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EU Moves Forward with Restriction on Lead in Consumer Products

Written by: Alice Kilpatrick

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has adopted a proposed restriction of lead in consumer articles. Specifically, the restriction proposal aims to reduce children’s exposure to lead from putting consumer products in their mouth.

Sweden first proposed the restriction, noting that 1 in 10 of the items that children put in their mouths contain lead at an average concentration of 1 percent. According to the proposal:

Children’s exposure to lead is still above the highest tolerable level. All additional exposure to lead...should therefore be avoided as far as possible. There is hence a need for further regulation.

While lead in jewelry as well as lead in toys were recently subject to EU restriction under REACH, Sweden’s proposal aimed to expand the restrictions on lead to a wider range of objects that children might put in their mouths.

On March 24, the ECHA announced that it was adopting Sweden’s proposed restriction. ECHA’s Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) came to an agreement with the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) on the proposal. They agreed that the use of lead and lead compounds in products that can be mouthed by children should be prohibited in the EU under the REACH Chemicals Law.

Under the restriction proposal, lead would be limited to a concentration of no more than 0.05 percent by weight in products or detachable product parts that are “smaller than 5 cm in one dimension or has detachable or protruding parts of that size”.

This new restriction on lead content could apply to clothes, accessories, shoes, interior decorations, and furniture. However, the ban would not apply to crystal glass, enamels, keys, locks, musical instruments and the tip of writing instruments.

This opinion by the ECHA is the final step in the process of restricting the use of this substance, prior to adoption by the European Commission. Once finalized, the restriction will be listed in Annex XVII of REACH and the EU will begin measures to implement the lead restriction in products that can be mouthed by children.

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