The Sigh Heard Across America: CPSC Gives Relief from CPSIA Lead Content Requirements

Yesterday, August 6, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a new regulation that exempts various materials from the lead content limits for children’s products in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

And a sigh of relief was heard across the United States, and I’m sure across China too.

The CPSIA grants the CPSC the authority to determine that certain materials or products or classes of materials or products do not, and by their nature will not, exceed the CPSIA’s lead content limits. By doing so, the CPSC has relieved the products or materials from the CPSIA’s testing and certification requirements.

However, there is a caveat. If the product or material is changed such that it exceeds the lead limits, then the exemption doesn’t apply. And the CPSC says that it will test materials in the marketplace to make sure. The rulemaking states:

 

Moreover, even when a particular product or material has been relieved of the testing and certification requirements under section 102 of the CPSIA, manufacturers and importers remain responsible for verifying that the material or product has not been altered or modified, or experienced any change in the processing, facility or supplier conditions that could impart lead into the material or product to ensure that it meets the statutory lead levels at all times

As a result, while the exemptions for these materials are wonderful and a lot of companies will feel relief, I have some reservations about wholesale abandonment of testing. (Okay, and I realize that perhaps that sounds self-serving since I perform testing.) The reason I’m concerned is because a manufacturer still needs to comply with the law, and many manufacturers don’t have the type of knowledge needed about supplier conditions and processes. Fabrics will not fail 99.9% of the time. But, some fabrics can fail. I say this having just tested fabrics (which are exempt) for three different companies in the last 3 weeks and having fabric failures. I had a fleece type fabric test at 400 ppm lead; a handful of synthetic felts test at 500 to 1,200 ppm lead; and some heavy woven fabrics out of South America test at 900 to 1,400 ppm lead.

Keep in mind that the new rule, 16 CFR 1500.91(c) provides:

A determination by the Commission under paragraph (b) of this section that a material or product does not contain lead levels that exceed 600 ppm, 300 ppm, or 100 ppm, as applicable, does not relieve the material or product from complying with the applicable lead limit as provided under paragraph(a) ofthis section if the product or material is changed or altered so that it exceeds the lead content limits.

Okay, so what products or material are exempt? The rule is long, so I’m going to tackle this in parts.

TEXTILES

After reviewing the data submitted, the CPSC is exempting textiles from the lead content limits. The CPSC concludes that generally textile materials and products do not contain lead and have not undergone any processing or treatment that imparts lead resulting in a total lead content that exceeds the CPSIA total lead limits.

Natural Fibers

With respct to natural fibers, the CPSC finds that they are natural materials and do not contain lead, whether they are dyed or undyed.  Examples of plant based fibers, from the seed, stem, or leaves of plants, include, but are not limited to, cotton, kapok, flax, linen, jute, ramie, hemp, kenaf, bamboo, coir, and sisal. Animal fibers, or natural protein fibers, include but are not limited to silk, wool (sheep), and hair fibers from alpaca, llama, goat (mohair, cashmere), rabbit (angora), camel, horse, yak, vicuna, qiviut, and guanaco.

Manmade Fibers

Manmade fibers are also included. Manmade (or manufactured) fibers are created by technology and are classified as regenerated, inorganic, or synthetic. Regenerated fibers are made from natural materials that are reformed into usable fibers. These fibers include, but are not limited to, rayon, azlon, lyocell, acetate, triacetate, and rubber. Synthetic fibers are polymers created through a chemical process and include but are not limited to polyester, olefin, nylon, acrylic, modacrylic, aramid, and spandex. The CPSC concludes that these fibers also generally meet the lead limits.

Dyes and Pigments

Dyes and pigments used on textiles are also excluded, but pigments used on non textile applications are not because they may contain lead. So, the exemption extends to dyes and pigments but not to “after-treatment applications, including screen prints, transfers, decals, or other prints.”

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