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Restriction of Lead in Jewellery to be Reviewed

On 20 April 2017, it was reported that the European Commission has asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to evaluate the current restriction of lead in jewellery by 30 September 2017. Therefore, ECHA has launched a call for evidence to gather information in order to assist with the review. Hong Kong’s jewellery traders wishing to take part should bear in mind that this call for evidence ends on 20 July 2017.

Commission Regulation 836/2012, which amended Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation concerning toxic chemicals, states that lead “shall not be placed on the market or used in any individual part of jewellery articles if the concentration of lead (expressed as metal) in such a part is equal to or greater than 0.05% by weight”.

Hong Kong traders should be aware of the (non-exhaustive) definition of “jewellery articles” as given by the European Commission. The term encompasses jewellery and imitation jewellery articles, as well as hair accessories, bracelets, necklaces, rings, piercing jewellery, wrist watches and wrist wear, broaches and cufflinks.

Regulation 836/2012 furthermore lays down a number of exclusions with respect to which the lead restriction shall not apply. Accordingly, the following articles are exempt:

  • crystal glass (itself defined by Annex I to Council Directive 69/493/EEC),
  • internal components of watch timepieces inaccessible to consumers, 
  • non-synthetic or reconstructed precious and semi-precious stones unless treated with lead or its compounds or mixtures containing these substances, 
  • and enamels resulting from the fusion, vitrification or sindering of minerals melted at a temperature of at least 500 °C.

The restrictions contained within the 2012 Regulation apply to jewellery articles placed on the market after 9 October 2013. The restrictions do not apply to jewellery articles produced before 10 December 1961.

The objective of ECHA’s current call for evidence is to gather concrete information on: the availability of alternatives to lead or its components used in crystal glass; internal components of watch timepieces; non-synthetic or reconstructed precious and semi-precious stones; and enamels.

It is further noted that ECHA seeks further information on analytical methodologies to determine the migration of lead from the different materials used in jewellery.

In its background document announcing this call for evidence, ECHA states that any additional relevant information for the purposes of its evaluation is also welcome. ECHA invites interested parties such as companies (manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, importers, etc.), trade associations, scientific bodies and any other stakeholder holding relevant information to submit comments and evidence.

As Hong Kong traders placing items of jewellery on the EU market will likely have interests in one or more aspects of the review mentioned above, they may wish to participate in the call for evidence. Please click on the following to view details on how to submit information to ECHA.

Commission Regulation 836/2012 restricting the use of lead in jewellery, the core elements of which have been incorporated into Entry 63 of Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation, can be find via the following link: Commission Regulation 836/2012.

Hong Kong traders may already be aware of other restrictions, set out in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation, which the Commission has imposed concerning lead. In this respect, in 2015, the Commission adopted Regulation 2015/628 setting out restrictions concerning lead in articles intended for consumer use, and for which it is likely that small children can put in their mouths. Regulation 2015/628’s core aspects are also incorporated in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation, at Entry 63.

Examples of such articles are clothes, shoes, related accessories, interior decorations, articles for sports and leisure, and stationary. These are only examples, and this list is by no means exhaustive.

The relevant legal text states that lead and its compounds shall not be placed on the market, or used in articles supplied to the general public if the concentration of lead (expressed as metal) in those articles or accessible parts thereof is equal to or greater than 0.05% by weight, and those articles or accessible parts thereof may, during normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, be placed in the mouths of children.

The limit shall not apply if it can be demonstrated that the rate of lead release from an article, or any accessible parts of an article, whether coated or uncoated, does not exceed 0.05 μg/cm2 per hour (equivalent to 0.05 μg/g/h). For coated articles, the lead restriction limit does not apply if this release rate is not exceeded for a period of at least two years of normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use of the article. For the purposes of the restriction, it is considered that an article or accessible part of an article may be placed in the mouth by children if it is smaller than 5 cm in one dimension or has a detachable or protruding part of that size.

For more information, please click on the following to view Regulation 2015/628.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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