In August 2008, Congress passed HR 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).
CPSIA grants the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) additional powers and funding to police unsafe products. It was developed in response to widespread recalls of children’s toys and jewelry containing lead.
The law radically changed the way that consumer products are manufactured, particularly children’s products, and presented several obstacles for furniture manufacturers. Five specific provisions contain requirements impacting residential furniture:
- Lead and Phthalates
Section 101 of the CPSIA bans any accessible part of a children’s product that contains lead in excess of 100 ppm as of August 2011. This same provision reduces the level of lead allowed in paint and surface coatings of all household furniture – not just youth furniture – from 600 ppm to 90 ppm.
Section 108 of the CPSIA bans three specific phthalates from children’s products on a permanent basis. For the furniture industry, this means that the plastic parts on cribs, toddler beds and mattresses cannot contain any phthalates.
- General Conformity Certificates
Section 14 of the CPSIA requires that manufacturers and importers of products that are subject to any mandatory standard or regulation must provide retailers with a “certificate of conformity” indicating the product meets those mandatory standards. These certificates of conformity must be based on a “reasonable testing program.” This term was not defined by Congress nor by CPSC, and reasonable testing varies by the type of product, the hazard involved and the volume of production.
Specific mandatory standards applicable to furniture include:
16 CFR 1303 – Lead limits for paint and surface coatings (applies to all furniture)
CPSIA 101(a) – Lead and phthalate limits in children’s products
16 CFR 1213 and 1513 – Federal bunk bed regulations
16 CFR 1508 and 1509 – Federal crib standards
This list is not exhaustive. CPSC provides a searchable database of all mandatory standards and regulations.
Certificates are not required for ASTM or other voluntary consensus standards such as the furniture stability standard, ASTM F2057-2019.
- Third Party Testing
Products intended primarily for use by children 12 and under are subject to a more stringent requirement for third-party testing by an outside lab that is accredited by the CPSC.
In practice, this means that a product such as wood bunk beds for children must undergo third-party testing for both the lead content of finishing materials in 16 CFR 1303, and the head and neck entrapment specifications of 16 CFR 1213.
CPSC has posted the names of accredited testing labs on its website and continues to add new labs as they qualify. Note that under the CPSIA, the in-house labs of suppliers such as coatings producers can obtain third-party accreditation by setting up mechanisms to protect their test results from influence by corporate management.
- Tracking Labels for Children’s Products
Products intended primarily for children 12 and younger require “tracking labels” designed to help consumers identify the manufacturer and to assist CPSC in conducting recalls if necessary.
Beginning in August 2009, items such as cribs and youth bedroom furniture required a permanent label or marking listing basic information, including the manufacturer of the product, the location and date of manufacture, and the batch or run number.
The labels must be “permanent,” meaning that adhesive labels or hangtags are not sufficient. Congress specifically referred to “marks,” which may include numerical codes on file with the Commission. This would allow companies to shield proprietary business information, such as the identity of foreign partners, from casual inspection by competitors.
The final provision within CPSIA that impacts home furnishings companies is the SaferProducts.gov website that makes it easier for consumers to research complaints on specific products. Launched in the spring of 2011, the site allows individuals or groups to file a “report of harm” about a product. CPSC must post the complaints in the public database within 15 days of receiving them. The complaints are searchable both by product type and by manufacturer.
Manufacturers are urged to register with the CPSC so they receive prompt notification if a complaint is filed against them. Although they cannot prevent the complaint from being posted in the public database – even if they suspect the information in the complaint is materially incorrect – they are able to have their response to the complaint posted.