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Calif. Lead Law Tightens Standard For Vendible Toys

Posted On: 9/18/2007

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SACRAMENTO, CA (September 2007) -- California has enacted the nation's toughest safety standards for toys, which apply to capsuled novelties sold through bulk vending machines. The state's new "Lead In Jewelry Law" will mandate civil penalties for anyone who manufactures, ships, sells or offers for sale children's jewelry containing more than the specified amount of lead. The regulation is primarily geared toward retail stores and does not change rules already applicable to bulk vending operators.

The new law, which went into effect September 1, names such products as bracelets, rings, chains, hair accessories, earrings and brooches, as well as links, pendants and their various components. The penalty for failing to meet the new safety standards may be up to $2,500 a day for each violation.

California's regulation also requires manufacturers to use specific components in which lead is not typically found, which might include glass or cloth, or limit the amount of lead in metallic jewelry to less than 0.06% (600 parts per million) by weight. On March 1, 2008, the law will apply to all jewelry sold within the state.

"The Consumer Product Safety Commission adopted a guidance in 2004 establishing a lead limit standard in toy jewelry of 600 parts per million," explained Morrie Much, legal counsel for the National Bulk Vendors Association. "The rule announced by the CPSC in December 2006 proposes to make permanent the same standard, to be applicable only to toy jewelry intended for children. California uses the same 600-PPM standard, but goes somewhat beyond traditional 'toy jewelry' to include body piercing jewelry."

Much reports that the NBVA is currently awaiting the final CPSC rule to see how "children" is legally defined and what products will be covered by the standard. According to the California law, children six years old and under are most at risk from lead poisoning because their bodies are growing quickly.

"In the NBVA's response to the proposed rule by the CPSC, we suggested that the final rule apply not only to 'toy jewelry,' but to all toys and novelties for children -- at whatever age level the CPSC concludes is appropriate to protect children from lead hazards."

The position of the NBVA is broader and more stringent, according to Much. "In our portion of the vending industry, all bulk jewelry, toys, novelties and stickers sold through vending machines may not contain traces of lead in excess of the 600-PPM standard, regardless of the age of the customer or the nature of the product vended," he explained. "This position was established in the Voluntary Standard for Toy Safety adopted in 2005 by the NBVA."

While industry standards are roughly in accordance with, if not surpassing, those set by California, the new law could present problems for the industry in the future.

"The lead jewelry law in California is part of that state's Proposition 65, which covers hundreds of different chemicals not just in metallic items, but also in plastic and other items," said A&A's Brian Kovens. "Right now, we have a situation where each state is making up its own standards with no comprehensive federal law.  As an industry, reputable suppliers are keeping abreast and trying to meet these guidelines. However, some operators have been going outside of traditional bulk vending supply chains and this is worrisome. It leaves them open to liability and the uncertainty of having unsafe products on the street."

Over the past few months, there has been much publicity, primarily aimed at China, related to products that have been deemed to not meet quality requirements. Since late May, more than a dozen companies have recalled more than 3.25 million toys and other products for children on their own and in cooperation with CPSC -- all due to excessive levels of lead in paint or components manufactured in China. Hardest hit, with one million items apiece, have been toymakers RC2 Corp. in Illinois and Mattel Inc. in California.

Other product recalls tied to China have included tires, toothpaste and oral-hygiene products, and pet foods.