Updated Toy Safety Standard Takes Effect June 12. New Tests Required!
If you import children's toys, or if you're a promotional products supplier with children's toys in your line, effective tomorrow you'll need to comply with an update to the mandatory Federal Toy Safety Standard. Among other changes, this revision (ASTM F963-11) adds limits for the soluble amount of eight metals (antimony, arsenic, lead, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and selenium) permitted in toy substrates. The change is effective for toys manufactured or imported after June 12, 2012 for children 14 years of age or younger.
The ASTM F963 Toy Safety Standard used to be voluntary. But in 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) made ASTM F963 a mandatory standard. At that time, the current version of the Toy Safety Standard was F963‑07 with the "07" signifying the year that the latest revision was adopted. Since then, CPSC has voted to adopt two newer revisions—one issued in 2008 and the latest in December 2011. In February 2012, the Commission announced in the Federal Register its decision to adopt ASTM F963-11 effective as of June 12, 2012.
For the moment, the law requires you to comply with every provision of the new standard—including the 2011 changes—but doesn't require you to use a CPSC certified third-party lab to test for the 2011 changes. The reason is that the Commission has not yet voted to adopt recently proposed rules for third party laboratories which it published in the Federal Register on May 24, 2012. Comments on these proposed rules are not due until August 7, 2012.
If you have another reliable way to verify compliance for the F963-11 changes—perhaps by testing with an XRF instrument—you could avoid, until CPSC adopts the new rules, the cost of testing the 2011 updates at a third-party lab. However, this waiver only applies to the F963-11 changes. You'll still need a test from a CPSC certified third-party laboratory for the portions of ASTM F963-11 that are "functionally equivalent" to F963-08.
The risk of third-party testing now for the new requirements of F963-11 is that when the proposed rules are finally adopted by CPSC, the lab you choose may not be accredited for the new requirements and you will have to retest at an approved lab. In my opinion, this is a very minor risk compared to the risk of not having an independent test confirming that your toy complies with the new requirements.
CPSC addressed this in an FAQ on its website:
In the event that a manufacturer or importer wishes to have its products tested now—in the hope that testing to the -11 version eventually will be accepted by the CPSC—that manufacturer or importer should check with its current CPSC-accepted laboratory to see if they will be applying to the CPSC for acceptance of the -11 version. If so, and if the lab satisfies other conditions spelled out in the draft document, then the Commission likely will accept that testing upon its approval of the new Notice of Requirements. (This is not a guarantee of the Commission's action, but the Commission traditionally has permitted acceptance of such testing, provided that all the other conditions are satisfied.)
It's always a treacherous scenario in our industry when the law requires strict compliance with a set of standards but doesn't require third-party testing. For one thing, it places an extra burden on distributors—to verify that the toys they're purchasing are compliant with the new standard if the supplier or factory does not have a third party lab report verifying compliance.
My advice is to not buy any toy that is imported or manufactured after June 12, 2012 unless you get a report from well-known third-party laboratory verifying compliance with all the provisions of ASTM F963-11.
For promotional products distributors who maintain test reports in their files of children's toys they order frequently, or for those who have children's toys in company stores or in other co-op programs, be sure to go back to your supplier for an updated test report.
The full text of the FAQ from the CPSC website can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov/info/toysafety/plain.html.