It was last August when the New York Times reported that Mattel was recalling 967,000 toys because they contained lead paint. The same article recounted how that summer, RC2, the maker of Thomas trains, recalled 1.5 million trains and accessories for the same reason.
Even if you're not a parent, you probably remember the China toy recall well. And if you've invented a children's product, you should know about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of regulatory standards that are now in effect as a result of consumer concerns. A key provision of this new law was a ban of the chemical phthalate as well as lead in products intended for children under 12 years of age.
This act removed some of the gray areas that previously existed in some safety standards. Many such standards used to be voluntary, or were mandated by a commonsense interpretation.
So how will this affect you as an inventor? While this new law has widespread effect on numerous categories of products, it has the greatest impact on toys and other children's products. Of particular note is children's apparel. Before the new law, regulatory requirements for children's apparel primarily addressed flammability and labeling; but apparel is now subject to a heightened set of requirements under the CPSIA.
Additional mandates of the CPSIA cover other children's products, specifically children's toys and "child-related articles," which are defined by the law as "anything that facilitates feeding, sucking, teething, and sleeping." Many of these regulations address the content of phthalates, in addition to lead, in children's toys and child-care-related articles.
Phthalates are softeners used in PVC. They're linked to birth defects, disrupted development, decreased sperm count and infertility. Lead is found in the paint on the surface of products and in the content (the substrate) of the products, and has been linked to learning, language and behavioral problems.
Do Your Products Meet New Regulations?
CPSIA prohibits persons from manufacturing for sale, offering for sale, distributing in commerce, or importing into the U.S. "children's toys" and "child care articles" containing more than 0.1 percent of the following six phthalates:
Matt Del Duke, product development and quality assurance manager at leading consumer products company Ginsey Home Solutions, is an expert in product development with experience working with the top children's and toy companies in the U.S. He says that any product for children under 12 that's made from PVC should be tested for phthalates, and that external paint should be tested for heavy metals. Unpainted products should be tested for lead in the substrate itself.
Beginning 180 days after Feb. 10, the ASTM toy standard will be considered a consumer product safety standard by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The standard can be viewed here .
The new requirements will impact both cost and time--raising the stakes for manufacturers and sellers of consumer products. And new, increased sanctions as a result of the CPSIA dramatically raise the maximum civil penalty for violations. Many products that historically haven't required testing now do, which means time will have to be added to your company's development schedule. With the surge of new testing requests at testing labs, weeks have been added to the typical turnaround time for results. You can go to http://www.cpsc.gov/cgi-bin/labapplist.aspx to find a test lab.
The information presented here is intended to provide general information, but should not be construed as legal advice or a complete description of the new requirements. I've found the most comprehensive descriptions of the new standards by downloading the CPSC's guide to the CPSIA for small businesses, resellers, crafters and charities.