Deadline to Test Kids' Products for Lead Delayed One Year

Deadline to Test Kids' Products for Lead Delayed One Year

New limits for lead and phthalates in children's products went into effect this week, but in order to ease fears that some toymakers and retailers would have to dump their stock or spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on testing, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has moved back the testing deadline and outlined how it will enforce the new rules.

Under the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which went into effect Feb. 10, children's products cannot contain more than 600 parts per million of lead and no more that 0.1 percent of six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOPA), chemicals used to make vinyl and other plastics soft and flexible. In August, the lead limit drops to 300 parts per million, and drops even further in 2011.

The rules apply to products intended for kids age 12 and under, and only for parts accessible to children. Items are subject to the rules if they are meant for children to play with. Excluded items include bikes, playground equipment, musical instruments and sporting goods. The rules apply to manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers or all sizes, from large companies to small, homemade toy crafters.

The phthalates rules also apply to certain child care items that kids age 3 and under would use for sleeping, feeding and teething, including pacifiers, sippy cups and crib mattresses.

When the rules were first announced, fears spread that they would cause resale shops to dump their goods, small toymakers to spend thousands on testing or go out of business, and for children's section of libraries to close down.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has since moved back the testing deadline for total lead content and phthalates to Feb. 10, 2010, and also clarified how it would enforce the rules. Manufacturers and importers or all sizes will not need to test or certify their products during the stay, but will still need to abide by the limits. Retailers and resellers do not need to test their products, but they cannot knowingly sell items that violate the limits.

Testing for lead in paint, though, is required now. And testing of children's metal jewelry will be required in March.

Companies will not be penalized or have to comply with testing for products made of natural materials (wood, cotton, wool and certain metals) that are recognized as rarely containing lead, children's books printed after 1985, and dyed or undyed textiles (excluding leather, vinyl and PVC) and non-metallic thread and trim in clothes and blankets.

That does not, however, exclude clothing or items decorated with metal parts or with plastic and metal fasteners like snaps, zippers and buttons.

The commission said it will generally not prosecute companies for making, selling or distributing items that surpass the limits, unless the company in question knew that the products exceeded the limits. The new law also generally prohibits companies from exporting products that exceed the limits.

"The Commission's goal is to help you to avoid future violations and protect your customers, not to put you out of business," the commission wrote in its recent guide to the new law aimed at businesses.

Toy photo - CC license by saguayo