Selling products in California often requires compliance with additional safety standards, chemical restrictions, labeling, and testing requirements – in addition to those applicable in the United States as a whole.
In this guide, we introduce importers, manufacturers, and distributors to California product compliance requirements applicable to apparel, children’s products, electronics, furniture, packaging, and many other product categories.
Important: This article only serves as an introduction to safety requirements, substance restrictions, labeling, certification, and other compliance requirements in California. It is not a complete guide and is not kept up to date. Further, keep in mind that national product regulations (e.g. CPSIA) apply in all states.
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California Proposition 65
California Proposition 65 restricts chemicals and heavy metals in consumer products sold in California. Such substances include lead, cadmium, and various phthalates. Warning labeling is often required if the chemical content has not been confirmed – or has been confirmed to exceed the limits.
California Proposition 65 cover a broad range of consumer products, including the following:
- Apparel and textiles
- Jewelry and accessories
- Stationery accessories
- Home decors
The purpose of California Proposition 65 is to protect the people of California from harm caused by exposure to certain types of chemical substances.
California Proposition 65 sets the “Safe Harbor Levels”, which determines the maximum exposure limit of the listed substances. The limit value is measured in two different ways, according to the risk associated with a given substance:
a. No Significant Risk Levels (NSRLs): chemicals that might cause cancer
b. Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (MADLs): chemicals that might induce reproductive problems
California Proposition 65 requires that companies must affix a warning labeling to their products when:
a. Products that (may) contain listed chemical substances exceed the Safe Harbor Levels – this is the case if the products have not been lab tested (i.e., the chemical content is unknown).
b. Products contain chemical substances listed by California Proposition 65, but the Safe Harbor Levels is not specified yet (unless the company can prove that the chemical exposure does not have potential risks to cause cancer or reproductive harm to the users).
California Proposition 65 declares that anyone who labels a product is responsible to determine the exposure levels of listed chemicals.
It’s often necessary to work with a third-party lab testing company – such as QIMA or Intertek – to determine if the chemical and heavy metals content is above or below the set limits.
California RoHS limits the concentration of heavy metals contained in the components of certain electronic devices sold in California.
California RoHS covers electronic devices that have a video display with a screen greater than four inches, measured diagonally. The following nine categories of electronic devices are covered:
- CRT devices
- Cathode ray tubes (CRTs)
- Computer monitors containing CRTs
- Laptop computers with LCD
- LCD containing desktop monitors
- Televisions containing CRTs
- Televisions containing LCD screens
- Plasma televisions
- Portable DVD players with LCD screens
California RoHS prohibits the sale of the above-mentioned categories of products when they contain excessive amounts of lead, mercury, cadmium, or hexavalent chromium. The limitation value is as follow:
- Lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium < 0.1% by weight
- Cadmium < 0.01% by weight
In the case the covered devices contain restricted substances, manufacturers must submit an annual report to the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) to disclose information about the use of restricted substances on their products.
Lab testing is generally necessary to determine if the electronic product or certain components contain excessive amounts of restricted heavy metals and other substances.
California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act
The California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act prohibits the manufacturing and sales of certain general-purpose lights that contain levels of hazardous substances prohibited by the EU RoHS Directive, such as heavy metals and phthalates.
The act also requires the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission to promote the use of energy-efficient lighting and gradually phase out the use of energy-inefficient lighting.
The act defines general-purpose lights as products that provide functional illumination for indoor residential, indoor commercial, and outdoor use. Products that are covered by this act include:
This act exempts lights that are intended to provide special lighting needs lighting for individuals with exceptional needs, such as heating lights that are used to keep users warm in the bathroom, or lights that are used to promote the growth of plants.
Examples of lights that are excluded by this Act include the following:
- Showcase lights
- Black lights
- Colored lights
- Infrared lights
- Plant lights
General-purpose lights should not contain levels of hazardous substances prohibited by the EU RoHS Directive. For example, EU RoHS’ maximum limit for several types of heavy metals and chemical substances are as follow:
- Lead < 0.1% by weight
- Cadmium < 0.01% by weight
- Mercury < 0.1% by weight
- Hexavalent Chromium < 0.1% by weight
- PBBs < 0.1% by weight
- DEHP < 0.1% by weight
- PBDEs < 0.1% by weight
This act was enacted with the aim of reducing the average statewide electrical energy consumption by not less than 50% from the 2007 levels for indoor residential lighting and not less than 25% from the 2007 levels for indoor commercial and outdoor lighting by 2018. This is done by adopting minimum energy efficiency standards for all general purposes lights.
The California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act requires that manufacturers of general-purpose lights, upon request, provide a certification to resellers, wholesalers, retailers, or other parties that sell the products in California.
This certification should demonstrate that such products do not contain levels of hazardous substances of EU RoHS, which would cause the prohibition of the products marketed in California.
Lab testing is usually necessary to determine the level of heavy metals on lighting products, and thus assess if they comply with the California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act.
California Technical Bulletin 117-2013
California Technical Bulletin 117-2013 (also known as TB 117-2013) is a flammability safety standard for upholstered furniture implemented in California. It establishes flammability requirements and test methods for certain materials that are used to produce upholstered furniture.
TB 117-2013 covers upholstered furniture that is made with:
- Cover fabrics
- Barrier materials
- Resilient filling materials
Examples of such products include:
- Furniture that includes cushions
TB 117-2013 designs three testing methods to determine the flammability of three types of materials used to produce upholstered furniture. The tests only concern the material’s flammability under smoldering ignition sources conditions, while they do not consider the material’s flammability performance under open flame sources.
The pass/fail criteria vary depending on the specific type of material:
- Cover fabrics
- Barrier materials
- Resilient filling materials
TB 117-2013 also requires that a flammability label must be applied to every regulated upholstered furniture product sold in California to demonstrate the product is compliant with the standard. This label must indicate whether the upholstered article contains or does not contain the required flame retardant chemicals.
Third-party lab testing is generally required in order to verify that a furniture product is compliant with the flammability requirements outlined in TB 117-2013. Such companies include SGS, Intertek, and TUV.
California Toxic Toy Bill
The California Toxic Toy Bill forbids manufacturing, selling, or distributing certain toys and child care articles that contained more than 0.1% by weight of phthalates.
Children’s toys and child care products that are regulated by this bill include the following examples:
- Plastic figure toys
- Plush toys
- Soft plastic books
The bill sets the maximum allowable limit for certain types of phthalates contained in children’s toys or child care products that are intended to be used by children under three years of age, and such products can be placed in the child’s mouth. The concentration value for the following types of phthalates shall not exceed 0.1% by weight:
Children’s toys or child care products that are for normal use (not intended to be put into the mouth) should not contain more than 0.1% by weight of the following phthalates:
Third-party lab testing is required in order to verify if a children’s product contains any of the restricted phthalates – above the set limits. Notice that few manufacturers outside the United States can provide pre-existing phthalate test reports. Hence, working with an external lab is necessary.
Metal-Containing Jewelry Law
The Metal-Containing Jewelry Law is implemented in California to limit the amount of lead and cadmium in jewelry, including jewelry that is designed to be used by children under the age of 6 years old and body piercing jewelry.
This law covers a broad category of jewelry products, including jewelry for clothing, hands, feet, hair, or other parts of the body.
Examples of jewelry include:
- Hair accessories (hair clips, bands, tiara)
- Tie clip
The Metal-Containing Jewelry Law regulates the levels of hazardous metal contained in children’s jewelry. The restriction requirements vary depending on the type of heavy metals. For example, for children’s jewelry, the inaccessible part of each component should not contain more than 0.01% of lead by weight.
In addition, the lead content on the surface coating of the children’s jewelry should be less than 0.009% by weight.
As for cadmium, the limit value for children’s jewelry would be:
- Component < 0.03% by weight
- Surface coating for a one-piece jewelry < 0.0075% by weight
According to the Metal-Containing Jewelry Law, manufacturers or suppliers of jewelry should prepare a certification, which declares that such jewelry does not contain a level of lead or cadmium that is over the limitation required by this law.
Jewelry products might contain an excessive amount of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Lab testing is usually necessary to assess whether the level of such substances in the product is within the limits.
Cadmium in Children’s Jewelry Law
The Cadmium in Children’s Jewelry Law is implemented in California and it concerns the cadmium content contained by children’s jewelry and its components.
This law covers children’s jewelry worn on hands, wrists, feet, hair, or other parts of the body. Examples of such products include:
Children’s jewelry that is imported, manufactured, or sold in California should not contain more than 0.03% of cadmium by weight.
The Cadmium in Children’s Jewelry Law requires manufacturers or suppliers to provide certification which proves their jewelry does not contain cadmium in violation of the law. Such certification can either be a document or it can be displayed on the jewelry’s packaging.
Jewelry products are often treated with cadmium to increase their weight and the polish effect. Cadmium accumulation in the human body can lead to serious skin irrational or even cancer. Therefore, many states in the US restrict cadmium on jewelry, including the state of California. Lab testing is generally necessary to confirm that your products don’t contain excessive amounts of cadmium.
Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act
The Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act prohibits the manufacturers and sales of infant bottles in California that contain Bisphenol A (BPA).
The following type of baby bottles are covered by this Act:
- PVC baby bottles
- Glass feeding bottles
- Stainless steel sipper water bottles
Drinking bottles or thermos that are used by the general population are not covered by this Act.
This Act prohibits the manufacture and sales of bottles that are designed to be used by children under three years of age, that contain a level of Bisphenol A (BPA) above 0.1 parts per billion.
BPA is sometimes added to plastic bottles to increase the durability and heat resistance of the products. Currently, BPA is restricted by the FDA and several states – including California. You should contact a reliable lab testing company to determine the BPA levels of your products, before marketing and selling them in the state.
Official Law Labels
The California Official Law Labels applies to first-hand and second-hand upholstered furniture and bedding products marketed in the state. It requires covered products to follow specific labeling standards and formats.
This law covers the following products:
- Sleeping bags
- Mattress pads
- Box springs
- Chair cushions
- Quilted bedspreads
Pillows used for decoration purposes do not need to comply with this rule.
This law requires that bedding articles such as mattresses, pads, pillows, and similar items should contain size information (i.e width and length) expressed in inches on its labels.
In addition, the label should also contain the net weight of filling materials used in upholstered furniture and bedding products expressed in pounds and ounces.
Toxics in Packaging Prevention Act
The Toxics in Packaging Prevention Act limits the use of certain substances in packaging materials. Such substances include lead, cadmium, PFAS, and phthalates.
Examples of regulated product packaging include:
- Paper packaging
- Plastic packaging
- Carton packaging
This act specifies that the concentration of covered substances in packaging material should not exceed 0.01% by weight. In particular, the act limits the following heavy metals and chemicals:
- Hexavalent chromium
This act requires companies to issue a certificate of compliance. The certificate of compliance should contain information proving the safety and compliance of the packaging with supporting data (i.e. valid test reports issued from a recognized lab testing company).
As we mentioned in the previous section, manufacturers of packaging materials must provide a certificate of compliance to purchasers of packaging to demonstrate the compliance of their products. Information on the certificate of compliance should include the reference to relevant test reports.
If you want to learn more about the regulations we introduced in this article, you can visit the official websites linked below.
|California Proposition 65||Link|
|California Lighting Efficiency and Toxics Reduction Act||Link|
|California Technical Bulletin 117-2013||Link|
|California Toxic Toy Bill||Link|
|Metal-Containing Jewelry Law||Link|
|Cadmium in Children’s Jewelry Law||Link|
|Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act||Link|
|Official Law Labels Law||Link|
|Toxic in Packaging Prevention Act||Link|
Also, you might find additional regulations on this website.