CPSC General Counsel Clarifies Distributor Responsibilities for Children's Apparel
Ever since the early years of our industry there aren't many promotional products distributors who would describe themselves as manufacturers. But under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the majority of promotional products distributors—at least those who buy blank apparel from a wholesaler and then send it out to have it decorated—are just that, manufacturers in the eyes of the law. Now for the first time, as a follow-up to questions posed at PPAI's Product Safety Summit this past August in New Orleans, the General Counsel of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has put in writing exactly how the senior staff at the Commission regards the responsibilities of distributors who decorate. This written guidance doesn't change anything from the Commission's perspective but it might surprise many distributors to learn of the extent of their responsibilities under the law.
The issue we're discussing is related to children's apparel—T-shirts, baseball uniforms or sweat shirts, among others—and the amount of lead that might become part of these garments through the inks or other surface coating materials that are used in the decoration process. Current law limits this lead content to no more than 90 parts per million (ppm) for any "articles intended for use by children."
So how does a distributor become a manufacturer when they don't manufacture the garment? According to discussions with the Commission, the original manufacturer of the garment is responsible for compliance of the garment as they sell it, whether blank or decorated. If it is a children's product—often obvious with apparel because of children's sizes—the garment manufacturer must comply with all the provisions of CPSIA for lead in the substrate of the product (100 ppm) and lead in any paint or surface coating (90 ppm). This manufacturer must provide a permanent tracking label on the garment as well.