What Is CPSIA?

Mother Buckling Toddler Into Car Seat
The child is sitting all the way back in the car seat, ready to be buckled up properly. Getty/PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier

Question: What Is CPSIA?

Answer: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) was passed by U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bush on Aug. 14, 2008. CPSIA is designed to allow The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to better regulate the safety of products made and imported for sale in the U.S. CPSIA also contains regulations that are intended to make products for children under age 12 safer by requiring manufacturers and importers to show that these products do not have harmful levels of lead and phthalates.

Nearly every product intended for children under age 12 that will be sold in the U.S. is affected by CPSIA. This can include used and vintage products. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) will allow thrift stores to dodge lead testing on their current inventories, but still highly recommends that they not sell products that are likely to contain high levels of lead, and still maintains that selling those products is not legal per CPSIA.

CPSIA Requires Testing for Harmful Chemicals

The testing required by CPSIA must be done by third party laboratories, and as of now, is required to be unit testing. This means that one product of each model or style must be tested in its entirety. For small companies, unit testing may present some problems - not only does the testing destroy one item from a potentially small inventory, the testing is also expensive if the business doesn't have the sales to offset the cost.

Some small businesses are currently petitioning CPSC to allow component testing, which would allow them to test their input materials once before using them in several products, therefore saving some money and time on testing. CPSC recently announced that natural wool cotton, wood, and other untreated, completely natural substances do not require lead testing as long as they are untreated.

CPSIA requires that children's products not contain more than 600 ppm of lead. In 2010, that number will decrease to a stricter 300 ppm level. Some exceptions are possible if it can be proved that the lead in the product is not accessible to the child, and can't be accessed even if the product is abused. The act also reduces the allowable amount of lead in surface paints and coatings to 90 ppm from the current level of 600 ppm.

Six different types of phthalates are currently banned by CPSIA. Toys, child care products, and items that can reasonably be expected to go in a child's mouth cannot contain more than .1 percent of BBP, DEHP, DBP, DIDP, DINP or DNOP. The latter three are actually an interim ban until CPSC makes a final ruling on whether or not to officially include them in the ban.

Other CPSIA Requirements

CPSIA has a number of other safety regulations that affect baby and toddler products. The act requires that "durable nursery products" such as cribs, strollers, and stationary entertainers to have product registration cards that can be used in case of recalls. CPSC is asked to take another look at voluntary safety standards on these products and potentially make stronger federal regulations for them.

CPSIA puts a strong emphasis on crib safety, making it illegal not only to manufacture or sell cribs that don't meet federal safety standards, but also illegal to provide them for use, such as at a hotel or day care.

CPSIA also has some requirements on how manufacturers, distributors, and retailers advertise products that may contain small parts that could be a choking hazard. The act provides a searchable online database of recalls, safety information, and reports of product incidents that caused injury.

CPSIA Requires Certificates Of Safety

Importers and manufacturers must make certificates of conformity available to their distributors and retailers under CPSIA. These certificates show that the products have been appropriately tested and meet the requirements of CPSIA. Without these certificates, it's likely that shipments of products will be refused when they reach stores, so there is some built-in compliance checking in the new act.

CPSIA Makes Selling Recalled Products Illegal

One portion of CPSIA affects consumers just as much as manufacturers. If you intend to sell your used baby gear, make sure it's not under recall before tagging it for the garage sale. CPSIA includes a section that makes it illegal to sell recalled products. While it's unlikely that CPSC will focus on the neighborhood yard sale for enforcement, it's a good idea to get into the practice of checking for recalls before selling, anyway. One of the main ideas of CPSIA is to help keep dangerous products from reaching our children, and checking for recalls is another way to do just that.

CPSC Grants One-Year Stay On CPSIA Testing & Certification

Due to concerns from many small business owners that the new testing and certification requirements would be so cost-prohibitive that it would put them out of business, CPSC voted in January 2009 to stay the testing and certification requirements. These requirements were to go into effect Feb. 10, 2009. Now they are on hold until Feb. 10, 2010. Manufacturers and importers are still required to make sure their products meet the new lead and phthalates limits. The stay only means they do not have to complete the unit testing and produce certificates of conformity to show that testing has been done. The stay does not apply to the ban on lead paints and surface coatings, the new small parts rules, new crib and pacifier standards or lead content guidelines for children's jewelry.