Lead is a heavy metal that continues to be used in a wide variety of consumer products. Lead is often used as a stabilizer in PVC products and for pigmentation in paint, rubber, plastics, and ceramics (ATSDR 2005). Lead's chemical properties also make it easy to use in castings of metal products such as jewelry (ATSDR 2005). More information on lead can be found at ATSDR Website or en espanõl.

Health Effects

  • Scientists have found there is no safe level of lead for children - even the smallest amount effects a child's ability to learn (Lanphear 2005, Gilbert 2006). Children are more vulnerable than adults to lead (ATSDR 2007).
  • Lead impacts brain development, causing learning and developmental problems including decreased IQ scores, shorter attention spans, and delayed learning (Gilbert 2004).
  • When children are exposed to lead, the developmental and nervous system consequences are irreversible (Gilbert 2006). Nationwide, 310,000 children already have lead levels of concern (ATSDR 2007).
  • In addition to neurological damage, excessive amounts of lead can lead to muscle weakness, anemia, and kidney damage (ATSDR 2007).
  • While no conclusive proof that lead is a human carcinogen exists, laboratory testing in rats resulted in the development of kidney tumors in the animals. Additionally, the EPA has listed lead as a probable human carcinogen. (ATSDR 2007).

Other concerns

Current Regulations for Lead in Products

  • Current U.S. regulations limit lead in paint on children's toys to 300 ppm (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, CPSIA 2008). As of February 2009, products containing a concentration of lead—both in the paint and in the product itself—greater than 600 ppm were to be listed as banned hazardous substances. This limit was lowered to 300 ppm as of August 2009 and shall be lowered to 100 ppm as of August 2011. The CPSC has the right to decrease the amount of allowable lead as it sees fit and in accordance with technology at the time (CPSIA 2008). According to the CPSIA, electronic toys in the United States are exempt from the lead ban, though this is subject to change by the CPSC as technology improves (CPSIA 2008). More information can be found at the CPSC website or en espanõl.
  • Illinois recently passed a law limiting lead in a variety of consumer products, including toys, jewelry, clothing and articles intended to be chewable by children (Illinois Public Act 094-0879). California recently enacted limits on lead in jewelry (California Assembly Bill 1681, 2006).
  • Nineteen states limit lead in packaging materials, such as shopping bags and product wrappings (TPCH 2007).
  • The European Union restricts lead in electronic products, including electronic toys (European Union 2003). According to the CPSIA, electronic toys in the United States are exempt from the lead ban, though this is subject to change by the CPSC as technology improves (CPSIA 2008).
  • The toy industry has published a voluntary standard (EN 71 & ASTM F973-07) of 90 ppm for lead in toys, but the standard is voluntary unless the CPSC sets such a limit, and applies not to total lead content but the amount that can migrate from the toy. On February 10, 2009 the CPSIA adopted the ASTM F973-07 limits for lead and other metals (view ASTM standard) as a mandatory standard.
  • Washington limits the amount of lead allowable in children's products and the components of such products.
  • The European Union strengthened regulations on chemicals of concern in children's products in 2009. For more information, see Directive 2009/48/EC.

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