Are You Ready for the New Lead Law?

Inside the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

by staff writer
- Mar 07, 2011

If you sell toys, children's apparel, those fun and colorful plates featuring images of action heroes, or any other items meant for kiddos, you need to know about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

The whoa, whatta act? The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a regulation meant to reduce the likelihood that children will be exposed to dangerous amounts of lead.

For sellers, importers and manufacturers of children's items, the act will mean two things:

  1. Items offered—both online and off—will have to be tested by certified third-party labs beginning Dec. 31, and
  2. They'll have to show proof of testing.

Failure to do these things will mean they can't sell their products within the U.S. So if you resell children's items, read on to know exactly what this important law entails—and whether your products fall under its scope, or are exempt.

Act becomes law

To fully understand the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, we need to go back to the 2007 holiday season. It was a fun time filled with presents, family… and a lot of product recalls. The paints and other coating materials on toys like Polly Pockets and Barbie play sets—many of them imported—were found to contain dangerous amounts of lead.

This worried parents and lawmakers, who knew that excessive amounts of lead can cause brain damage, seizures, comas and sometimes death. So to ease concerns and help protect children, the Consumer Product Safety Commission passed the CPSIA in 2008.

Regardless of the size of your business, your products must be tested if they fall under the CPSIA

The law was originally set to take effect in February 2009. However, the commission has postponed enforcement three times to buy businesses time to adjust.

"Third-party testing imposes a financial burden that many manufacturers, and particularly small ones, may never be able to bear," noted Commissioner Anne M. Northup in a statement. Holding off on enforcement also gave officials more time to come up with a uniform testing process, which is still being developed. However, the essence of the act won't change.

The core issue: children's products

The new law will affect children's products. The CPSC defines these as "consumer product[s] designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger." Under current law, products meant for kids can contain no more than 300 parts per million of lead. That limit will drop to 100 parts per million on Aug. 14.

But that doesn't let products made before that date off the hook. When enforcement of the CPSIA begins Dec. 31, importers and manufacturers will have to show that items manufactured since Feb. 10 have been tested and contain no more than the legal lead limit. All businesses should take note, says Tom J. Harney, associate director of business development at Specialized Technology Resources, a quality and safety testing lab.

"Regardless of the size of your business, your products must be tested if they fall under the CPSIA," Harney adds. However, he adds that the testing parameters will vary depending on the product "so it will be a case by case basis."

The products affected vary and range from bicycles and motorized youth vehicles, to strollers and cribs, to pacifiers and toys, to clothes and those fun Spider-Man plates you've seen around. You can see a more complete list of affected items on this CPSIA information site.

The packaging of these items typically does not have to comply with this testing regulation because it's meant to be thrown away, the commission reasons. However, if the packaging is intended to be reused, importers and manufacturers will also have to show that the packaging adheres to the lead limits. While the supplier should initiate testing of the items they're offering for resale, resellers should also double-check that items they buy are in compliance with the law, Harney continues.

"We have seen it done on the back end where the retailer does a final check but then, when there is a problem, it can be too late to fix it depending on the issue found," he notes.

So if you don't receive a certificate from the manufacturer stating that items you buy for resale have been tested for lead and comply with laws, ask for proof of testing. You'll also want to inspect the item's container to ensure it contains a tracking label, which clearly states where and when the item was inspected, the commission notes. This is another requirement of the CPSIA, and it will give you a good indication if the items you bought were tested.

Product testing must be conducted by a laboratory that has been certified by the CPSC

Making the grade

If you have any questions as to whether an item you're considering for resale needs to comply with this new testing regulation, contact the manufacturer. They should be able to tell you. In fact, the Safety Commission's take on this matter is that "it is the responsibility of the manufacturer of the product, as a normal part of doing business, to know what legal requirements of the commission or otherwise apply to its products."

However, if you're importing children's products from overseas, it's your duty to have items tested and to show certification—not the foreign manufacture's responsibility. You'll want to keep these certificates on hand in case the commission asks for these.

And also note that tests must be conducted by a laboratory that has been certified by the CPSC, not just any lab. You can find a list of accredited testing labs on the CPSC's Web site.


Now, there are some children's items that aren't affected by the CPSIA and won't need to be tested for lead. Vintage books and other items from yesteryear, for example, are exempt. That's because, while these are "children's products," they're essentially antiques and their target audience is adults, not children. Other products that are exempt from testing are those that have parts that contain lead, but have that lead content in an inaccessible spot, where it won't hurt children. Used children's gear may also be exempt.

If you're at all unsure whether your items would be affected, don't be shy about asking the manufacturer. And be sure to visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site and the site's FAQs for more information.

Remember, an informed and prepared seller is a happy seller in the end!

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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