Aug 14, 2009 Changes in Product Safety Requirements under Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

With 22 billion dollars worth of toys being imported annually from APEC economies into the United States, there have been about 20 toy recalls so far in 2009. That figure just past the midpoint of this year compares favorably to 2008, when there were more than 65 recalls by the end of the year. So the trend, as far as toy recalls goes, seems to be improving.

In the United States, as in some other economies, we rely primarily on voluntary standards as a first line of assurance that products are safe. Sometimes, the market either can’t or won’t provide that assurance, and when we have a market failure, governments need to step in.

In August of last year, the United States Congress looked at current production and supply chain practices and the level of conformity assurance for children’s products and found them lacking. So, the U.S. Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

The CPSIA required my agency to institute a mandatory third-party testing program for children’s products. We have done so with a view toward transparency and based on existing global standards. There is a list of over 170 accepted labs from around the world on the CPSC web site – many of them from APEC economies—with more labs being added every week.

The base line requirements for a lab to participate in our third-party testing program is accreditation to ISO 17025 – the laboratory management and competency requirements – and accreditation for the specific testing scope, by an accrediting body that is a signatory to the ILAC mutual recognition agreement.

Congress put in place additional safeguards for manufacturer-owned labs and labs owned or controlled in whole or in part by a government – but they, too, must meet the baseline requirements I have described.

We will do everything in our power to bring clarity to which products are impacted by the law, establish testing protocols, and work to accredit a sufficient number of testing labs in APEC economies and around the world.

On February 10, 2009, the CPSIA instituted the first mandatory requirement for lead content in children’s toys and products in the U.S. at 600 parts per million, the total lead standard matched a 30 year old lead paint standard that was also set at 600 parts per million.

On August 14, the lead paint on toys limit drops to 90 parts per million. And the total lead limit in substrates drops to 300 parts per million. These will be some of the most stringent limits in the world.

The lead content limits have a one year stay on enforcement of testing and certification. This stay will expire on February 10, 2010, and CPSC will surely enforce all requirements at that time.

The third major rule that went into place on February 10, 2009, is at the heart of our dialogue today. The CPSIA mandated that the long-standing, comprehensive set of voluntary global toy standards used in the U.S. and some other economies – known as ASTM F963 – became mandatory. That is, they are now specified in our regulations.

While a one-year stay of enforcement from testing and certification to F963 compliance is in place, CPSC staff is working hard to develop testing protocols and accreditation rules for the regulatory implementation of each part of F963. On February 10, 2010, when the stay of enforcement is lifted, domestic manufacturers, importers, and their suppliers will be expected to comply. With the vast majority of toys consumed in the United States being imported from APEC economies, my agency fully recognizes that we live in a global marketplace.

The tracking label provision that goes into effect this month has been the subject of both a national and internationally coordinated call for comments from stakeholders. CPSC held a public meeting to solicit input, and CPSC staff has been instrumental in the planning for an international regulators conference on tracking label policy to be held in Stockholm on September 10th. This event is sponsored by the International Consumer Product Safety Caucus and is open to all product safety regulators.

The CPSIA changed the rules of engagement when it comes to the presumption that a child’s product is safe without supporting evidence.

For the U.S. market, the CPSIA essentially moved the emphasis on safety and conformance with standards as far up the supply chain as possible. Over the next few weeks and months, CPSC will have tough decisions to make as to our confidence that manufacturing supply chains are meeting new accountability requirements.

Source: Statement by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Inez Tenenbaum, August 1, 2009, Singapore

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Recalls of Products Made in Vietnam

Statement of Policy: Tracking Label Provision for Children’s Toys