The Best Advice on Children's Products

A Whole New Environment in the Toy Industry

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How to Survive and Prosper
by Rachel Murray Meyer

In the summer of 2007 there were millions of toys recalled. Consumers Union labeled 2007 “The Year of the Recall.” The majority of these recalls were for design related issues such as small hazardous magnets and small parts in toys for children under three years old. The minority of recalls, contrary to popular belief, was for lead in paint.

With an Act of Congress, The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) was created to address these issues. Extensive changes include new lead limits for toy components, a reduction in the limit for lead in paint, and new restrictions imposed on Phthalates, a group of chemicals that is typically used to soften PVC. Here are some tips to help you adapt:

1. Commit to Design, Manufacture, Sell and Distribute Safe Toys throughout the supply chain.

2. Know the age group that the toy design will be appropriate for. Proper age grading determines the design and test requirements. Especially look out for small parts, which can pose choking hazards for children under three. Visit the CPSC website for complete CPSC Age Determination Guidelines or down load here: http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/adg.pdf.

3. Become familiar and comply with the new Federal Legislation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) (2008) and frequent the website for updates: http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html. Here are a few highlights:

a. New limit requirements for lead in toy components
b. Reduces the limit for lead in paint
c. Requires general conformity certification certificates
d. Phases in third party testing
e. Requires Tracking Labels on children’s products
f. Makes ASTM F963-07e1 mandatory
g. Limits for certain phthalates.

4. Products shipping into the US and within the US, manufactured on and after November 12, 2008 need a General Conformity Certification certificate to accompany them. The CPSC has indicated this can be done electronically. See this link: http://cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/faq/elecertfaq.pdf. Note that specific citations would be 16 CFR 1303 or 16 CFR 1503, etc.

5. Various tests for toys will need to be performed by CPSC accredited third party labs. Some labs are used because they are close to the foreign or domestic manufacturer. The first of these tests is required in December 2008 for Total Lead in Paint. The next test is in February for small parts. It is recommended to test for all the requirements referenced in ASTM F963 and CPSIA. Browse the CPSC list of accredited labs: http://cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/accredited.html and select a lab that you can work with.

6. Learn about the Toy industry Safety Standard, ASTM F963-07e1 that will become law. It describes a variety of hazards and test methods: http://www.astm.org/Standards/F963. Small hazardous magnets are defined in ASTM F963-07e1 for certain shapes. I suggest eliminating small powerful magnets and components that contain them if they can fit in the small parts cylinder.

7. The design of safe toys goes beyond the regulations and standards. Toy concepts and designs need to be evaluated to understand if they pose any potential hazards during use and foreseeable abuse, and what is the risk of such hazards occurring.

8. Keep up to date on the toy industry at the Toy Industry Association (TIA) website. http://www.toy-tia.org/

9. To certify your toys are safe, consider The Toy Safety Certification Program http://toycertification.org/ they also have a good summary of the new CPSIA requirements at their link: http://toycertification.org/res-summary.html

10. Make sure that the quality and safety requirements are clear and agreed to by the manufacturer. Document the requirements and consider if legal counsel is needed.

11. Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website. Learn about items that are being recalled. Explore the site and see the rules and regulations. http://www.cpsc.gov

12. Play with your toys!

Rachel Murray Meyer is principal of Toy Safety and Quality, Inc. and consults to manufacturers and test labs in the US, China and Europe. She is also the Senior Technical Director of CMA Testing and Certification Laboratories, a Hong Kong laboratory.

Her professional affiliations include a seat on the TSCP Technical committee, membership in the Toy Industry Association, and a voting membership of ASTM F963.

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