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CPSC Looks to Reduce Testing Burdens, Releases Phthalates Guidance



New fuel economy standards could create nonwovens opportunities.



By Jessica Franken, Director of Government Affairs & Dawnee Giammittorio, Associate Director of Government Affairs, INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry



Published October 8, 2012
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The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was scheduled to meet October 3 to consider recommendations to alleviate the burdens of the third-party testing requirements for children’s products imposed by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). Significant third-party testing and certification rules became effective January 1, requiring manufacturers and importers of children’s products to demonstrate that goods made after December 31, 2011 complied with toy safety standards, bans on phthalates and limits on total lead content and lead in paint.

An August 2011 law designed to “fix” the CPSIA included a provision requiring commission staff to look for ways to ease the testing requirements on manufacturers. As directed, the CPSC solicited feedback from stakeholders on ways to improve the third-party testing rules. Based on this input, the CPSC staff compiled a list of 11 recommended actions the commission could take to ease the costs of compliance without compromising safety.

Some of the recommendations, including suggestions to increase educational programs so manufacturers avoid inadvertent duplicate testing, and plans to expand approved third-party assessment laboratories, appear straightforward and should be easy to adopt. Other ideas like eliminating periodic testing plan requirements for firms that do not periodic test and exploring how information technology can address administrative costs of testing also seem like no-brainers.

Meanwhile, other staff recommendations call upon the commission to explore the feasibility of changes that could significantly reduce testing burdens. For example, staff suggests CPSC look into expanding the list of materials exempt from testing because they’ve been shown not to contain eight targeted heavy metals or phthalates (similar to a list that CPSC uses for the 100 ppm lead standard). The staff also proposes considering new lead content determinations for adhesives used in manufactured wood and for materials deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for inclusion in food, allowing de minimis testing exemptions for lead paint and phthalates and creating a list of equivalent international standard tests that could be considered compliant under the CPSIA. 

Two of the recommendations involve changing the current testing scheme: one by linking a low risk of noncompliance with a longer periodic testing interval and another by allowing a production-volume option, for low volume products, for periodic testing instead of scheduled intervals. The staff also suggests CPSC consider allowing Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT IR) to show compliance with phthalates prohibitions. The final recommendation is for the commission to seek legal authority from Congress to allow certification of a manufacturing process to be an acceptable method of satisfying the third-party testing requirements rather than requiring additional third-party testing of the finished children’s product.

Congress gave the CPSC a deadline of January 2013 to consider changes to reduce the burdens of third-party testing. However, do not expect relief from the testing rules immediately as the CPSC is not obligated to make any changes, and many of the staff’s 11 recommendations require further research before they can be implemented or Congressional action can be taken.

The CPSC staff briefing package can be found at: www.cpsc.gov/LIBRARY/FOIA/FOIA12/brief/reduce3pt.pdf.

CPSC Releases Guidance on Phthalates

CPSC issued a proposed guidance on July 31 concerning when and how component parts of children’s toys and child care articles are regarded as “inaccessible” and thus exempt from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act’s phthalate prohibitions.

Similar to the commission’s interpretive rule defining inaccessible component parts with respect to lead content, the phthalates guidance holds that paints, coatings and electroplating are not considered barriers to components containing phthalates, although the agency notes it is seeking input as to whether these materials could ever be an effective barrier. Fabric coverings that have passed the appropriate use and abuse tests, meanwhile, will be considered an effective barrier provided that the phthalate containing component is not capable of being placed in a child’s mouth and does not have one dimension that measures smaller than 5 centimeters. Under the proposal, fabric coverings will not be considered an adequate barrier for vinyl (or other plasticized material) covered mattresses/sleep surfaces that contain phthalates that are intended for children three and younger.

CPSC accepted comments on the proposed guidance prior to October 1. To read the proposal, go to www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-07-31/pdf/2012-18620.pdf.

New Fuel Economy Requirements

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a final rule on August 28 that increases the average fuel economy requirements for cars and light-duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The rule applies to vehicles for model years 2017 through 2025 and is expected to almost double fuel efficiency and slash greenhouse gas emissions.

To achieve the new standards, EPA and NHTSA said automakers will need to employ a range of efficient and advanced technologies to transform their vehicle fleets, including “advanced gasoline engines and transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, lower tire rolling resistance, improvements in aerodynamics, diesel engines, more efficient accessories and improvements in air conditioning systems.”

To support the use of advanced technologies, the rule includes incentives for manufacturers to produce more electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles and hybridized full-size pickup trucks. Taken together, the rule could create new opportunities for manufacturers of nonwoven separators used in hybrid car batteries and other components that can improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles. For more information, including a link to the final rule, visit: www.nhtsa.gov/fuel-economy.