed in jewelry? What are the requirements for using leaded crystal in children’s jewelry?

Glass and crystal decorative components used in adult jewelry are considered Class 1 materials. There are no lead limits for Class 1 materials used for adult jewelry. Therefore, the use of leaded crystal, including Swarovski crystal, may be used in adult jewelry.

With regard to children’s jewelry, the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) restricts lead in all children’s products to 100 ppm (0.01%) Lead by weight. Anyone selling children’s jewelry in California must keep these restrictions in mind, even when considering California law, as described in the following paragraph. For more information on the federal law, go to The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) web page.

Under California law, the use of Swarovski crystal (or any other crystal 0.02% (200 ppm) or higher in lead) in children’s jewelry is limited to a total of 1 gram total. Crystal or glass components containing less than 0.02% (200 ppm) lead by weight with no intentionally added lead may be used in children’s jewelry without any weight limitations. This assumes the crystal components do not exceed the prevailing federal limit for children’s products.

Why is lead used as an ingredient in jewelry?

Lead is used in jewelry-making for several reasons. When incorporated into an alloy, lead can make the metal easier to shape and form. Lead may make the jewelry heavier (if added to a lighter alloy or plastic), so it seems more substantial, and it is cheaper to use than some other metals. Lead compounds are also used as stabilizers in some plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic often incorporated into children’s jewelry items. Lead may be used in glass or crystal components to increase the refractive index (more sparkle), and in paints for color and durability.

Why is lead-containing jewelry a concern?

Excessive exposure to lead can cause many health effects, ranging from behavioral problems and learning disabilities to organ failure and even death. Children 6 years old and younger are more susceptible to adverse health effects because their bodies are growing quickly and their brains are still developing. Lead-containing jewelry poses a particular concern because children often place jewelry in their mouths, which can result in lead absorption at dangerous levels or very serious health effects if the jewelry is accidentally swallowed.

What is being done to prevent jewelry containing high levels of lead from entering the marketplace?

California’s Metal-Containing Jewelry Law places limitations on the lead content of jewelry. Anyone who manufactures, ships, sells or offers for sale jewelry for retail sale or promotional purposes in California must comply with the restrictions specified in the law.

Other states and cities have also enacted legislation and/or regulations to limit the lead content in consumer products, or propose to do so in the future. The federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) restricts lead in consumer products intended for children 12 years old and under. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has also issued a number of recalls for lead-containing children’s jewelry.

How should I dispose of jewelry if it contains lead and I no longer want it?

Parents should immediately take jewelry believed to contain lead away from their children. DTSC has not yet determined if jewelry containing lead above the levels allowed under the Metal-Containing Jewelry Law would be considered a hazardous waste if it is disposed of. Until this determination is made, DTSC recommends that all suspected lead-containing jewelry be disposed of in a manner that eliminates any access by children.

How do I know if my jewelry is safe?

You cannot tell if a piece of jewelry contains lead just by looking at it. A lead measurement (using a chemical or spectroscopic test) must be performed. A lead swab test, such as those purchased from a hardware store for lead paint detection, might indicate if the surface of the jewelry contains lead, but it will probably not detect lead present beneath the surface coating. In any case, if parents allow their children to wear jewelry, they should monitor their children to ensure jewelry is not placed in their mouths.

Can lead be absorbed through the skin?

Absorption of lead through skin from wearing jewelry is not likely to pose a large a risk. Exposure to lead occurs mainly from ingestion, such as eating or putting objects into the mouth. This puts young children particularly at risk. Exposure to lead can also occur from inhalation, such as breathing lead that is scattered in the air as dust, fume or mist. Absorption of lead through the skin from wearing jewelry is not likely to pose as large a risk.

What can I do if I believe my child has put lead-containing jewelry into his or her mouth?

You should consult your health care provider and discuss the advisability of a blood test to determine whether your child has been exposed to lead recently. This discussion should include how long the child had the jewelry in his or her mouth, whether or not the child swallowed any component of the jewelry, and anything else you think might help the health care provider in determining the probability of your child absorbing lead from the jewelry.

A blood lead test is the only way you can find out if your child has an elevated blood lead level; however, an elevated blood lead level will not tell you if the lead exposure came from lead-containing jewelry or another source of lead.

What is the definition of generator?

“Generator” means any person, by site, whose act or process produces hazardous waste identified or listed in chapter 11 of division 4.5 of title 22 of the California Code of Regulations or whose act first causes hazardous waste to become subject to regulation.

How widespread is jewelry containing high levels of lead?

In the past decade, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (U.S. CPSC) has announced numerous jewelry recalls, because the U.S. CPSC determined that the jewelry contained dangerous levels of lead, thus posing a risk of lead poisoning in children. Since 2004, there have been over fifty CPSC recalls of lead-containing jewelry, suggesting the widespread prevalence of lead-containing jewelry.

How does jewelry containing high levels of lead make its way into the marketplace?

Jewelry containing high levels of lead is often manufactured in other countries and imported into the United States. Most of the jewelry subject to recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (U.S. CPSC) recalls was manufactured in China.

As a manufacturer or supplier of jewelry, do I need to provide certification no matter what type of material I use?

The manufacturer or supplier of jewelry must be able to provide certification that the jewelry (including each component) does not contain a level of lead or cadmium that would prohibit the jewelry from being sold or offered for sale in California, pursuant to California’s Metal-Containing Jewelry law, no matter what material is used to make the jewelry.

Does the law apply to anyone selling online and then shipping to California?

Yes, the law applies to anyone who manufactures, ships, sells, or offers for sale jewelry for retail sale in California, including online establishments.