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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
- 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:
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.
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
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.
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?
We know how hard it can be to get a grip on product safety standards, labeling, documents and lab testing. To help startups get a grip on the process, and avoid crippling fines and forced product recalls – we created the Starter Package:
a. An overview of product safety standards in the United States, Europe, Australia & more
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d. Checklists that guide you step-by-step through the entire compliance process
In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.