As every business that sells products in the U.S. should know, the CPSIA puts in place “bright line” standards for lead and phthalates, mandates a number of other safety regulations, and requires that product sellers show compliance by following prescribed testing and certification procedures. Sellers of children’s products must do this testing at CPSC approved independent third party testing laboratories. The statutory deadlines for these requirements proved to be unrealistic and to forestall chaos in the marketplace, the CPSC, in February 2009, stayed enforcement of the testing and certification requirements for a number of types of products for at least one year (February 2010) and until the Commission affirmatively votes to lift the stay. At its meeting this morning, the Commission began a public discussion of a timeline for lifting the stay and implementing the testing and certification requirements of the CPSIA.
A critical part of the discussion of testing and certification involves how we are going to treat component parts used in children’s products (remember that children’s products must be third party tested) when those component parts are not themselves children’s products. We now have under active consideration an enforcement policy for lead paint and lead content that would allow certification based on component part testing. Component part testing could work in one of two ways:
- First, a children’s product manufacturer could send component samples out for testing at a CPSC approved third party lab. As an example, a children’s garment manufacturer could send samples of buttons out for testing and then use those buttons on all garments that it makes.
- Second, a children’s product manufacturer could rely on a certificate from another person certifying that the component had been third party tested and met the lead limits. As an example, a home-based producer of little girls’ dresses could go to a local hobby store and purchase buttons certified as having been third party tested by a CPSC approved lab.
We anticipate that smaller manufacturers, specialized producers and crafters will find the second option of use. However, since there is currently no requirement that components be tested, the question arises as to how long it will take for market forces to produce components that are being third party tested on a voluntary basis. Without this general availability of tested components, our vision to maintain safety while relieving some testing and certification burdens, will not be realized.
The answer to this question also will inform us with respect to when to lift the stay for lead content. If we lift the stay prematurely, then the chaos we were trying to forestall a year ago will still be at our door. In this case, consumer safety will not be advanced, consumer choice will be curtailed and businesses, especially small businesses, will suffer unduly.
The Commission’s discussion on these issues was webcast and I recommend that anyone interested in this issue watch the webcast. On December 10 and 11, CPSC will be having workshops to better inform the agency on these and related issues. Though registration for attendance is closed, you can view the proceedings on CPSC’s website.
I would welcome feedback from you on what other actions the Commission can take to make component testing a useful tool for ensuring safety while lessening the testing burdens imposed by the CPSIA.