Washington State Becomes First-in-the-Nation to Require Stringent New Restrictions on Lead in Cookware
Time 3 Minute Read

In March 2024, Washington State became the first-in-the-nation to pass an almost complete ban on the manufacture and sale of cookware containing lead. Starting in January 2026, HB 1551 sets the maximum lead content level for cookware and cookware components at five (5) parts per million (ppm). The law is both broad in scope and stringent in its lead limit, making it important for entities that sell cookware or offer cookware for sale in the state of Washington to begin thinking about compliance now.

Who is Implicated?

HB 1551 implicates manufacturers, importers, distributors, manufacturer-sellers and those who offer cookware for sale in Washington State.

Retailers and sellers (who are not also the manufacturer) are prohibited from “knowingly” selling or “knowingly” offering for sale cookware (including components) containing lead over the 5 ppm level. Retailers and sellers who unknowingly sell cookware products containing lead over the prohibited levels are excluded from liability – at least for now. Whether “knowingly” can encompass a failure to exercise due diligence before selling the product remains to be seen.

What is covered by the law?

HB 1551 broadly defines “cookware” as “any metal pots, pans, bakeware, rice cookers, pressure cookers, and other containers and devices intended for the preparation or storage of food.” Because this definition includes “containers and devices intended for the … storage of food,” HB 1551 may capture some products not traditionally considered cookware, such as a thermos or metal lunch kits. The law does not limit lead to just cookware surfaces or areas where there is food or human contact with the cookware. Because of how the law defines “components” it also seems to include internal parts that do not cause exposure to people.

Because HB 1551 also includes cookware “components” defined as “separate or distinct parts of the cookware including, but not limited to, accessories such as lids, knobs, handles and handle assemblies, rivets, fasteners, valves, and vent pipes” the law appears to have an exceptionally broad reach.

Covered entities should broadly review potentially covered products that may fall under the scope of HB 1551 to ensure compliance ahead of the 2026 deadline. We are aware that some retailers are already reaching out to their suppliers asking them to verify compliance.

What is the prohibition?

HB 1551 sets the prohibition on cookware and cookware components containing lead at a level of 5 ppm. This prohibition goes into effect starting January 1, 2026.

This level is very stringent, and essentially acts a full prohibition on the presence of lead in cookware. The Washington Department of Ecology, the department tasked with implementing and enforcing HB 1551, can increase the stringency of this standard starting in December 2034, if the Department determines a lower limit is both feasible for manufacturers and necessary to protect human health.

Regulated parties may wish to evaluate potentially covered products early ahead of the 2026 deadline.

What are the Potential Penalties?

Violations of the law can result in penalties up to $5000 per violation for the first offense. Subsequent offenses are subject to a $10,000 maximum penalty per violation. Because this penalty is likely assessed based on the quantity of cookware sold or manufactured in violation of this law, the penalty amount can quickly add up.

For more questions, please contact Hunton’s Chemicals Team or Retail Industry Group.

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