Lead Safety

Concern over the potential dangers of lead have run high in recent years and forthcoming changes to international standards for lead safety have prompted a high level of activity at The Laboratory at The Birmingham Assay Office. The Laboratory has developed new methods in response to this and has just become the first UK facility to be UKAS accredited for the widely recognised American standards for lead testing.

Lead is toxic at very low levels of exposure. It accumulates in the body and regular exposure to even very low quantities may badly damage intellectual and behavioural development of infants and young children and have adverse health effects for adults.

Despite the dangers there is no specific EU or UK legislation to control lead in jewellery items and so they fall under general consumer protection legislation which requires products to be ‘safe’.

Many UK suppliers have turned to the American Standard imposed by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 which imposes strict controls on Lead content in all children’s items. However The Laboratory is seeing many articles intended for ‘adults being tested too.

The CPSIA regulations are intended to gradually reduce the amount of lead in items. They set rules for lead paint and surface coatings on children’s products and for lead content. The content limit was set at 600 parts per million (ppm) in Feb 2009, reducing to 300 ppm as of August 14th 2009 and in August 2011 it will reduce further to 100ppm. The limit for lead containing paint is 90 ppm as of August 14th 2009.

Such low levels require careful accurate testing following prescribed international methods. The Laboratory at The Birmingham Assay Office has invested heavily in equipment and training to develop such procedures and is now the only facility in the UK which is accredited by UKAS for these tests.

Technical Director Dippal Manchanda believes The Laboratory is offering a vital service. “Customers are particularly cautious about lead after all the adverse publicity a couple of years ago which cost companies with non compliant products millions in product recall, lost sales and damaged reputations,” he said. “The tests offered by The Birmingham Assay Office are internationally recognized and ensure that the consumer is properly protected from the dangers of lead. We have had a lot of interest in these tests, particularly from some of the UK’s leading retailers and we expect to test many hundreds of products in the coming months.”

The Laboratory at The Birmingham Assay Office is the first in England to be accredited for the following three methods –

  • A. CPSC-CH-E1001-08 Standard Operating Procedure for Determining Total Lead (Pb) in Children’s Metal Products (Including Children’s Metal Jewellery) December 4, 2008.
  • B. CPSC-CH-E1002-08 Standard Operating Procedure for Determining Total Lead (Pb) in Non-Metal Children’s Products February 1, 2009.
  • C. CPSC-CH-E1003-09 Standard Operating Procedure for Determining Lead (Pb) in Paint and Other Similar Surface Coatings April 26, 2009.

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