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CPSC Bans Imported Pb-Wicked Candles

Gary Greenberg Gary.Greenberg at Duke.edu
Wed Feb 14 22:39:15 EST 2001


February 14, 2001
CPSC CONTACT: Jane Francis or Scott Wolfson
Release # 01-083
(301) 504-0580

CPSC Votes to Begin Rulemaking to Ban Candles With Lead Wicks Major
Retailers Agree to Not Sell Lead Wick Candles

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
voted to begin rulemaking that could lead to a ban on candles with
lead-core wicks. CPSC has determined that candles using lead wicks could
present a lead poisoning hazard to young children.

Studies have found that despite a voluntary industry agreement in the
past to remove lead from candle wicks, a small percentage of candles
sold today still contains lead in their wicks. The lead cores are used
to hold the wicks upright as they burn. The study found that lead-core
wicks could emit relatively large amounts of lead into the air during
burning. The emitted lead presents a risk to children from exposure
through inhalation and from ingestion of lead that may settle on
surfaces in the room. This deposited lead could remain accessible to a
child for an extended period of time and allow exposure through direct
mouthing of surfaces or objects or by hand-to-mouth contact.

Some of the candles emitted lead levels in excess of 2,200 micrograms
per hour - about five times the rate that could lead to elevated levels
of lead in a child. CPSC estimates that a level of 430 micrograms per
hour could result in hazardous exposure to children.

The CPSC found that burning a candle with a lead wick for four hours per
day, for 15 to 30 days, could result in blood lead levels above the 10
micrograms per deciliter that is considered a health concern for young

Lead poisoning in children is associated with behavioral problems,
learning disabilities, hearing problems and growth retardation. Because
lead accumulates in the body, even exposure to small amounts of lead can
contribute to the overall level of lead in the blood. It is estimated
that approximately 1 in every 25 children under the age of 6 in the
United States has elevated levels of lead in their blood; that is almost
one million children nationwide. The primary source of lead poisoning in
the United States is lead from paint in old homes.

It is not possible for consumers to tell if the wicks of candles they
are using contain lead. CPSC analysis shows that metal wicks, some of
which could contain lead, are most likely to be used in container,
pillar, votive and tealight candles.

Tapers, commonly used as dinner candles, use cotton wicks and do not
contain lead.

To check a candle in your home, look at the top of the wick. If there is
metal, you will see it in the center of the wick. If you have young
children, do not burn candles with metal wicks or throw them away.
Rulemaking to set a federal ban would not go into effect before the end
of the year. Many retailers currently are not selling candles with lead
wicks, including:

     Pier 1
     Michaels Stores
     Frank's Nursery & Crafts
     Ahold/USA, parent of Stop & Shop, Giant, Tops and Peapod
     Blyth, parent of PartyLite
     Bullfrog Light Company
     Atlanta Candle Factory
     Mom's Kitchen Candles

CPSC encourages other retailers to take steps and advise consumers of
their efforts to keep candles with lead wicks off store shelves.
Consumers should ask stores not specifically listed whether their
candles have lead free wicks.

Safe alternatives to lead wicks, including zinc, tin, synthetic fibers,
cotton and paper, are readily available to manufacturers. A federal ban
would apply to all domestic and imported candles. It would deter
manufacturers from making non-conforming wicks, allow the U.S. Customs
Service to stop shipments of non-conforming candles, and make it easier
for the CPSC to seek penalties against companies for violations.

Chairman Ann Brown and Commissioner Thomas Moore voted to begin
rulemaking, Commissioner Mary Sheila Gall voted to grant the petition
but to refer it to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The
statements of Chairman Brown and Commissioners Moore and Gall are
available below or by calling the Office of the Secretary at (301)

Statement of the Honorable Ann Brown In Support of Petition and Advance

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking To Ban Lead-Cored Candle Wicks

February 13, 2001

I voted today to grant petitions submitted to the Commission, and to
issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), to ban
candlewicks containing lead, and candles containing such wicks.
Protecting children from dangers like lead in candlewicks is what
Congress created CPSC to do.

With respect to the White House request that CPSC submit its regulations
to OMB for review and approval until new leadership is appointed at
CPSC, Congress specified that it wanted CPSC removed as far as possible
from the influence of partisan politics or political control. Influence
in the form of oversight by OMB or a change in political leadership was
what Congress wanted CPSC to avoid. Congress told the CPSC to protect
consumers from dangerous products - to protect children from the
behavioral problems and learning disabilities associated with lead. That
is what we are voting today to do.

Statement of the Honorable Thomas H. Moore in Support of Granting the
Petition to Ban Lead-Cored Candle Wicks and Issuing an Advance Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking

February 9, 2001

Rather than restate what she has expressed so ably, I simply will agree
with Commissioner Gall's reasoning for issuing an advance notice of
proposed rulemaking to ban the use of lead in cored candle wicks. I can
not concur, however, on sending the ANPR to the Office of Management and
Budget for their review to determine if it impacts "critical health and
safety functions of the agency ...." While I believe that we must give
any President due deference when he makes a request of us, I do not
think that the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an independent
agency, can comply with this request without seriously eroding the power
granted by Congress to the individual Commissioners. We would certainly
hope that this (and any of our proposed regulations) would fit under a
safety exception, but there is no guarantee that OMB would agree with
us. If they did not, the memorandum from the President's Chief of Staff
would require that the proposed regulation be held up until a new agency
head appointed by President Bush "reviews and approves the regulatory

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is not governed by a single
administrator. The Chairman of this Commission does not have the
authority to review and approve proposed or final regulatory actions. In
this regard, the Chairman is like any other commissioner and has one
vote as to whether to proceed on a particular matter. I, for one, would
not want to delegate my vote on whether to proceed with a regulation to
any Chairman, no matter how much I might agree in general with that
Chairman's philosophy.

Nor do I think it would be wise from a policy standpoint to give any
power over the promulgation of our regulations, even on a temporary
basis, to an office of the Executive Branch, in this case the OMB. The
Congress, not the President, delegates the powers of independent
agencies to them. As such the Congress is the Consumer Product Safety
Commission's true steward and we must be ever mindful of not subjugating
the powers Congress has given us to a review by the Executive Branch
that was never intended.

Statement of the Honorable Mary Sheila Gall In Support of Granting of
Petition and Issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Ban Use
of Lead-Cored Candle Wicks

February 9, 2001

I voted today to grant a petition submitted to the Commission and to
issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to ban lead-cored
candlewicks. The deleterious health effects of exposure to lead are well
known and documented. While it appears that no specific case of lead
poisoning can be tied to exposure to candle fumes, exposure to such
fumes is cumulative with other sources of lead exposure. Moreover,
exposure to lead from burning candlewicks is through inhalation, and not
just ingestion, a mechanism with which many consumers may not be

Other factors incline me to begin rulemaking in this case. The hazard
cannot be avoided by labeling, since the only way to avoid the hazard is
to forego burning, the intended use of the product. Nor is there any
"home test" by which consumers can determine accurately whether candles
have lead-cored wicks. Sophisticated laboratory tests conducted by
Commission staff have shown that there is no correlation between the
amount of lead in the candlewick and the quantity of lead emissions
produced when that candle is burned. A ban, therefore, may be the only
mechanism to eliminate this hazard.

The Federal Hazardous Substances Act directs the Commission to defer to
voluntary standards where the standard would eliminate or adequately
reduce the risk of injury, and where it is likely that there will be
substantial compliance with the voluntary standard. There has been a
voluntary agreement since 1974 among candle makers in the United States
not to use lead wicks in candles. Investigation by the Commission staff
has shown that importers of candles have not followed this voluntary
agreement, nor has it been followed universally by manufacturers within
the United States. The Commission will, during the course of rulemaking,
evaluate whether some other voluntary standard could meet the statutory
criteria of hazard reduction and substantial compliance.

I also voted to submit the ANPR to the Office of Management and Budget
(OMB) prior to sending it to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR)
for publication. On January 20, 2001 a memorandum entitled "Regulatory
Review Plan" was transmitted to the Heads and Acting Heads of Executive
Departments and Agencies on behalf of the President. This memorandum,
inter alia, directed executive branch agencies to refrain temporarily
from transmitting proposed or final regulations to the OFR. The
memorandum permitted agencies to request an exception from OMB in the
case of regulations that impact critical health and safety functions of
the agency. It encouraged independent agencies, such as the Commission
to participate voluntarily in this review.

I recognize that the Commission is not required to submit this ANPR to
OMB prior to transmitting it to the OFR. But there is no prohibition
against the Commission cooperating voluntarily with the President's
memorandum. The Commission already voluntarily performs actions set
forth in executive orders that it is not required to perform, such as
the preparation of a regulatory agenda. The actions requested by the
January 20 memorandum are less burdensome than the preparation of a
regulatory agenda, and are, by the express terms of the memorandum,
temporary. Moreover, I am certain that OMB will agree that the exception
for critical health and safety functions of the Commission will apply to
this ANPR and will acquiesce in its publication in the Federal Register.
Submitting the ANPR to OMB and requesting an exception does not
constitute review and approval of the substance of the ANPR; it requires
only a determination that it "impacts critical health and safety
functions" of the Commission. Thus, the voluntary cooperation by the
Commission with the January 20 memo will not undermine or compromise the
Commission's independence.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission protects the public from
unreasonable risks of injury or death from 15,000 types of consumer
products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product
or a product-related injury, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or
CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270, or visit CPSC's web site at
http://www.cpsc.gov/talk.html. For information on CPSC's fax-on-demand
service, call the above numbers or visit the web site at
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/103.html. To order a press release
through fax-on-demand, call (301) 504-0051 from the handset of your fax
machine and enter the release number. Consumers can obtain this release
and recall information at CPSC's web site at http://www.cpsc.gov.

Gary N. Greenberg, MD MPH    Sysop / Moderator Occ-Env-Med-L MailList
gary.greenberg at duke.edu     Duke Occupat, Environ, Int & Fam Medicine
OEM-L Maillist Website:                      http://occhealthnews.com


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