To summarize: among other things, the new law was going to require those who manufacture products for children to certify that their product met certain minimal lead and phthalate limits. It would later require manufacturers to provide documentation from third-party laboratories that their products met these limits.
Lab fees for testing these products were piling up potentially into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. Not a huge dent for large, multi-national toy companies (whose products, incidentally, kicked off the lead scares leading to passing of the legislation), but crippling for small, home-based businesses, libraries, and thrift shops, not to mention chilling for woodworkers who supplemented their income at craft fairs or donated toys to hospitals and charities.
After much grassroots uproar and a lot of densely-worded press releases from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), who were charged with interpreting then enforcing the legislation, the timeline for 3rd-party testing compliance was pushed back a year to give manufacturers some relief as well as to give time to sort out just how such sweeping changes would be implemented with the least damage to small business.
This Christmas, Santa (grammy and poppy) brought my son Parker his very first Certificate of Conformity, shown above. This particular certificate came in the box along with a wooden easel. Melissa & Doug is a toy company that my wife and I really like because they make sturdy, wooden, educational toys. You can see from the certificate that they are already complying with the 3rd-party testing standard, listing the independent lab doing the testing along with a reference number for the test report.
As this was my first and only encounter with the CPSIA in the real-world (despite the fact that we have a 3-year-old with overly-generous grandparents providing a constant influx of toys), I was curious to see what was the state of the new law.
(Coincidentally, woodworking blogger extraordinaire, Tom Iovino, did a very nice writeup on the CPSIA recently. Put a little clicky clicky here to see it.)
Thankfully, the CPSC has recently taken some positive steps to deal with the unintended consequences of the sweeping legislation. This Dec. 18 press release from them sums it up, but here are the 2 major points:
1) Deadline extension: The stay on providing certification and 3rd-party testing on certain items has been extended one more year until Feb 10, 2011. This does not mean that manufacturers won’t be held accountable to the legal repercussions if their products are found to be in violation of the legal limits of lead and phthalate content, but it does mean that it won’t be necessary to include documentation of expensive 3rd-party testing. Nancy Nord, a CPSC commissioner explains further in her new blog.
2) Component testing: The CPSC is adopting an interim enforcement policy that will allow component testing/certification. If manufacturers can provide documentation that the components that they use in their products meet the requirements, they don’t have to have a sample, finished product from each product line tested themselves. This is significant for woodworkers since the bulk of their product—wood— being a natural component, is exempted. Add a finish, however, and the entire product must be tested. But under a component testing policy, if your finish manufacturer provides proper proof that it conforms with the CPSIA’s third-party testing requirement, you might be off the hook for expensive lab fees.
(Note: the lead requirements for children’s products with finishes were not among those “certain” items that were covered by the deadline extension, so those are subject to the testing requirements now. However with component testing, the burden of the testing fee can now potentially be shifted to the finish manufacturer, and it sounds like they are working hard to supply these. Tom’s blog, mentioned above, documents a conversation he had with Minwax on the topic.)
In some ways, it is simply one more stay of execution with another looming deadline, but the conversations from the CPSC have increasingly been directed at small businesses, crafters, and hobbyists, an obvious reaction to the overwhelming grassroots attention that this legislation has received.
Lucas Peters @ WOOD Magazine
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