Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
Consumer Safety Act Full title Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act Acronym CPSIA Colloquial name(s) Consumer Act Enacted by the 110th United States Congress Effective August 14, 2008 Citations Codification Legislative history Major amendments None Relevant Supreme Court cases None
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is a United States law signed on August 14, 2008 by President George W. Bush. The legislative bill was known as HR 4040, sponsored by Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.). On December 19, 2007, the U.S. House approved the bill 407-0. On March 6, 2008, the U.S. Senate approved the bill 79-13. The law—public law 110-314—increases the budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), imposes new testing and documentation requirements, and sets new acceptable levels of several substances. It imposes new requirements on manufacturers of apparel, shoes, personal care products, accessories and jewelry, home furnishings, bedding, toys, electronics and video games, books, school supplies, educational materials and science kits. The Act also increases fines and specifies jail time for some violations.
This act is seen in part controversial because of its impact to many types of businesses that did not cause the problem. Because of the wide-sweeping nature of the law, many small resellers will be forced to discontinue the sale of children’s products and are in risk of losing (and in some cases have already lost) their business.
A previous, less sweeping bill, the Lead-Free Toys Act (H.R. 3473, sponsored by Representative Henry Waxman), was incorporated into this act. The earlier bill was prompted by various scandals over high lead content in toys, including a December 2006 report at Waxman's behest showing high lead levels in items sold in U.S. Capitol gift shops.
The law increases the CPSC budget authorization from $80 million in 2008 to $136 million in 2014. It also increases staffing to at least 500 personnel by 2013.
It is targeted mostly toward "children's products", which are defined as any consumer product designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger.
There are also new rules governing All terrain vehicle (ATVs).
It also affects any product that is subject to anything the CPSC regulates by requiring certificates of conformance which state that the product was tested to conform to the regulations it is subject to.
Testing and exposure levels
The legislation reduces the limit of lead allowed in surface coatings or paint to 90 ppm (from the current limit of 600 ppm) effective on 14 August 2009.
The legislation reduces the amount of total lead content in children's products to
- 600 ppm by 10 February 2009
- 300 ppm by 14 August 2009
- 100 ppm by 14 August 2011, unless not technically feasible. A public hearing may take place in February 2011 on this issue.
The Falvey Opinion (named for Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel for the CPSC) issued on 12 September 2008 stated that these limits would be retroactively applied to products on retailer's shelves on the dates indicated.
As of 10 February 2009, it shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture for sale, distribute in commerce, or import any children's toy or childcare article that contains the phthalates DEHP, DBP, or BBP at levels higher than 0.1 percent.
The legislation bans from any children's toy that can be put in a child's mouth or childcare articles phthalates DINP, DIDP, and DnOP at levels higher than 0.1% on an interim basis until a report from the Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) is received, after which the CPSC can continue the prohibition by rule.
CPSC General Counsel Falvey provided an advisory opinion on 17 October 2008 that the phthalate ban does not apply to children's footwear. Falvey provided an additional opinion on 17 November 2008 that the ban does not apply to wearing apparel, but does apply to toy costumes, bibs, sleepwear. Notably in its distinction from the lead ruling of 12 September 2008, the phthalate ban will apply to articles manufactured on or after 10 February 2009. However, the decision was challenged by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Public Citizen in the New York Southern District Court and set aside by Judge Paul Gardephe on 5 February 2009.
The legislation requires that every manufacturer of a product subject to a consumer product safety rule will provide a "General Conformity Certificate" to certify, based on unit testing or a reasonable testing program, that the product complies with all safety rules. This requirement was imposed on every product manufactured on or after 12 November 2008. The certificate must:
- be in English
- list the name, address, and phone number of the manufacturer, importer, and/or private labeler issuing the certificate and any third party testing facility
- list the date and place of manufacture and date and place of testing
- list the contact information of the records keeper
- list each applicable rule, standard, and ban
These certificates must accompany the product through the distribution chain through the retailer. They must be available to the CPSC during any inspection.
Children's products are singled out for third party testing by this Act. A schedule for testing is found in Section 102(a)(3)(B) and shows:
Test Standard Publication of Accreditation Procedure Third Party Testing Required Lead Paint 22 September 2008 21 December 2008 Cribs and Pacifiers 22 October 2008 20 January 2009 Small Parts 17 November 2008 15 February 2009 Metal Jewelry December 2008 March 2009 Baby Bouncers, Walkers, and Jumpers March 2009 June 2009 300 ppm Lead Content May 2009 August 2009 (stayed until 2/10/11) CPSC Children's Product Safety Rules June 2009 September 2009
The third party testing requirement for lead content was originally set by the CPSIA at 600 ppm, but dropped to 300 ppm in August, 2009. However, these lead content testing requirements were stayed by the CPSC in January 2009 until February 10, 2010. In December 2009, this stay of enforcement was further extended until February 10, 2011. In both cases, the CPSC cited a need to implement further rulemaking and to give manufacturers more time to comply. On October 9, 2011 CSPC passed final regulations requiring third-party safety testing for children's products. These new regulations go into effect 15 months after publication in the Federal Register. 
Beginning 14 August 2009, children's products must be marked by a permanent distinguishing mark or label that indicates the manufacturer, cohort (batch), and any other mark necessary to trace the product.
The purpose of the Act's whistleblower provision is to protect employees who do the right thing by speaking up when they believe their employer has violated a consumer product safety law. Specifically, if employees of a manufacturer, private labeler, distributor, or retailer of consumer products, may not have their employer retaliate against them for reporting potential violations of consumer product safety laws.
Additionally, under the Act a Publicly Available Consumer Product Safety Information Databasewhere consumers can directly report harm or merely a risk of harm officially launched on March 11, 2011.
The Act imposes or increases both fines and jail time penalties, and mandates coordination with the CPSC when effecting a manufacturer's product recall. The law
- increases civil penalties for failure to report possible product hazards to the CPSC in a timely manner from $5,000 per violation (with a cap of $1,825,000) to $100,000 per violation (with a cap of $15 million)
- increases criminal penalties for various prohibited acts to include forfeiture of assets and imprisonment for up to five years, and eliminates the requirement that the CPSC first notify a company of noncompliance before seeking criminal penalties
- requires CPSC approval of the remedy offered in a product recall, rather than giving the recalling party its choice of repair, replace, or refund
Manufacturers, both large and small, have protested the extremely short timelines, the failure to take into account manufacturing processes, and the failure to take into account the breadth of the impact.
Congress passed this legislation in the wake of several high profile recalls in 2007 and 2008 of toys manufactured in China. Though many of these later turned out to be problems with design rather than manufacture, public pressure was increased as the result of at least one case of lead poisoning and subsequent issues with tainted pet food and other products shipped from China. The legislation, HR 4040, was passed in July 2008 and signed into law by President Bush in August 2008. The first deadline came up in September, and several major deadlines came up in February 2009.
Manufacturers point out that many of the products to be impacted are already making their way through the supply chain. As a result, much inventory that was legal prior to the signing of the law and was manufactured shortly thereafter will probably be on shelves as the deadlines approach. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Public Citizen apparently agree that these products are already in distribution, but believe that manufacturers should still be held liable. The problem is not the lead or phthalate content, as they imply, but the fact that the products must be tested to make sure they comply. There is also confusion of what products need a GCC and which do not. They have not been tested because the items generally do not contain hazardous materials; CPSC has been slow to define some of the accreditation or testing criteria; some of the low volume, low value items are not economical to test; and lot tracking methods would not allow some of the items to be tracked.
Manufacturers also point out that even if they were to attempt to comply, there are logistical problems. Companies with large varieties of products will have difficulty selecting several samples of every item. Even if they can, there are not enough testing facilities to handle the volume in time to meet the schedules.
Manufacturers also note both the difficulty and the apparently contradictory mandate to perform unit testing. An apparel manufacturer, for example, might use a single mill product such as organic cotton cloth coupled with a few organic dyes and a few pieces of hardware such as zippers or buttons. Those can be combined in limitless ways and in various sizes. Testing all of the final products generally provides no more information than would testing the individual inputs (or "components"), but is vastly more expensive.
Final product testing may actually be counterproductive if, for example, a solid lead button is tested as part of a larger product. When tested separately, the button would fail, but when mixed together with the other inputs, the final total lead content may fall below the standard. Thus, unit testing would result in certifying the safety of a product which has unsafe components that could be swallowed by a child.
Other manufacturers point out the problem of defining "children's products." Electronic products such as video games could be considered children's products, and are therefore subject to that testing. Electronics products contain lead as a component of solder; whereas the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive standards have long attempted to phase out lead solder, the tin solder is known to suffer from a defect known as tin whiskers. This means that entire classes of products may become unavailable as manufacturers withdraw from the markets, banned as they are unable to pass tests, or defective as they substitute inferior components.
Additionally, products such as “regular Children’s books”, that have never been a health problem, are being included in the products that must be tested and certified.
The law requires some rulings from the CPSC on a predetermined schedule, and allows for other rulings as necessary. Manufacturers must wait until a final ruling is made before they can perform the required testing or gather the required documentation. Many times this ruling isn't available until after the item is already required. For example, the law required the issuance of a GCC for products manufactured "on and after November 12, 2008", but the GCC ruling was not published in the Federal Register until 18 November 2008.
These criticisms have been leveled by large and small manufacturers alike. According to 2002 business census data, 99% of the apparel manufacturers in the United States are small businesses, using the Small Business Administration's definition of "less than 500 employees." Many of them believe that they will not be able to manage or afford the mandated testing and will go out of business. This has resulted in an online petition campaign by small manufacturers of children's apparel.
Larger manufacturers are faced with problems stemming from their leverage, from aspects of Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, from their visibility, and from the logistics of managing the testing of large varieties of products. Large manufacturers tend to be very leveraged, and use their eligible inventory as their borrowing base. Because the inventory is going to become unsalable on 10 February 2009, there will be an abrupt change in their borrowing base. This raises the question of whether corporate officers can legitimately claim inventory in their current borrowing base. Because many of these loan agreements and all publicly traded companies require audited financial statements at the end of the year, inventories will be tested. This will result in a negative change in valuation and a sharp reduction or termination of available credit. For public companies, it raises the issue of whether those officers are making false representations, introducing the specter of criminal liability under Sarbanes-Oxley.
In early 2009, local media reported that children's clothes, books, toys, and other items were being removed from shelves at local stores - and in some of these cases even to the point of causing the entire store to close - in Wichita, Kansas , Ionia, Michigan , Conway, Arkansas , Goldsboro, North Carolina , Lincoln, Nebraska , New York City, New York (NYC) , Rochester, New York , Marshall, Minnesota , Kailua, Hawaii, New Port Richey, Florida , and Tucson, Arizona.
According to Walter Olson's report 'The New Book Banning' in 'City Journal' (NYC), the CPSIA has problems because due to economics, some stores destroyed books, and some used book sellers removed many books. One small bookstore owner interviewee criticized the CPSC and referenced the book Fahrenheit 451, where the destruction of books at government behest was a plot point. Olson also claims that there has never been any known case of a child receiving lead poisoning from a book. In his closing paragraph, Olson writes "... ours will be a poorer world...".
The enaction of the CPSIA banned the sale of youth motorcycles and ATVs because of the lead content of battery terminals and tire valve stems. The law has a provision for exceptions to be made by the CPSC, but it has not done so for these products as of March 2009. The ban has left many motorsports retailers with unsalable products, and motorcycle industry leaders suggest that the ban may cost the US economy $1 billion.
- ^ GovTrack.us. "H.R. 4040--110th Congress (2007): Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, GovTrack.us (database of federal legislation) (accessed Dec 6, 2008)
- ^ "Congress Passes Lead Free Toys Act". House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. http://oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3307&Itemid=49. Retrieved 2010-08-06.
- ^ a b c Staff writer(s), "Summary of Major Provisions of H.R. 4040," the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008", Consumers Union, (accessed 6 December 2008)
- ^ Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. et al. v. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, New York Southern District Court, 5 February 2009 (accessed 8 February 2009)
- ^ Sample certificate, Consumer Product Safety Commission, (accessed 4 December 2008)
- ^ Michael Best & Friedrich LLP (October 22, 2011). "Third-Party Testing of Children’s Toys Required by CPSC". The National Law Review. http://www.natlawreview.com/article/third-party-testing-children-s-toys-required-cpsc.
- ^ Consumer Products Act Whistleblower Provisions August 2008 KMB Legal
- ^ Turke, Mary C. (February 9, 2011). "The "Safer Products" Database: Reports of Harm Made Public on March 11, 2011". The National Law Review. http://www.natlawreview.com/article/safer-products-database-reports-harm-made-public-march-11-2011.
- ^ BBC staff writer, "Mattel sorry for 'design flaws'," BBC, 21 September 2007 (accessed 21 February 2009)
- ^ Reidy, Chris, "Reebok recalls bracelets after boy dies," Boston Globe, 24 March 2006 (accessed 6 December 2008)
- ^ U.S. Food and Drug Administration Staff, "Pet Food Recall (Melamine)/Tainted Animal Feed," (accessed 6 December 2008)
- ^ Trottman, Melanie, "Suit Challenges Agency Over Phthalates Ruling," Wall Street Journal, 5 December 2008 (accessed 6 December 2008)
- ^ a b Woldenberg, Rick (speaker), CPSC Public Hearing on Lead Standards, 6 November 2008 (accessed 7 November 2008)
- ^ Fasanella, Kathleen, "CPSIA: Unit vs. Component Testing," Fashion-Incubator.com blog entry, 26 November 2008 (accessed 4 December 2008)
- ^ CPSC Public Hearing on Lead Standards, 6 November 2008, (accessed 1 December 2008)
- ^ CSPC ruling on the certificate of compliance, Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 223, p. 68328, 18 November 2008 (accessed 27 December 2008)
- ^ Notice of Stay of Enforcement of Testing and Certification Requirements, Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2 February 2009 (accessed 8 February 2009)
- ^ Woldenberg, Richard, Letter to CPSC General Counsel Cheryl Falvey: The Financial Consequences of Retroactive Application of the CPSIA, 7 November 2008
- ^ Goodwill stores pull clothes, toys from shelves to comply with lead safety law, The Wichita Eagle, February 10, 2009
- ^ CPSC stays delay; too little too late for some businesses, Ionia Sentinel-Standard, February 6, 2009
- ^ Safety law has local business closing doors, Log Cabin Democrat, January 27, 2009
- ^ New law has thrift stores worried about the toys on their shelves, Goldsboro News-Argus, February 15, 2009
- ^ Goodwill stores pull items to comply with new federal laws, Lincoln Journal Star, February 10, 2009
- ^ a b The New Book Banning, City Journal, February 12, 2009
- ^ Lead law hits thrift stores, Penfield Post, February 13, 2009
- ^ New Law Forces Goodwill To Clear Shelves, Keloland Television, February 11, 2009
- ^ Doll shop closes despite temporary hold on anti-lead law, KHNL TV, February 6, 2009
- ^ New law for lead confounds resale and thrift shop owners, St. Petersburg Times, February 9, 2009
- ^ New lead law impacting local thrift stores, KVOA TV, February 10, 2009
- ^ "Stop the Ban - History". Motorcycle Industry Council. http://mic.org/history.cfm. Retrieved March 28, 2009.
- ^ Welch, William M. (March 18). "Motorbike sale to defy lead law". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-03-18-motorcycle-kids_N.htm.
- CPSC Main Page for CPSIA
- CPSC Lead Conference (video)
- HR 4040 on Thomas
- Text of CPSIA
- Links to other legislation relevant to CPSC and CPSIA
- National Bankruptcy Day blog
- CPSIA information page at CPSC
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act What You Must Know
- Apparel industry blog entry citing the questions still pending as of December 2008
- Public forum to discuss CPSIA
- Handmade Toy Alliance Information and advocacy for small batch manufacturers
- The Handmade Toy Alliance Urges the Senate to hold Hearings on the CPSIA
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