The CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) regulates all imported (and domestically manufactured) toys and children’s products in the United States. In this article we guide you through the various aspects of the CPSIA, including regulated substances, flammability and general toy safety. We also explain what you need to think about when sourcing Chinese manufacturers of toys and children’s products – and why failing to secure compliance with the CPSIA is a recipe for financial ruin.
CPSIA regulated products
While the term “children’s product” might be rather vague, the CPSC determines any consumer product matching one or more of the following, to be classified as a “children’s product”:
1. If the product is marketed as appropriate for use by children of 12 years old or younger
2. If the product packaging presents the product as appropriate for use by children of 12 years old or younger
3. If the product display (e.g. sold in a toy store or online store selling children’s products) presents the product as appropriate for use by children of 12 years old or younger
4. If the product is generally recognized as a product primarily intended for use by children of 12 years or younger
Therefore, the CPSIA is not only regulating toys, but also children’s furniture and baby products. Below follows a short list of CPSIA regulated products:
- Plastic toys
- Plush toys
- Children’s clothing
- Baby products
- Children’s furniture
- Children’s Accessories
- Children’s Jewellery
- Toy vehicles
These products are very different in terms of design, materials and functions. Therefore CPSIA applies differently to the various products classified as children’s products. Let’s take a look into the scope of CPSIA regulations.
Scope of CPSIA regulations
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which administers CPSIA, often refers to the “manufacturer” as the responsible party on their website. However, what the CPSC is really referring to is domestic manufacturers. If a product is manufactured by a foreign supplier, the importer is the responsible party. Now that we got that straightened out, I can explain what the CPSIA really is.
The CPSIA regulates various aspects of a product. However, all children’s products are subject to the following:
- All children’s products must be compliant with all relevant safety regulations
- All children’s products must be tested by a CPSC approved laboratory (there are certain exceptions)
- All children’s products must have a tracking label attached to the product and/or the product packaging
But that’s not all. The importer shall also issue a Children’s Product Certificate, which is a document stating that the imported product is compliant with the relevant regulations. Click here for sample templates.
Before you can issue a Children’s Product Certificate, you need to have your product tested. The CPSIA regulates various aspects of children’s products, including substances, labeling, flammability, durability and physical proportions.
CPSIA limits usage of certain chemicals and heavy metals in children’s products. Among them are Lead and Phthalates, the latter being a potentially cancerogenic plasticizer chemical. The following Phthalates are strictly limited for use in all children’s products:
- DEHP (Limit: 0.1%)
- DBP (Limit: 0.1%)
- BBP (Limit: 0.1%)
The following Phthalates are limited for all imported, and domestically manufactured, toys that a child can place in its mouth:
- DINP (Limit: 0.1%)
- DIDP (Limit: 0.1%)
- DnOP (Limit: 0.1%)
We’ve received quite a lot of questions about how a product “that can be placed in a child’s mouth” is defined. However, I wouldn’t try to bend this, if I was imported toys from China to the United States. Besides, a Chinese manufacturer that is able to limit the first category of Phthalates is (most likely) also capable of limiting the second category.
Lead, a toxic heavy metal, is also strictly limited. Colors and surface coating, the main sources of lead, may not contain more than 0.009% of lead. Anything else is a violation against the CPSIA.
Mechanical regulations refer to the physical aspects of a product, such as seams and plastic parts. These regulations are not outlined in the CPSIA, but refer to ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards, such as ASTM F 963-11: The Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety.
However, the physical proportions of teddy bears and a bunk beds are very different. Therefore, different ASTM standards apply to different children’s products.
All children’s products must have an affixed tracking label. This label shall include the name of the importer, operational address, contact details and material information. The states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Massachusetts also have their own labeling regulations. Click here to read more about Product labeling regulations in the United States, European Union and Australia.
Toy flammability regulations are covered by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. However, toys are not allowed to be “highly flammable”. While third party flammability testing is not mandatory, I still recommend all U.S. toy importers to ensure compliance with relevant standards, such as ASTM F963-11.
Far from all suppliers in China are CPSIA compliant!
Far from all Chinese manufacturers of toys and other children’s products are able to comply with U.S. Toy safety regulations. Therefore, ensuring that a supplier can show previous compliance with relevant standards is the first thing importers must do before making a supplier selection.
As I explained previously in this article, the CPSIA is not a uniform directive that applies in the same way to all children’s products. Instead, you need to determine which standards apply to your products, and which substances that are either entirely prohibited or limited. This must be done before you start contacting Chinese suppliers.
The supplier selection shall be made entirely on a supplier’s ability to show previous compliance with the substance regulations and product safety standards, applicable to your product. For natural reasons you must also verify that the suppliers test reports are authentic and still valid. There are plenty of fake certificates and test reports out there.
A Chinese supplier refusing to show such previous certificates or test reports, or for any other reason is unable to present them, is a major liability. In the end, you are held responsible for any noncompliance with CPSIA regulations.
Want to find out if your supplier is CPSIA compliant? We can screen your supplier and verify if they have experience in manufacturing CPSIA compliant toys and children’s products. Click here to find out more.
Third party testing is mandatory for most toys and children’s products, imported from China or manufactured in the USA. The third party testing is also the basis for the Children’s Product Certificate, which is issued by the importer. However, there are a few things to take into consideration:
A nightmare scenario is that you pay a supplier, enter production and then the batch samples fail the test. My recommendation is that you test an exact replica of the final product, before you enter production. In case the sample would fail to pass one or more tests, you have not lost more than the sample cost.
A pre production sample must be an exact replica of the final product. If the supplier uses different materials and colors when manufacturing the final product, the batch sample may fail testing.
Don’t allow your supplier to select a batch samples for final testing. You either pay your supplier a visit, and pick out a number of samples yourself, or you hire a Quality inspector in China to do it for you. You must be sure that the submitted samples are representative of the entire batch, and not only consisting of few particularly well made units.
You may not use any product testing laboratory. The CPSC provides a list of accredited laboratories on their website. Click here for the full list of CPSC accredited laboratories.
Avoid importing toys and children’s products made for the Chinese market
Online platforms, such as Aliexpress, Taobao and various Dropshipping websites, are increasingly popular among small businesses importing from China. These websites offer products to be purchased in fairly small volumes, which allows small businesses to import a wider range of items, rather than focusing the entire investment on one or two products.
However, these products are always (at least with very few exceptions) manufactured for the domestic Chinese market. Such products are not manufactured in compliance with U.S. toy safety regulations, and therefore illegal to import, market and sell. Keep in mind that sellers on these websites are not legally required to sell compliant items. Nor are they regulated by the US product safety acts.
But, there is hope for startups and small businesses. After all, we’ve built a business around helping such companies. Click here to read The Importing Small Volumes from China Guide.
How CPSIA applies to other products
While the CPSIA mainly focuses on toys and children’s products, it also requires importers of other consumer products (general use) to issue a General Certificate of Conformity (GCC). The GCC shall accompany the shipment from China, and also be part of the documentation provided to retailers and distributors within the United States. However, it is not required to provide the GCC when selling directly to consumers.
The GCC is similar to the Children’s Product Certificate in the sense that it’s based on product testing. Once again, different regulations and standards apply to different products, therefore requiring the importer to determine which standards a product shall be tested for.
Ensuring CPSIA compliance when importing from China is serious business. Importing toys and children’s products that are noncompliant with CPSIA regulations are subject to forced recalls. Failure to report a potential product hazard may also result in fines ranging from US$5000 to US$100,000 per violation.
Do you need help to ensure compliance with all mandatory safety standards?
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