Thursday, October 8, 2009

CPSIA Component-Based Testing: a Day Late and a Dollar Short

On January 30, 2009, the CPSC stopped accepting comments on third-party testing of component parts under Section 102 of the CPSIA with a promise that guidance would be issued soon.

Nine months later, we are still waiting for them to issue rules that would allow component testing. With only 4 months left until third party testing becomes mandatory for all children's products, this delay is becoming less and less acceptable.

The Handmade Toy Alliance sent comments on component testing to the CPSC on December 30, 2008. We told the CPSC, "The use of component testing would allow many of us to remain in business, while adhering to the current regulations outlined in the CPSIA." Ten months later, we have still not received a reply.

Why is component testing important? Consider the lowly zipper. Without component testing, every pillow, pair of pants, dress, or kid's purse that uses a given style of zipper would have to test every zipper tooth, stop, and pull on every finished SKU. That's right--the same zipper under current CPSC guidance must be tested over and over by different manufacturers, once for every finished product type in which it is used.

With component testing, the zipper manufacturer can test and certify that the zipper meets lead content limits so that everyone who makes something with that zipper won't have to pay to test it again. The savings to small businesses are exponential.

Also, component testing would force CPSIA compliance upstream in the product supply chain, which would improve the safety of finished products for all consumer goods, not just CPSIA-regulated children's products. Manufacturers of paint, varnish, snaps, zippers, polyurethane laminate, hinges, screws, and velcro will all have an economic incentive to test and certify their materials.

Even consumer groups and Congressional leaders who fight against a technical amendment of the CPSIA have argued that component-based testing would solve many of the CPSIA's "implementation issues". Indeed, on January 16, 2009, CPSIA authors Henry Waxman, Bobby Rush, John D. Rockefeller and Mark Pryor wrote to the CPSC:
We encourage the Commission to move more quickly in consideration of [component testing]...The Commission must provide clearer guidance on this issue, and it must do so with greater speed than it has exhibited thus far. We do not believe that reaching a decision by August 2009 represents a sufficiently timely resolution of this issue.
And yet, here we are in October 2009 with no ruling on component testing in sight.

At this point, even if component testing were allowed as of tomorrow morning, it will be too late for many small businesses. The 2/10/10 deadline for third party testing is fast approaching and manufacturers are already buying materials now that they will still be using to make products after that deadline. Even though small-batch manufacturers have been working together to create a directory of CPSIA-Compliant materials, without CPSC-issued regulations we have little power to force suppliers to test and certify. Why would a zipper company spend money to test its zippers if the law doesn't justify it?

So, how can a useful component-based testing regulation be put in place in less than four months?

It can't.

The CPSC has stated that they do not plan to extend the one year stay of enforcement on testing requirements beyond 2/10/10. But, because of their lack of action on component-based testing, the only fair and workable solution will be to grant a further extension of the stay.

Common sense delayed is common sense denied.

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear, Dan! You are right on. Notably, Nancy Nord wrote in her statement of January 30 approving the testing stay: "The stay will give the CPSC time to develop and issue rules defining responsibilities of manufacturers, importers, retailers, and testing labs. It will give the Commission time to rule on exemptions and exclusions from the lead provisions and develop and put in place appropriate testing protocols. It will give staff time to develop an approach to component parts testing, given the ambiguity of the statute on this point."

    That was 252 days ago. Hmmm, a DAY LATE indeed. More like 250 days and counting. Not their problem really . . . just ours.