CPSIA Guidance for Retailers Working with Vendors

I’m getting more and more of these so I may as well answer it here. If this topic interests you, also see CPSIA, Denial and Retailer’s Liability

Hi Kathleen, my name is Sandy and I own a retail store. I (and my team) are working very hard to make sure we are compliant by Feb 10 but there is some confusion. My vendors are trying to provide me with the certification provided by their suppliers. I have attached an email to illustrate this. My understanding is that each company needs to test their own product and cannot rely on the certifications provided by their supplies and simply pass these onto their retailers. I think they are perhaps taking the documentation out of context or mis-reading it but perhaps I am wrong? I have sent them a link to this part of the forum and you seem pretty confident so this is the stance I have taken, do you feel the “quotes” such as the attached email are simply misquoting?

I wish I could invoice people who spread rumors and mythinformation; they create so much work for me and there’s tons of them out there. Unfortunately, some prominent personalities (note I did not say “experts”) involved in the CPSIA cause are telling people that using MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) or providing their supplier’s certifications constitutes a “reasonable testing program”. This is false. I’ve discussed this problem at length with attorney Jennifer Taggart who concurs it is very irresponsible to spread this misinformation. It is possible that your vendors, well meaning they may be, have been misled by unnamed parties. I would refer them (and you) to Jennifer for proper legal advice. She’s often accessible via twitter too.

My vendors are supplying me with certificates for different parts of their products and I am not sure if this is ok. My understanding is that component testing isn’t ok but I haven’t actually been able to find proof of this and so I am not sure if I should accept these certificates or not.

The answer to this is yes and no. At this time, XRF technology is considered to be a “reasonable testing program”. However, XRF can only measure lead per component. Thus, if your vendors supply XRF results per component, this is considered to be reasonable. However, if they are supplying data sheets from their vendors per component, it is not.

Other issues: vendors are sending me certificates of tests done on one of their products but they sell the same item in different colors. They have had one item tested and have sent me that certification. I don’t know if it is ok then to say her entire line is ok, I thought that each color/style needed to be tested separately.

You are correct. Testing must be at the SKU level, meaning each colorway.

There are some products that I am not sure about (if they need testing or not). The vendors don’t seem to know either and have just decided based on what others are doing who sell similar products. Specifically: nursing covers, nursing pillows and burp cloths. How do I find out If I need to get certification on these? I have emailed the CPSA but have not yet gotten a reply.

Some consider this a grey area because these are items used by adults in the process of caring for children. The law is pretty clear though; CPSIA applies to items used to facilitate the feeding, sleeping and care of children aged three and younger. The example a representative of a testing lab used was a nursing bra because a baby’s face is likely to touch it (no confirmation on this). Jennifer Taggart has made similar statements. She mentions that a diaper bag wouldn’t need testing unless it was used as, or included, a changing pad because the baby’s bottom will be touching it. I would imagine the same goes for burp cloths and nursing pillows and covers. If these are used to facilitate the care of children three and younger, these items must be certified compliant.

Speaking of sleeping; it becomes increasingly difficult for me to avoid speculating as to the true cause of some enterprise failures when I continue to get emails from people making baby bedding including sheets (or baby slings) who claim they’re exempt because these items are not a durable good. These days my response is MOTO (Master Of The Obvious). They’re right, sheets, blankets and slings are not a durable good; you learn that in Econ 101.

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  1. Wow this was SO helpful to me! Thank you very much for taking the time to address the kind of questions that have been floating around in my head as a retailer! Thank you, I will pass this on to others that have similar questions so hopefully we can all get cleared up together.

  2. Stacey says:

    With all due respect, I don’t really appreciate being labeled as someone spreading rumors or “mythinformation”, when the information I received was directly from the CPSC. If you want to be upset with someone, call them–it’s their JOB to tell us what is going on and how we are to interpret this law. And it’s my right as a citizen to ask for that information and share what I’ve heard with my peers in a forum setting. I did not pose as an expert or a lawyer. I shared as a fellow artist concerned about the CPSIA and how it affects a specific part of our creative community. I did not exaggerate anything I was told or change it–I shared exactly what the agent told me.


  3. Wacky Hermit says:

    Kathleen, I know you already know this, so this is for your readers in case they don’t already know it too:
    The baby bedding exemption rumor comes from Section 104 of CPSIA, which specifies that non-durable goods (like slings) are not subject to the provisions of the law requiring product registration. However, they are NOT exempted from lead testing or phthalate testing just because they are exempted from product registration.

    And in all fairness, most of the MOTOs probably never took Econ 101, probably because its prerequisite was Math 101. For the same reason, they probably never took Logic 101 either, and thus are likely to believe unsourced rumors.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Day in, day out, I sit on a whole lot of claims made by phone and sometimes even in writing by various legislators and cpsc officials or even in person as in the meeting with Falvey. However, over the past three months, not one single statement made by any party has made it into a ruling. As it is, only one (natural materials) has even made it to a vote and comment phase and even that’s been yanked; I can’t find the RFC on their site anymore. It’s a matter of responsibility that I don’t say anything until officially released. I mean, I could get tons of bonus points for stuff coming across my desktop on official letterhead but I can’t print it. I could be really popular too. You and others may not like me but I *am* credible. One is only credible by keeping quiet until you’re sure. Btw, that’s how others know one is credible too. People tell me things because I don’t say anything until it’s official. Otherwise, I’d be feeding the rumor mill too.

    FWIW, I wasn’t referring to you altho I can most certainly understand why you would interpret it that way (or why anyone would). The issue is, what you wrote will go from there as fact spread by other people. You can’t blame them really, it’s hope and what we all want to believe. The point I would have made had it not been germane to the topic was mythinformation gestates. It’s born and grows, people will always twist what you’ve said around to make it fit what they want to hear. Therefore, I don’t think anyone should say anything until it is fact with supporting proofs. The problem with your entry wasn’t what you said per se; it’s what others will read into it; that too many people will interpret your posting as meaning they can wiggle around the rules by calling their items collectibles.

  5. George says:

    Here is all I can see that the law says and this is in regards to phythlates:
    “a “child care article” means a product that a child 3 and younger would use for sleeping, feeding, sucking or teething.”
    So it seems still gray otherwise. I would love to hear official guidance on this because both the above referenced experts on this subject are selling product testing services so would seem more inclined to a strict interpretation.

  6. I just thought of one other “retailer” type question that wasn’t covered above.

    Some vendors are sending me GCC’s that include many colors/styles tested all on one document while others are sending me a separate GCC for each color/style. Are both options ok or is one correct and the other incorrect?


  7. Stacey says:

    Kathleen, I appreciate your cautious approach to this issue and will model it in future. And honestly, this has nothing to do with me “liking you” or not. I don’t even know you–it’s SO not personal. I just didn’t appreciate being the link to your mention of “people who spread rumor” and wish you would reconsider making my post the link in that statement. I don’t see information as rumor when it comes directly from the CPSC as well as Congress.

    But I do understand your POV and will keep it in mind as I learn more about this law that causing so much pain and confusion.

    All the best to you!

  8. Cristina says:

    Hi Kathleen,

    Thanks again for your awesome information. I really, really appreciate it. So to be stupid – and to be sure I understand, as I was one of the ones under the assumption that MSDS would be enough – all of my manufacturers have to provide with with their own testing certificate, right? I would need XRF testing docs for every product we sell on our site?

    I’m still pulling my hair out. I’m surprised I’m not bald.

  9. katy says:

    Children’s apparel is a non-durable. It is not a toy, nor are shoes. Where does it state that clothing and shoes are included in the CPSIA? I can find nothing except the definition of
    child care” materials.

  10. Laurie says:

    Hi, I am very confused. I sell children’s products, including handmade ribbon hairbows, and clothing, I am so confused as to how this law will affect me. TO test all clothing in all sizes, and hairbows too, would be far too expensive, I would not be able to stay open. If I label my hairbows as for children 12 and up, would that protect me? And with the clothing, they are nice, paint free fabrics, no lead is possible in them. Do I need to have them tested as well? I keep hearing the law may be changing, and certain things are exempted, but as it stands, small businesses will go under. Can anyone help me understand this better? Thank you!

  11. Cristina says:

    Hi again,

    One of my manufacturers asked me this, after I linked her to your post:

    “Not to mention…it even states that you can use an “online” cert rather than sending hard copy to each store…just as long as the info is available upon request. And in this state of panic, stores aren’t even going for that at this point. So, thats my story and I”m sticking to it.
    If a retailer were busted, and had to show certs for my clothing, and those listed above were shown, I believe they will be acceptable. I think in the next 6 months, until Aug, there is going to be so much confusion, and so many rag tag attempts at certification…this is going to be clarified by the CSPIA. and maybe even changed to allow the suppliers certs as well. I think people are panicking here. Can anyone cut and paste the information from the CSPIA that states we CAN’T use the mfger’s certs?”

    any help you can provide?

  12. Trevor says:

    I have to support Kathleen a bit here.
    I trust her with everything I have. I have spoken to her (numerous) times and find her smart, witty and trustworthy. I have also spoken to many people regarding the CPSIA issue and have told many a thing. Whenever I get *credible* information I go straight to K with the author, etc. Kathleen has helped me through interviews, meetings and the obsession AKA CPSIA.
    I know she is compiling information, keeping tabs on all this mess, but until ANYTHING is official, (good or bad), no one will know before her. And she won’t leak. Not to anyone.
    The thing about reporting some of the “things (s)he told me on the phone” is that like K said, we all (everyone included) will take it out of context and make it our own. For us. It is what we want. Then, we say something to one person, or a forum and it becomes “Telephone”. The end result is people thinking it is over and we won, when in fact, nothing has changed, and we need to fight even harder to keep our voices heard.
    Just keep in mind, if Kathleen were not on our side, we’d be in deep doo-doo. She is our team captain, and I think we all need to follow her example.
    :0) Trevor

  13. Kathleen says:

    Great comments everyone! I will update this entry tomorrow with your suggestions and questions.

    NOTE: apparently the site isn’t nice to people leaving comments today. I don’t know what the problem is, it happens to me too.

    This is the work around: copy your comment before you submit or barring that because you already did, hit the back button till you can retrieve your comment and then copy it. Then close the site and restart it. Then navigate back to where you were and paste your comment and it’ll be okay. Sorry for the grief. I guess I should upgrade or something but with everything going on..

  14. On the issue of testing for phthalates, I just want to clarify my statement a bit. The CPSIA requires lead content testing of all children’s products. So, in my humble opinion (and not a legal opinion for any particular compnay to claim as legal advice), a diaper bag would NOT need to be tested if it was just that – a diaper bag intended for carrying diapers by an adult. However, a portable changing pad that is part of the diaper bag or a separate component of the diaper bag would need to be tested for lead content because it is intended for a child – namely, to lay a child on to change a diaper.

    As for phthalates, the law says that testing for phthalates must be done for toys and child care articles. The term “child care articles” is defined as those articles intended for children under the age of 3 that facilitate sleeping and eating. So, a diaper changing pad would not need to be tested for phthalates because it isn’t intended to facilitate sleeping or eating (at least I hope not!). However, if that same diaper pag had a portable sleep mat, then the sleep mat would have to be tested for lead and for phthalates.

    And yes, for those of you who know me, I do offer testing services for lead content. I don’t test for phthalates. I disclose in the interest of avoiding any appearance of bias.


  15. Noelle says:

    A “Good News!” email came out from Etsy, saying progress has been made and there likely will be small business or OOAK exemptions. I went to the post and everyone was excited and I had to be “Debbie Downer” because I had read your article “Don’t throw yourself under the CSPIA bus!” :) I’m so glad you wrote that article (articles), thanks for all your work!!!!!

    PS Since the CPSC told them Feb. 10th will come on and go, and we have till Feb. 17th to comment on exemptions, does this mean they really are going to go through with this???!! No hearings, no discussion by Congress, no amendments?


  16. Jackie says:


    Thank you for this helpful CSPIA article. I’ve bookmarked this page and plan on sharing it with my vendors and juvenile products networking club!


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