CPSIA Exemption List for Lead and Phthalates in Children's Toys

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) significantly strengthens the Consumer Product Safety Commission's power of product safety enforcement. The act also brings greater restrictions against the potential contamination of toys and children's products by harmful substances, specifically lead and phthalates.

Consumer safety is the abiding concern for this act, and every measure outlined by the law should be followed to ensure market compliance, including all mandatory third-party testing requirements. However, to prevent the unnecessary use of third-party testing for substances not known to contain harmful lead and prohibited phthalates, the commission has created a list of material exemptions to save manufacturers and importers time and money on unnecessary testing.

Lead Limit Requirements

Children's products manufactured in or imported into the United States must not contain more than 100 parts per million (ppm) of total lead content in accessible parts and components. Lead limits in paints and surface coatings are even lower: less than 90 ppm (0.009 percent).

Manufacturers and importers of children's products are required to commission third-party testing to verify compliance with these lead limits.

List of Lead Testing Exemptions from Third-Party Testing (CPSIA 101(a))

The commission has determined that certain classes of products do not naturally contain lead and should not be required to undergo third-party testing -- "provided that these materials have neither been treated or adulterated with the addition of materials that could result in the addition of lead into the product or material."

  • Precious gemstones: diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, etc.
  • Semi-precious gemstones and other minerals, provided that the substance is not based on lead or lead compounds, either through production or by nature.
  • Natural or cultured pearls.
  • Wood, including untreated and unfinished engineered wood products such as particle board, plywood and certain types of fiberboard.
  • Paper and similar materials made from wood or other cellulosic fiber (paperboard, linerboard, etc.).
  • CMYK process printing ink, not including inks which are not part of the material's substrate or inks used in after-treatment applications (screen prints, transfers, decals, or other prints).
  • Certain textiles:
    • Natural fibers (cotton, kapok, flax, linen, jute, ramie, hemp, kenaf, bamboo, coir, sisal, silk, wool (sheep), alpaca, llama, goat (mohair, cashmere), rabbit (angora), camel, horse, yak, vicuna, qiviut, guanaco).
    • Manufactured fibers (rayon, azlon, lyocell, acetate, triacetate, rubber, polyester, olefin, nylon, acrylic, modacrylic, aramid, spandex).
  • Plant and animal-derived materials (animal glue, beeswax, seeds, nut shells, flowers, bone, seashell, coral, amber, feathers, fur, leather).
  • The following metals and alloys which do not exceed the lead content limits under section 101(a) of the CPSIA:
    • Surgical steel and other stainless steel within the designations of the Unified Numbering System, UNS S13800-S66286.
    • Precious metals: Gold (at least 10 karat); sterling silver (at least 925/1000); platinum; palladium; rhodium; osmium; iridium; ruthenium, titanium.

Lead Testing Exemptions for Children's Clothing

The preceding CPSIA exemption list covers a great deal of the materials and components included in children's clothing. In accordance with the CPSC's 2009 lead ruling, most fabrics, threads, and yarns, dyed or natural, do not require third-party verification. Components and buttons made from substances such as wood, bone, nut, and leather are also exempt (provided they aren't treated with a non-exempt coating).

Metal and plastic parts such as zippers, grommets, eyelets, and rivets still require third-party testing, as do 'after treatments' such as screen prints, transfers, decals and other print forms.

Phthalate Prohibition Requirements

As of April 25, 2018, the CPSIA effectively prohibited the use of eight different phthalates for use in children's toys and child care products in excess of 0.1 percent. The phthalate prohibition list is as follows:

  • di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP),
  • dibutyl phthalate (DBP),
  • benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP),
  • diisononyl phthalate (DINP),
  • diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP),
  • di-n-pentyl phthalate (DPENP),
  • di-n-hexyl phthalate (DHEXP), and
  • dicyclohexyl phthalate (DCHP).

Third party testing is required for all plasticized component parts in children's toys and child care articles, but is not required for certain materials known not to contain phthalates.

List of Phthalate Testing Exemptions from Third-Party Testing (16 CFR §1308.2)

The CPSC has determined that children's toys and child care articles made with the following seven plastics are exempt from prohibited phthalate testing:

  • polypropylene (PP),
  • polyethylene (PE),
  • high-impact polystyrene (HIPS),
  • acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS),
  • general-purpose polystyrene (GPPS),
  • medium-impact polystyrene (MIPS), and
  • super-high-impact polystyrene (SHIPS).

Ensure All Toy Products Follow Third-Party Testing Requirements

Whether or not your children's products require third-party testing for harmful lead levels or prohibited phthalates, it's important to make absolutely sure that the materials that go into the manufacture of your product are safe for use.

QIMA provides full-service lab testing and factory inspection, including Quality Assurance consultation at the design stage of product development, so your testing strategy conforms with all applicable national and international standards.

Although the CPSC provides exemptions from third-party testing concerning excessive lead and prohibited phthalates, the responsibility to ensure safety compliance is ultimately yours as a manufacturer or importer. Partnering with an experienced lab service like QIMA can help you establish and maintain safe, compliant practices throughout the manufacturing process.

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