April 7, 2003
CPSC Bans Candles With Lead-Cored
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously to ban the
manufacture and sale of lead-cored wicks and candles with lead-cored wicks.
CPSC determined that candles using lead-cored wicks could present a lead
poisoning hazard to young children. The federal ban, which applies to all
domestic and imported candles, should deter manufacturers from making
non-conforming wicks, allow the U.S. Customs Service to stop shipments of
non-conforming wicks and candles, and allow for the CPSC to seek penalties
for violations of the ban.
"Over the past 30 years, CPSC has been at the forefront of protecting the
nation's children from the hazards associated with lead," said CPSC Chairman
Hal Stratton. "The ban of lead-cored candlewicks should give parents with
young children peace of mind that the burning of votive, pillar or container
candles will not emit a dangerous toxin."
A CPSC investigation found that despite a voluntary industry agreement in
the 1970s to remove lead from candle wicks, a small percentage of candles
sold in the past several years still contained lead-cored wicks. CPSC staff
found that some lead-cored wicks could emit relatively large amounts of lead
into the air during burning. Children may then inhale the vaporized lead,
placing them at risk. Children may also be exposed to lead by mouthing
objects on which lead has settled or by handling such objects and then
mouthing their hands.
Some of the candles tested by CPSC staff emitted lead levels in excess of
3,000 micrograms per hour - about seven times the rate that could lead to
elevated levels of lead in a child. CPSC estimates that an indoor air lead
level of 430 micrograms per hour from burning candles could result in
hazardous exposure to children.
Lead poisoning in children is associated with behavioral problems, learning
disabilities, hearing problems and growth retardation. Although the primary
source of lead poisoning in the United States is lead from paint in older
homes, lead accumulates in the body, and even exposure to small amounts of
lead can contribute to the overall level of lead in the blood.
Safe alternatives to lead-cored wicks, including zinc, synthetic fibers,
cotton and paper, are used by most candle and candle wick manufacturers.
Currently, candles that use a metallic core in the wick most likely contain
zinc. Because consumers cannot tell if a metal- cored wick contains lead or
an alternative, consumers may wish to contact the retailer for information
about the materials used in their candles.
The CPSC was petitioned to ban candlewicks containing lead cores and candles
with such wicks by Public Citizen, the National Apartment Association, and
National Multi Housing Council on February 20, 2001. The ban against
manufacturing, importing, or selling candles with lead wicks will become
effective in October 2003.