Bill to Alert of Lead in Seasonal Decorations Passed by Legislature

Lighting products in which lead is present must have required warning label

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick’s bill, A04522A/S05675, requiring seasonal and decorative lighting with electrical cord casings in which lead is present to have a warning label, was passed at the end of the legislative session and now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Seasonal and decorative lights often have lead applied to their wire coverings to keep the plastic from cracking and to act as a flame retardant. Lead is not readily absorbed through skin; the main worry regarding exposure stems from ingesting the traces that are left on the hands of a person after they have handled the lights. The legislation requires an explicit warning label advising that the product may expose the consumer to lead with clear instructions to wash hands.

Several independent studies of various decorative lighting brands revealed that some lighting contained more than 30 times the levels regulators permit in children’s products. One 2008 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that nearly all the light sets tested had levels that surpassed the Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for windowsills and floors. Exposure to lead has been repeatedly proven to lead to serious health problems – including attacks on the brain and central nervous system, heart and kidney disease, reduced fertility, and depression. Lead has particularly severe consequences for children.

“Federal law bans the sale and manufacture of lead in house paint and gasoline and New York enacts stringent limits only on paint on children’s toys and furniture and some glazed tableware. Other consumer products have not been as strictly regulated,” said Assemblywoman Galef. “Warning labels on decorative lighting products that have been shown to have dangerously high levels of lead will provide much needed protection for all those who take joy in decorating for holidays and events throughout the year.”

Senator Reichlin-Melnick said, “Decorating for the holidays should never put your family’s health at risk, but some holiday lights contain unsafe levels of lead that could expose children and families to this dangerous substance. This legislation will keep New Yorkers safe from lead contamination in the home by requiring holiday lights that contain dangerous levels of lead to include a warning label urging people to wash their hands thoroughly after handling."