Health Canada Unveils New Restrictions On Lead Content in Consumer Products

OTTAWA--The Canadian government has finalized regulations that impose tough new restrictions on lead content in a range of consumer products, including children's toys, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Nov. 29.

The Consumer Products Containing Lead (Contact with Mouth) Regulations, issued under the Hazardous Products Act, impose a lead content limit of 90 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) on any parts of specified consumer products that can be touched, licked, mouthed, or swallowed, Aglukkaq said in a written statement.

The regulations apply to manufacturers and importers of products, other than kitchen utensils, that are brought into contact with a user's mouth in the course of normal use, and any products for play or learning uses by children under 3 years old. The regulations do not apply to jewelry products, which are already covered under Schedule I to the Hazardous Products Act, or to products covered by the Glazed Ceramics and Glassware Regulations.

The regulations provide exemptions from the 90 mg/kg limit if lead content is necessary to produce an essential characteristic of the product, if no alternative containing less lead is available, or if the product does not release more than 90 mg/kg of lead when tested under standards for the testing of children's toys specified by the European Committee for Standardization.

A Health Canada spokesperson told BNA Nov. 29 that publication of the regulations in final form is “imminent,” likely in the Dec. 8 issue of the Canada Gazette, Part II. The new requirements will take effect immediately on publication, the spokesperson said.

Lead Reduction Strategy.

The regulatory initiative is the latest element of Health Canada's Lead Risk Reduction Strategy for Consumer Products, which is intended to reduce or establish limits for allowable lead in a variety of consumer products, particularly those used by young children, Aglukkaq said. It followed the June introduction of the proposed Consumer Product Safety Act, which would modernize Canada's consumer product safety framework, she said (33 INER 656, 7/7/10).

“Our new, tough regulations will make Canada a world leader in strict lead reduction in consumer products, especially toys,” she said.

The proposed regulations help address the potential detrimental effects of lead exposure on the development of Canadian children, Martin Laliberte, president of the Canadian Association of Poison Control Centers, said Nov. 29 in a written statement. “Canadians are exposed to lead in the environment, and even small amounts of this toxic metal can be harmful in the pediatric population,” Laliberte said.

Health Canada had said, in a regulatory impact analysis statement accompanying pre-publication of the regulations in mid-2009, that industry members consulted during a 2004 economic cost analysis of the proposed lead limit had indicated that the economic impact on industry would be negligible as few North American manufacturers or importers use lead in juvenile products they market.

“While the majority of the affected products currently sold in Canada already meet the lead content limit of the regulations, there is concern over the number of non-compliant products being imported,” the department said. “Because of complex supply chains and the very large volume of imported products, ensuring quality control of imported products is sometimes difficult. Affected products which do not meet the standards continue to be found on the Canadian marketplace.”

More Regulations Planned for 2011.

The Lead Risk Reduction Strategy for Consumer Products identifies four categories of consumer products to which children are most likely to be exposed. The proposed Consumer Products Containing Lead (Contact with Mouth) Regulations address Group 1, products whose normal pattern of use involves mouth contact, Health Canada said Nov. 29 in a fact sheet published with the draft regulations.

Group 2, which includes children's products not covered in Group 1, will propose a limit of 90 mg/kg total lead for accessible components of products intended for play and learning for children ages 3-13, child care articles, and clothing and accessories for children under age 14, the department said. A consultation document on Group 2 products will be published for stakeholder input during the first half of 2011 to identify and resolve issues before regulations are proposed, it said.

Foodware products intended for preparing, serving, or storing foods are included in Group 3, for which proposed regulations will be pre-published for comment after completion of the Group 2 consultations, it said.

Group 4 covers products intended to be burned or melted in enclosed spaces. The only products found to present a significant risk of lead exposure are candles with lead wick cores, the department said. Proposed Candles Regulations were published in 2003. Concerns were raised about the regulations' labeling requirements, but no concerns were raised about the proposed 600 mg/kg lead limit for those products, so a new version of the regulations will be pre-published for comment in the next few months, the department said.

The lead reduction strategy also included the Nov. 10 publication of final amendments to the Surface Coating Materials Regulations, which lowered the allowable lead levels in consumer paints and other surface coatings, including those applied to children's toys and furniture, to 90 mg/kg from the previous 600 mg/kg limit (33 INER 1135, 11/24/10).

By Peter Menyasz

Full text of the proposed Consumer Products Containing Lead (Contact with Mouth) Regulations is available at