CPSIA: Children’s apparel exemptions

If you make kid’s products and have somehow missed the CPSIA party, catch up here. Start at the bottom entry and work your way up. For others who’ve kind of sort of kept up, the CPSC released a new ballot on the final lead rule (pdf) last Thursday which provided details and proposed exemptions to lead testing. I know what you’re thinking, it’s a ballot and not final. That it will pass is essentially a foregone conclusion. So the question is, is this a good thing or a bad thing for apparel producers of kid’s clothes? Judging from consensus, it’s not a complete solution but we (apparel) are a whole lot better off than other segments of the children’s products market.

Before getting into exemptions, I must reiterate that testing of individual components is technically not permitted under CPSIA. We were granted a stay effective through February 2010 but it’s not a permanent change. I mention this because judging from the content of this 94 page document, it seems obvious that a change in testing requirements to favor component testing is being seriously considered. Here’s the money quote (emphasis is mine):

The Commission is aware that there are many questions regarding component part testing and certification for lead content given that any children’s product may be made with a number of materials and component parts. The questions regarding testing and certification are significant because not all component parts may need to be tested if they fall under the scope of the exclusions approved by the Commission… The Commission intends to address component part testing and the establishment of protocols and standards for ensuring that children’s products are tested for compliance with applicable children’s products safety rules, as well as products that fall within an exemption, in an upcoming rulemaking.

The reason I mention this before talking about exemptions is because exemptions are itemized per component. Many analysts are interpreting the focus on components as indication that policy changes will permit component testing in the future, hopefully before the expiration of the stay in February. Caveats dispensed with, here’s the skinny.

The good news:
The CPSC concludes that textile and leather materials whether natural or man made do not include lead in excess of the legal limits of 100 ppm and are thus exempt from the testing requirement. The listing of textile related exemptions starts on page 18 (different than the page count in the pdf window) and are also found in the cheat sheet “Appendix A”, page 6 (in pdf, it’s page 84). Ditto for dyes and pigments which are also considered exempt from testing.

The bad news:
Embellishments such as bling are bad; rhinestones and crystals must meet the 100 ppm standard. Further, there are painstaking differences made between dyes and pigments and so described “after treatments”. The latter are defined as screen prints, iron on transfers, decals etc. For those who may be unaware, those items can contain lead and or phthalate levels in excess of the legal limit.

Summary: You don’t have to test components such as fabrics, thread, yarn etc whether dyed or natural. You don’t have to test buttons or components made of natural materials like wood, bone, nut or leather unless they have a non-exempt coating (bees wax is exempt) applied to their surfaces. You are required to test metal and plastic parts such as zippers, grommets eyelets, etc. In addition, you must test “after treatment” applications such as “screen prints, transfers, decals, or other prints are specifically cited as requiring testing”.

I’m not saying it won’t be a tremendous challenge to design a line to avoid the necessity of testing but it is possible. Likewise, if you’re selling to national accounts, you may be required to comply with their written policies regardless of what the CPSC has done thus far. All of this of course, is in addition to the tracking label standards they may require. By way of example, Rick Woldenberg has posted a three part (links in the second paragraph) document that details Wal-Mart’s standards. I haven’t read them yet but he says the decision tree resembles that of one describing the process of building the Space Shuttle.

CPSC has revised the Resale Shop Handbook (pdf).
CPSIA articles index
CPSIA discussion forum
It’s rumored the Senate just confirmed two more commissioners to CPSC posts but I don’t have a link.

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