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Hearing Helps Decipher New Law

Published October 2, 2008

BETHESDA, MD (BRAIN)—A five-hour public hearing held by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Thursday cleared up some of the confusion surrounding how the bicycle industry will comply with the new product safety law, but questions still remained after the marathon meeting.

About 200 people, mostly attorneys and representatives from toy manufacturers, gathered at the CPSC headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, for the meeting, which included a presentation from CPSC staff and an hour-and-a-half question and answer period.

Thom Parks, vice president of corporate affairs for Easton-Bell, was one of a few people from the bike industry who was able to sign up to attend the meeting before registration closed.

Parks said the Commission clarified the Nov. 12 deadline for manufacturers to provide a certificate of compliance with CPSC standards for all products primarily intended for children 12 and younger. The deadline applies to products manufactured on or after that date.

“We were fearful that products coming through Customs had to have that certificate (by Nov. 12), but they made it very clear it was products manufactured after that date,” Parks said.

Parks also learned that testing for the presence of phthalates, plastics banned by the new law in concentrations of more than .1 percent, applies only to children’s toys or products perceived to have play value. That doesn’t include bikes, bikes helmets, pumps or locks, but could affect streamers or honk horns on some kids’ bikes, in Bell’s case.

“There are going to be very few products that are considered toys that bike shops traditionally sell,” he said.

The law states that an independent laboratory must test lead levels in paint and substrate for all products intended for children 12 and younger by Nov. 12.

Because that’s such a time crunch, the Commission gave manufacturers a bit of wiggle room, saying they needed to have a reasonable testing program in place, which could include using in-house lab, by that date, Parks said.

Third party testing will be required as of Dec. 21. Manufacturers will be permitted to use well-known labs that have applied for accreditation, as they will likely be grandfathered in once they receive the stamp of approval from the Commission.

A list of labs that have already been approved is on the CPSC Web site. Wait times for testing is likely to be upwards of 45 days, so Parks recommends manufacturers don’t waste any time getting in line to have their SKUs tested.

Along with testing for lead and phthalates, manufacturers will also need to supply certification for other products the CPSC oversees. For the bike industry, this includes bikes and bike helmets for all ages; however, testing for adult products can be done in-house and doesn’t need to be outsourced.

Although some questions were answered on Thursday, there are still several unknowns regarding logistics of the certification process, such as whether certifications can be provided electronically or if they need to be paper copies. Also, if a shipping container holds several different SKUs, it’s unclear whether each product will need its own certificate.

Parks suggests manufacturers check the CPSC Web site, www.cpsc.gov, for updates every few days as more information pertaining to interpretation of the law is being posted regularly. The CPSC has three additional public hearings scheduled on the topic. All-terrain vehicles will be covered on Oct. 16; lead on Nov. 6; and phthalates on Dec. 4.

The Consumer Product Safety Information Act of 2008 quickly passed Congress this summer and was signed into law in August. The stiffer legislation followed a series of high-profile toy recalls in 2007.

—Nicole Formosa

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