Saturday, September 25, 2010

Custom Plush – CPSIA Testing & Compliance

The following is a cross-post by HTA members CurlyQ Cuties, makers of custom plush toys. It is reposted here by permission.

If you’re manufacturing plush, you must make sure the product you’re making is safe.

While this has always been the case, the government has decided — after the lead scares in imported products a few years ago — to legislate a “solution.” If you make a child’s product — as defined by the government, not by you — you must comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. This legislation is quite broad and far ranging. Its implementation was left to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Although 2010 is almost over, the rules resulting from this legislation are still evolving.

If the government decrees your product a children’s product, you better have your ducks in a row. This is not as easy as it sounds. A primary requirement is to understand the legalise (or have an attorney interpret it for you) in the Act and in the CPSC rulings. You must also become familiar with the Federal Register — this is where the official rulings from the CPSC is published.

While we believe we comply in principle with the various requirements of the Act, I’m sorry to say that I don’t personally believe we will ever be in full compliance. Don’t get me wrong — our products are safe. It’s just the Act was not written with small batch toy manufacturers in mind. The particular nature of our products — you select the design — means each product is relatively unique. While the CPSC has provided for some component testing, the guidance they’ve provided in this area is somewhat lacking for our manufacturing scenario.

To further complicate matters, the laboratories “accredited” by the CPSC for CPSIA-related testing each seem to have their own interpretation of CPSIA requirements. We’ve had different labs give us different scenarios (and widely different pricing). This testing stuff isn’t free or cheap and ultimately you, our customer, pays for it.

One lab told us woven textiles must be tested for lead — when the CPSC has published that textiles are exempt from lead testing.

Another lab told us that we’d have to test all of the unique variations of our products. Our custom products are made from a finite number of components each applied in the same way. If you calculated the number of “unique” products we’re capable of making, the number currently runs in the sextillions (10 to the 21st power). If we had enough money to pay for the testing of each of these, we would be on our own tropical island enjoying the sun (and, regretfully, not busy making plush).

After much searching, we found a lab with a representative that we were able to communicate with and who provided sane advice on what testing was considered reasonable. We’ve undertaken lead testing in advance of the third-party lead testing requirements set to go into effect in early 2011 (and which have been twice-delayed by the CPSC). Our products pass third-party accredited lab lead testing (CPSIA Section 101). We comply with the CPSIA’s tracking label requirements (CPSIA Section 103). Our products don’t have plastic components — phthalate testing is not required. Our products comply with the ban on small parts.

In addition to the federal requirements imposed by the CPSIA (and other federal Acts), individual states have begun to impose their own testing requirements. We agree that all products — particularly those used by children — should be safe. The requirements to do so, however, have become quite onerous for our small business (and many others like it). In an era where manufacturing jobs have disappeared en masse overseas (and any job is hard to come by), it boggles my mind that our government is making it more difficult — not less — to manufacture products in the United States.

If you’re thinking about manufacturing plush (or any other children’s product), know in advance what you’re getting yourself into. As a small batch manufacturer, you’re not exempt from any of these regulations. There are a lot of requirements. And fulfilling those requirements costs money.


  1. I am in the same exact situation. In 2011 are they going to require lead testing in fabric??? This is ridiculous!!

  2. Not to worry, uncoated fabrics are not subject to lead testing, even though CurlyQ Cuties was told by one lab that they are. Non-fabric components on a plush toy do require lead testing, however. And, once ASTM rules are finalized by the CPSC, use and abuse testing will be required for all toys. Contact us if you'd like to learn about reduced lead testing fees we've arranged for HTA members with a lab in NH. -Dan

  3. Indeed... to have an CPSIA "accredited" testing lab tell us that fabrics would require lead testing left us speechless. It was a conversation-ender; it clearly communicated the lab wasn't up on the rulings and regulations (as ever-changing as they seem to be). Our concern -- and what ultimately may put us out of business -- is the ASTM use and abuse testing. Given how we construct our products, we'd certainly pass. However, the way the regulations are written, there is no way for us as a one-off manufacturer to have each unique toy use and abuse tested.