A peek at what we make
Today marks 1 year since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was signed into law. President Bush and all but 4 Congressmen felt great about what this law would do- after all, it was framed in part as a reaction to the many toy recalls Mattel had made just the year before.
But for a law with such a simple purpose, to keep children safe, so much remains up in the air over this law. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, the folks who have been ’empowered’ (and I use that word loosely) to oversee the implementation of this law, have been very slow in getting the word out about exactly who is affected and in what ways. Maybe they need some tips from the FCC, or whoever it was that was responsible for letting people know about the digital conversion for our television stations- I know I was seeing commercials about that several times each night I turned on the TV.
But in defense of the CPSC, they were given quite a daunting task. In addition to monitoring items entering the marketplace for risk, here they were first asked to ignore risk under the guidelines of this law- something, to my knowledge, not asked of the CPSC until now. Ignore risk? That’s what they do! Risk assessments. But Congress didn’t want silly things like ‘risk’ getting in the way of getting unsafe products out of our children’s hands. Take rhinestones for instance. High in lead, but not soluble by our digestive system. So even though swallowing one poses little to no risk of lead actually entering the blood stream, the CPSIA deems them a banned hazardous substance for children 12 and under.
The CPSC has been making determinations on what items can be exempted based on the amount of lead they inherently have in them. Things like my unfinished wooden toys, textiles and plant or animal based materials. But as of today, if the item has more than 300 parts per million of lead, it is a banned hazardous substance regardless of the risk. So what has made it to this list?
The list goes on and on. What’s worse is that mothers and fathers, many of whom started home-based business specifically to provide safe children’s goods, are now required to meet the same requirements as companies like Mattel. Well, except for the fact that those Moms and Dads don’t have their own CPSC certified testing facilities like Mattel does.
That’s right. One of the companies specifically responsible for the creation of this ill conceived law has also been the first to get their own laboratory certified as a ‘firewalled’ lab. And it’s not only lead and phthalates (a plastics softener) that these Moms and Dads need to test for.
A lesser known aspect of this law requires ASTM F963 to go from a recommended guideline to mandatory. For those who don’t know, this is a toy industry safety manual. Since it’s mandatory the CPSC is probably providing it, right? No. you can purchase it for $58 from the ASTM website.
Once you’ve gotten this handy guide, you’ll find that you also need to have Use and Abuse testing and Flammability testing performed on all of your toys. For each toy style, Moms and Dads have to submit 6-12 toy samples to be tested for Use and Abuse, plus another one for the lab to torch. The results are good for one year, then they must be repeated to be F963 (and ultimately CPSIA) compliant. The labs, by the way, are still waiting for more guidance from the CPSC on the number of samples required for testing and the length of time the results are valid, expected in November. Yes- that will be 1 year and 3 months later from this piece of legislative-wonder becoming a law.
Speaking of testing, February 10, 2010 is when third party testing becomes mandatory for lead and phthalates. Manufacturers that are using non-exempted materials will need to have General Certificates of Conformity available to give to each retailer that carries their items or for customers, if asked. And if you use an item that was already tested to be lead free? You will have to retest it in your finished product at a cost of $50-75 per component, unless you send it to a lab in Asia where they charge as little as $15 !! So we’ve got that to look forward to.
And let’s not forget about today, the birthday of the CPSIA. Lead in products must be no greater than 300 parts per million, lead in paint or surface coatings must be no greater than 90 ppm, and tracking labels become mandatory.
The tracking labels have really been an issue for many manufacturers since guidance on what was required was only passed down 3 weeks ago. I wish I was kidding. These labels must include company name, City State & Country of manufacture and date of manufacture. If your company is not a small biz, it must also include lot/batch/run number. To my knowledge, no description of what constitutes a small business has been provided.
Now you might wonder why this info is required. There are 2 reasons. The first is to make sure if somebody with no internet access gets the item that they have an idea of how to contact the company (in my case, they could contact the state of NJ and ask for the contact info of Greco Woodcrafting).
The other reason for tracking labels to include this info was so consumers could make an informed decision. If there was a recall taking place from a particular area or region, the buyer should be able to decide if they want to buy anything at all that also comes from there.
…..because if there’s a NJ based recall, surely there might also be a problem with my wooden toys?
The second reason, in my opinion, is absolutely ridiculous. Which I guess makes it a perfect fit for this ridiculous law. Happy birthday, CPSIA.