Overview of the CPSIA

On August 14, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The legislation was passed in response to many high-profile recalls of both imported and domestically-produced children’s toys due to excessive levels of lead and other possible toxic chemicals in children’s toys.

The CPSIA greatly expands the authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and regulates potentially hazardous children’s products by establishing safe levels for lead and phthalates (chemicals used to make plastics soft). The new law establishes three requirements that are relevant to printing operations and their customers and they are:

  • Testing and certification of compliance for lead content in all children’s products
  • Testing and certification of compliance for certain phthalates in certain children’s products
  • Inclusion of “tracking labels” on all children’s products

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act defined children’s product as “a consumer product designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger”. The Act also mandated that all product testing be performed at an independent accredited laboratory which means that testing or other assurances provided by suppliers is not acceptable.

Initially, paper, printing inks, adhesives, laminates, etc., thus books were not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). However, under the broad sweeping Act books and other printed matter intended for children 12 years old or younger now fall under the CPSIA guidelines.

Once the Act was passed and the implications were fully understood, BMI became engaged in the process in November of 2008. BMI organized a team of its members and joined with the AAP, PIA, and several associations representing the paper, ink, and adhesive industries to attempt to get ordinary books exempted from the Act. BMI and AAP defined two categories of book product for the CPSC. One category is “ordinary books” which is defined as books and other printed materials that are published on paper or cardboard, printed by conventional printing methods, and intended to be written in or read. This is the category of books for which BMI and AAP are seeking an exemption.

The second category is for books that have inherent play value such as bathtub books, books with toys attached, etc. We are not seeking an exemption for this category.

Starting in November of 2008, the AAP, BMI, and PIA and its member companies began testing for lead on a variety of ordinary books that were recently produced. Raw material suppliers tested their products well knowing in advance that they were virtually lead free. The objective was to determine what lead content existed in the substrate materials as well as the final product. The results of these tests are included in this section of the BMI website.

Based on the results of the testing, the industry coalition petitioned the Commission for a complete exemption of ordinary books. The petition met with some success in that it was confirmed that ink used for printed materials was excluded from the ban on lead-in-paint, but ordinary books would have to meet the new total lead content limits established by the CPSIA. In addition, ordinary books would not be subject to the requirements for phthalates. Books that did have inherent play value would be held to meeting the minimum limits for both lead and phthalate content.

In addition, on August 26, 2009 the CPSC issued its first in what is hoped to be a series of determinations regarding books and other printed matter exemptions from the lead limits. When the CPSC makes a determination, it is declaring that a material does not inherently contain lead or does not contain lead that exceeds the lead content limits. As such any material that is covered by a determination is thus exempt from the lead limits and does not require testing and certification.

The August 26, 2009 CPSC determination established that the following components of books and other printed materials are now exempt from the testing and certification requirements for lead:

  • Paper
  • Any product printed with four color process inks (CMYK)
  • Any product coated with varnish, water-based, or UV-cured coatings
  • Threads used for book binding
  • Animal based glues
  • Adhesives that are not accessible*
  • Binding materials that are not accessible*

Despite the best efforts of Printing Industries, other trade associations, printer members, and suppliers, the CPSC did not include all of the components of books and other printed matter in this determination. The materials that are NOT covered by the August 26, 2009 determination are:

  • Spot or PMS inks
  • Saddle stitching wire
  • Non-animal based glues that are accessible*
  • Metal coils both coated and uncoated for coil bound materials
  • Plastic coils for coil bound materials
  • Foils used in foil stamping
  • Laminates

If a material not covered by the current determination is used in a children’s product, then it must be tested and certified to prove that it does not exceed the lead limit.

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted a stay on testing and certification until December 31, 2011, the combined efforts of the BMI, AAP, PIA, and other trade associations have continued to try to obtain an exemption for the remaining components as well as an outright legislative exemption for ordinary books and other printed materials from the testing requirements of the CPSIA.

On August 1, 2011 the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a compromise bill to amend the CPSIA. This legislation EXCLUDES ORDINARY BOOKS & PAPER-BASED PRINTED MATERIALS from third-party testing and certification under CPSIA (books with “inherent play value” like plastic parts or stuffed animals would still be regulated).

The Senate version of the bill did not exempt books for children 3 years old or less, and also books with play value. In addition, there are other questions to be resolved related to the requirements for GCC’s, reasonable testing programs, and other issues.

On August 8, 2011 the President signed house bill HR 2715 which is an Amendment to the original law. This bill exempts ordinary books and other ordinary printed materials from the testing and certification requirements. An “ordinary book” or other ordinary printed matter is that which is printed on paper or cardboard with inks or toners and bound and finished using a conventional method. Even though testing and certification is not required for ordinary books for children 4-12 years of age, or for books made entirely from exempt materials, the manufacturer is required to produce a product that meets the requirements of the CPSIA.

There are two exceptions where testing and certification continue to be required. One is for product that has “inherent play value”, and secondly for a product produced for children 3 years old or younger. In both of these instances, testing and certification is required before the product can be shipped.

In order to more easily understand when testing is required a decision tree has been designed to help with that thought process. The decision tree is based on the changes in the legislation and contains several definitions that will aid in the understanding of the requirements. Definitions for “Predominately Inherent Play Value”, “Ordinary Book”, “Ordinary Paper Based Printed Materials”, and “Accessible Components” are from the legislation and/or regulations. The definition for “Binding and Finishing in a Conventional Manner” was developed by the committee based on input from a variety of industry and government sources.

Click here to view the decision tree in PDF format