CPSIA – Importing Children’s products from China to the US

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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, ASTM standards, documentation, lab testing and CPSIA tracking labels.

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 few examples of CPSIA regulated products:

  • Plastic toys
  • Plush toys
  • Dolls
  • Children’s clothing
  • Baby products
  • Children’s furniture
  • Children’s Accessories
  • Children’s Jewellery
  • Toy vehicles
  • ATVs

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.

CPSIA and China imports

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:

1. All children’s products must be compliant with all relevant safety regulations

2. All children’s products must be tested by a CPSC approved laboratory (there are certain exceptions)

3. 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.

Chemicals and heavy metals

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 / physical properties

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.

CPSIA Tracking labels

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.

The purpose of the tracking label is to ensure that compliance issues can be traced to a certain product type, batch and production facility.

Click here to read more about Product labeling regulations in the United States, European Union and Australia.

Notice: Your supplier will not make the tracking label for you. Instead, you must create the label file (.ai or .eps) and send it to your supplier, before production.

Product testing

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 worst case scenario is that you pay a supplier, enter production and then the batch samples fail the test.

You must 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.

Notice: CPSC requires that lab testing is done on a sample that is fully representing the mass produced product. There cannot be any differences in terms of materials, design or colors. Hence, if you change material, design or colors – you must get the product lab tested again.

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.

Notice that the CPSC don’t require you to get every batch lab tested. However, they do require that you have a testing plan, that can be provided.

Children’s Product Certificate (CPC)

When importing products regulated by the CPSIA, you must issue a document called a children’s product certificate (CPC). The CPC must include certain information:

  • Manufacturer / Importer
  • Country of origin
  • List of applicable ASTM standards
  • Product name
  • Materials
  • Colors
  • SKU

This is the document that the CPSC, the US customs or even Amazon.com may ask you to provide. It’s self issued, so you don’t need to get it approved or notarized. Yet, you must issue a CPC before you import children’s products to the USA.

Notice: Your supplier will not make the CPC for you. It’s up to you as an importer to issue the CPC:

Most suppliers cannot manufacture CPSIA compliant products

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 (i.e., ASTM test reports from previous orders) 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.

Further, CPSIA compliance requires must more than making a product according to a certain ASTM standard. You must issue a CPC, making tracking labels and have a written testing plan. All of these parts are managed by the Importer – no the supplier.

Avoid importing toys and children’s products made for the Chinese market

Online platforms, such as Aliexpress, Taobao and various Dropshipping websites, are 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 (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 CPSIA compliant items, as they are not located in the United States.

Non-compliance penalties

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 Amazon.com require that children’s products are CPSIA compliant?

Yes, Amazon.com requires that all products sold on their platform is fully compliant with all applicable US product regulations. This also includes CPSIA.

Amazon.com also require sellers to submit CPSIA documentation, such as the CPSC and batch test reports, before a product can even be listed.

They have compliance experts on their team, and I know that they don’t accept anything but test reports that are valid for the specific product.

Hence, using old test reports, for other products, or material samples, does not go down well.

Can I sell CPSIA compliant products in Europe and other markets?

No, CPSIA is only applicable in the United States. The European Union, and other markets, have their own toys and children’s product safety regulations in place.

For example, if you want to sell in the EU, you must comply with EN 71.

There’s similarity between CPSIA and EN 71, but the labels, standards and documents are very different.

Do you need help to ensure compliance with all mandatory safety standards?

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    6 Responses to “CPSIA – Importing Children’s products from China to the US”

    1. Michael Makarov October 13, 2016 at 8:37 am #

      Thank you for really informative article!

      My question is about importing toys to USA.

      My supplier provided me CPSIA, ASTM F963, FDA and BPA free tests of their product (the same material but different colors) that were made in 2014 and 2015.

      1. Is it OK to list those old test in CPC? Or I need to do the tests again? And should I do them for each new batch produced? My hope is that I can go with old tests for first batch. If product is successful then do new tests specifically for my product.

      2. Where and when this CPC should be presented or delivered?

      3. What are penalties if I do not make CPC?

      Thank you!
      Michael

      • ChinaImportal October 17, 2016 at 1:49 am #

        Hi Michael,

        No, CPSIA requires batch testing, and the implementation of a testing program. Old test reports, on a product that may not even have been made using the same materials, is not sufficient.

        The CPC is issed by yourself, and must be issued before the cargo is imported into the US.

        At a minimum, you’d face a forced recall. If you actually sell toxic or otherwise dangerous toys, you are looking at getting sued for millions of dollars.

        Your call, but I wouldn’t try to save on testing.

    2. Pauline Dorrough October 19, 2016 at 12:56 am #

      Thank you for the great article. I will start my e-commerce early next year and I just placed an order of stuffed animal with a Chinese supplier.
      Question 1) The supplier will have the ASTM F963, CPSIA lead, phthalate, label test done on the materials in China. Is that enough? When should I submit these reports and where to? Is it with the shipping company in the US side who handles the Customs clearance for me?
      Question 2) What should I do with the labeling? You said it should include the company name and operation address? Do they have to full name and complete address? Why did I see some stuffed animals sold here only have OH#, or PA#, or MA#, but not all three? Does it mean you can sell to that Massachusetts without the MA#? Where can I get these three numbers?
      This is my first importing. Thank you for your help.

      • ChinaImportal October 24, 2016 at 3:35 am #

        Hi Pauline,

        1. Could be, but you need to make a complete assessment. We cannot offer such assistance here in the comment section. One thing though. Do you let the supplier manage the testing?

        2. Yes, normally full company name and complete address, as part of the tracking label. I think this may refer to certain state regulations. Not sure if that is required by law. May be due to their own area of operations.

        I suggest you submit a free enquiry to get assistance here: http://www.compliancegate.com

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