Capitol Comments

CPSC Issues New Safety Standards for Infant Slings

By Peter G. Mayberry | March 27, 2017

Market disruption feared as smaller manufacturers face new testing requirements.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued new regulations under the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act—Section 104 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) – to promulgate consumer product safety standards for durable infant or toddler products. 

With these new regulations, CPSC is adding infant “sling carriers,” which are often made from nonwovens or include nonwoven components, to the list of durable infant/toddler products that must be tested by third party conformity assessment bodies under the list of Notices of Requirements (NOR) issued by the Commission.

Standards issued under Section 104 of the CPSIA are to be “substantially the same” as any applicable voluntary standards that have already been developed; but can be more stringent if CPSC concludes that’s necessary to reduce the risk of injury associated with the product. 

In the case of infant slings, CPSC turned to ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) which has produced a standard – ASTM F2907-15 that has been revised several times since it was first adopted in 2012 – and applies to “infant slings” and “sling carriers.” The terms are used interchangeably under the standard.

In July, 2014, CPSC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking as to whether ASTM F2097-15 should be incorporated by reference into Section 104 of the CPSIA. Nearly 200 public comments were filed in response to the proposal, and many were negative. Nevertheless, CPSC’s most recent action adopts ASTM F2907-15 as a binding federal requirement with an added a provision intended to make warning labels on these products more permanent.

The new regulations take effect on January 30, 2018 and are expected to have a big impact on an industry that, at present, is largely made up of home-based and micro manufacturing operations expected to have difficulty financing new safety requirement testing and certification. 

Indeed, CPSC notes that many of the 300+ known U.S. manufacturers of infant slings, wraps, and pouches “…generally may not know about the sling carrier voluntary standard or realize they may be subject to existing federal regulations on children’s products, such as the CPSIA regulations on product labeling and registration cards.”

At Issue
CPSC defines a “sling carrier” under the scope of ASTM F2907-15 as “a product of fabric or sewn fabric construction, which is designed to contain a child in an upright or reclined position while being supported by the caregiver’s torso.”

As CPSC further notes, these products are typically intended for children starting from full-term birth until a weight of about 35 pounds. Sling designs vary, the Commission points out, but generally range from “…unstructured hammock-shaped products that suspend from the caregiver’s body, to long lengths of material or fabric that are wrapped around the caregiver’s body.”

According to CPSC, the ability to carry infants in a reclined position is the primary feature that distinguishes sling carriers from soft infant and toddler carriers, and the commission has identified three broad classes of sling carrier products currently available in the U.S.: 
  1. Ring slings are hammock-shaped products made from woven and/or nonwoven fabric, in which one runs the fabric through two rings to adjust and tighten the sling;
  2. Pouch slings are similar to ring slings but do not use rings for adjustment. CPSC says many pouch slings are sized, rather than designed, to be adjustable, while other pouch slings are more structured and use buckles or other fasteners to adjust the size; and
  3. Wrap slings which are generally composed of a long length of fabric up to six yards long and two feet wide. A wrap sling is completely unstructured, according to CPSC, with no fasteners or other means of structure; instead, the caregiver uses different methods of wrapping the material around the caregiver’s body and the child’s body to support the child. 
In preparation for the 2014 proposed rule, CPSC staff has identified 122 “sling carrier-related incidents” that occurred between January, 2003 and late-October, 2013. Since then, the Commission received 37 new reports as of November, 2016 (one fatal and 36 nonfatal) related to sling carriers. All of the injury victims, according to CPSC, were infants ranging in age from one month to 10 months. Among the 13 nonfatal injuries, one required hospitalization for a leg fracture following a fall and a skull fracture was also reported but not verified. Non-hospitalization incidents included closed-head injuries, contusions/abrasions, lacerations/scratches, and skin rash.

While detailed information about the specific test methods contained in ASTM F2907-15 is not readily available, CPSC notes that testing requirements alone will eat up 16-36% of profits earned by the smallest U.S. manufacturers (hand weavers and ring sling producers) while mechanized producers will likely have to dedicate 2.4-4.7% of revenues toward testing costs. “Mass producers,” on the other hand, should expect testing costs to equal less than 1% of revenues according to CPSC.

Overall, in fact, the commission estimates that this final rule will “…have a significant adverse impact on a substantial number of small businesses and could cause numerous small producers to exit (or not to enter) the market. In addition, there may be significant additional impacts on small manufacturers, including the need to provide instructional materials.”

One of the commission’s overall findings? “We cannot rule out the potential for compliance costs to be high enough that they could lead to significant economic impacts, especially for very small manufacturers.” This, of course, could be a market opportunity for larger manufacturers, including nonwovens producers, who are interested in producing child-care products for the U.S. 

For additional information, including copies of all public comments, visit regulations.gov and search under “infant slings.” Otherwise, contact Daniel Dunlap, compliance officer, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 4330 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814; 301-504-7733; ddunlap@cpsc.gov.



Commission Also Seeks Mattress Data
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is requesting information on the materials, components and methods of assembly currently used to comply with the commission’s standard for the Flammability of Mattresses and Mattress Pads (Title 16, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1632) and its standard for the Flammability of Mattress Sets (16 CFR, Part 1633). 

With regard to both standards, CPSC is especially interested in information on the “…benefits and/or concerns related to structure (e.g., knit, woven, nonwoven), fiber content or other factors that may affect” decision making; particularly whether there are any effects on compliance with the Open Flame Standard in the material selection process.

Beyond this, CPSC lays out 11 different areas of interest—several of which have to do with use of “ticking” materials–and specifically requests information regarding “industry experience with the test procedure, apparatus, and materials used in the ticking substitution procedure in the Cigarette Ignition Standard.” 

Additionally, CPSC is interested in the specifications of components used and the availability of specified testing materials for this procedure. 
More information: Lisa L. Scott, fire protection engineer, Laboratory Sciences, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 5 Research Place, Rockville, MD 20850; 301.987.2064; or lscott@cpsc.gov.