ASK ANDY: New Lead/Phthalate Testing On Kid Products - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported By Andy Wise

ASK ANDY: New Lead/Phthalate Testing On Kid Products

Here's the release updating the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's regulations on the sale and testing of children's products:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In February 2009, new requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) take effect. Manufacturers, importers and retailers are expected to comply with the new Congressionally-mandated laws. Beginning February 10, 2009, children's products cannot be sold if they contain more than 600 parts per million (ppm) total lead. Certain children's products manufactured on or after February 10, 2009 cannot be sold if they contain more than 0.1% of certain specific phthalates or if they fail to meet new mandatory standards for toys.

Under the new law, children's products with more than 600 ppm total lead cannot lawfully be sold in the United States on or after February 10, 2009, even if they were manufactured before that date. The total lead limit drops to 300 ppm on August 14, 2009.

The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children's products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban. Sellers of used children's products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.

The new safety law does not require resellers to test children's products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell children's products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.

When the CPSIA was signed into law on August 14, 2008, it became unlawful to sell recalled products. All resellers should check the CPSC Web site ( for information on recalled products before taking into inventory or selling a product. The selling of recalled products also could carry civil and/or criminal penalties.

While CPSC expects every company to comply fully with the new laws resellers should pay special attention to certain product categories. Among these are recalled children's products, particularly cribs and play yards; children's products that may contain lead, such as children's jewelry and painted wooden or metal toys; flimsily made toys that are easily breakable into small parts; toys that lack the required age warnings; and dolls and stuffed toys that have buttons, eyes, noses or other small parts that are not securely fastened and could present a choking hazard for young children.

The agency has underway a number of rulemaking proposals intended to provide guidance on the new lead limit requirements. Please visit the CPSC web site at for more information.

Susan Helms, director of Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center's Safe Kids Mid-South, says the commission is also considering an exemption on any kids' clothes made with natural materials.  Helms says the only clothes regulators will be really worried about are ones treated with fire-retardant chemicals.  Like other products, those will have to be tested and certified.

An attorney with product liability experience told one of our sister stations in Topeka, KS, that as long as second-hand stores make a "good faith effort" to sell safe toys, there likely won't be significant enforcement of the new law.

It will ultimately be up to parents to ask retailers about their children's products, both new and used.

Below is the text of Helms' explanation of the new testing standards:

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was established primarily to impose new standards on toys and children's products. The effective date of the new standards is February 10, 2009.

One of the major changes that this program will bring into play is a mandate that everything sold for children age 12 and younger will have to be tested for lead and phthalates, and anything that isn't tested (or that fails) will be considered hazardous and cannot be sold.

For new products, this isn't an issue at all and is in fact a good thing.  Many products are already being screened with such tests, and those that are not will be required to begin such testing shortly or will be pulled from the market.  In terms of safety for children, this is a good thing.

Where things get interesting is with used products.  Currently, all  secondhand children's clothes will have to be tested for lead and phthalates.  For compliance, the smaller, independent companies (i,e, secondhand stores and thrift shops) may find this to be cost-prohibitive.  However, it's worth noting that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is presently considering a reprieve for products made from natural materials, which would exempt some clothes - but not all clothes.

Obviously, from the singular perspective of children's health and safety, it's far better to have all of their items lead and phthalate free.  Even if the chance for exposure from an individual item is slight, having that chance reduced is better for a child's well-being.  It's worth noting that most articles of clothing that children wear are made largely out of cotton or other natural materials and are not treated with anything.  Areas of concern for lead and phthalates would be clothes that were treated to be flame-retardant, clothes made out of artificial fibers, and potentially clothes that have plastic printing on them.

So - are issues like this even worth worrying about at all?  It's a reasonable perspective to look at situations like this and simply shrug them off - after all, there are so many issues out there to obsess over! BUT, a chance of lead or phthalates in children's clothing or toys can present a very clear and onerous situation!

The Consumer Product Safety Commission Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is aimed at protecting children from unsafe products which, after all, was a consumer outcry in the first place (largely from the unsafe products recently pouring in the United States from China and other countries).  It mandates third party testing and certification on all toys and permanent labeling to include the production location, date of manufacturer, name of manufacturer and lot or batch number.

Safe Kids Mid-South, led by Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center believes that it is always best to error on the side of safety where children are concerned.

Susan A. Helms, R.N., M.A.L.S.

Director, Injury Prevention and Safe Kids

Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center


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