We've recently been challenged about our claims regarding the true costs of testing and whether our cost range of $300-$4,000 is correct. So, let's explore this topic a little closer.
First, some consumer groups seem to believe that clothes, wood products, and books have been exempted from testing requirements. In fact, this is not correct. Fabric, untreated woods and post-1985 books have been rendered exempt by the CPSC [pdf]. However, most clothing has some other notion on it, such as a button, snap, zipper, Velcro, etc., that would make the end product subject to the third party testing regulation. Wood that has paint or a finish on it or has exposed components such as screws or hinges must also undergo testing. Books printed prior to 1985 must be tested for lead. And, all toys must be tested for ASTM F963 (physical and mechanical tests) compliance. Although the CPSC's exemptions are helpful, we are hardly out of the woods. Most of our members will still be required to third party test for their products that are lead free.
And, although there have been non-toxic dyes and paints on the market for some time, they are not pre-empted from testing by the CPSC. Indeed, the testing requirements on paints and dyes are more stringent. Once paint, varnish, or any other surface treatment such as a silkscreen is applied to wood or fabric, the end product must be tested. One would hope that the CPSC would allow the common sense approach of component based certification, which would allow us to rely on testing of material components instead of finished products, but the CPSC has not yet approved this.
We have also heard consumer groups claim that the average cost per toy test is as low as $75. We agree this would be a more manageable fee, but reality again proves more severe. There may be a misunderstanding as to the type of testing that we are quoting. We are referring to third party testing in a CPSC certified laboratory. This is digestive testing, which destroys the sample, not XRF scanning of the product which keeps the sample intact (a method that we advocate). It should be noted that once the stay of enforcement ends on 2/10/10, digestive batch testing by a certified lab will be the ONLY approved testing method.
The oft-cited figure of $75 per test is actually the approximate cost of a digestive lead test on a single element of a product. Each zipper, button, screw, color of paint, or piece of trim is considered a separate element and each must be tested for lead. Each size or color of a toy is also considered a different product and must also undergo the same test even if the materials are the same. So, the cost of CPSIA-certified lead testing increases quickly depending upon the design of the product and how many tests it requires. Also, toys must be tested for phthalates and ASTM conformity, which can be even costlier to perform. And, under section 102(d)(2)(B) of the CPSIA, testing must be repeated, possibly as frequently as every year. We stand behind our estimates of $300 - $4,000 per item for CPSIA-compliant testing.
We strongly believe that this cost burden is untenable for small manufacturers. We recognize that toy safety is important and testing is a good tool to assure that consumers have access to safe toys, but we advocate a testing requirement that allows for XRF testing, component based certification and a reasonable ASTM test without driving the most conscientious, innovative and unique manufactures out of business. We are not against testing, just against redundant and burdensome testing.
XRF testing for lead would be much more affordable. In fact, a great majority of our members have utilized this technology in order to continue selling their product during the stay. The CPSC uses this methodology regularly as a screening technique and deemed it a “reasonable testing protocol”.
We also advocate for component based certification. This way, all of the raw materials that we utilize in our product lines would be tested prior to coming into our studios, thereby enhancing compliance up the supply stream. Manufacturers could then use these certifications to prove compliance under the law. Unfortunately, this is not written into the CPSIA. Nor has the CPSC ruled that these methodologies are compliant with the CPSIA.
Our goal at the Handmade Toy Alliance has always been to find a way to verify the safety of children's products without driving small manufacturers out of business. We still do not believe that most consumer groups want our businesses to fail, and we again call on them to join us in an honest discussion that begins with a realistic understanding of the issues posed by the CPSIA.