The CPSC Takes Questions from eBay Community

Richard Brewer-Hay

I wrote a post back in December regarding eBay banning deadly products and included a conversation I had with U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) spokesperson, Scott Wolfson.

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Since that post a number of emails have come in regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act due to go into effect on February 10, 2009. So much so that it was agreed here internally that a follow-up post was in order. We wanted to get eBay users’ input on the pending changes and questions that could be posed directly back to the CPSC. Griff went out onto the boards and solicited questions and I then went back to Scott and posed them in a phone conversation this past Friday. Granted, when I spoke with Scott the discussion board was three pages deep (it is now twice that) so we couldn’t get to all the questions of course, but here is a breakdown of our discussion. There are many more questions that came into that discussion board so I’ll do my best to possibly do a follow-up to this post in the next couple of days.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for consideration and a huge thanks to Scott for taking the time to sit down with me and answer them. Before I jump into the Q&A though I want to relay some key informative sites that are a wealth of information with regard to the CPSC and the CPSIA.

Toy Safety Publications
CPSC Public Meeting: Apparel
CPSC Public Meeting: Publishers
CPSC Public Meeting: An Overview of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008
SUBSCRIBE to receive all updates related to the CPSIA
Lead and the CPSIA


There is a lot of confusion for the hobby or at-home crafter–even those who do not produce items for children.

• What types of materials are subject to this law, what types are not?
• Are there any more exclusions or exemptions on the horizon or are all home crafters who market items for children being forced to pay thousands for lead tests?

Great place to start. First of all, it is very important that every eBay user understand that this will touch on ANY child’s product that is intended for, or targeted to, children under 12 years of age. The new requirements are much more narrowly focused and clearly defined. For example, next month the new limit on lead in children’s products will be six hundred parts per one million. In August this will drop to three hundred parts per million. Congress has made it pretty clear that they want to “get the lead out” completely and in a few years we’ll be looking at a restriction of 100 parts per million.

With regard to phthalates (a chemical of concern for parents) as of January 1, California was the first state to ban it and there are more to follow. The limit is now 0.1% of that chemical in childcare products (primarily nursing products) and infant products used during play.

I want to stress to the eBay community that up until now, most toy standards have been voluntary. As of February 10, 2009 all toy standards will become mandatory. The new and improved selling and reselling standards are all listed at our website:

Editor’s note: The CPSC did release a statement earlier this month clarifying that “Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.”

Does every item have to be tested, or just a representative sample?

Not every product needs to be tested. The CPSC is currently looking into whether or not it should be a representative sample of the final product or a test of each individual part before it is manufactured. As it stands right now, it applies to a representative sample of the final product.

Having said this, I realize that if you make or sell a one-of-a-kind product, testing could destroy that product and obviously place the maker/seller at an economic disadvantage. This is something to think about when determining whether to test the parts rather than the final product.

How will the CPSC determine what is a children’s item and what is not?

We make this determination by referring to any and all marketing copy associated with a specific product; the age grading applied to said product and we lean heavily on the background knowledge of the CPSC and the child safety community at large.

There are publications that we put out on a regular basis called “Which Toy for Which Age?”. You can see the latest for birth-5 year-olds here and 6-12 year-olds here. For a full list of toy safety publications, click here.

I have a Disney toy made between 1978 and 1983 that has never been tested for lead or phthalates since I received it as a gift as a youngster. I would now like to sell it on eBay to a Disney collector (must be 18 per eBay rules). I have no idea if the buyer will use it in his collection or hand it to his child. Can I sell it without testing if for lead or phthalates without being found guilty of a felony under CPSAI?


First of all it would not have to be tested for lead if the seller and buyer have an agreement that it will be added to a collection. Without that agreement, the lead testing requirement would come into play. It should be pointed out that there has been a law on the books for 30 years that states that lead paint could not be applied to children’s toys and we were relatively incident free until about 4 or 5 years ago when there was a wave of recalls regarding lead paint. I would also see if that particular Disney toy has undergone testing already – and whether or not the the toy was made with no more than 600 parts lead per million. Phthalates would not apply retroactively.

Libraries across the country realize they don’t comply and are working with general counsel of CPSC. Will sellers here be able to sell any kind of used book manufactured prior to 2/10/2009 or will they also have to be tested for lead?

This question is incredibly timely because we held a public hearing on Thursday, January 22 with the publishing industry regarding how the law applies currently. The participants discussed lead content limits and testing requirements and how it applies to everything in the publishing business. Each aspect of publishing, from the ink in the books to the binding and paper, etc. Book sellers were represented very well in this meeting and we’ll know more soon. You can view the video of that meeting here.

Does this law apply to doll’s clothes?

Yes, the law does apply to doll’s clothes because of the interaction with children.

Does this law really intend to shut down sales of hand crafted doll clothes? For those of us who make doll (or kid’s) clothes, the testing process would not only destroy the outfit, it would be cost prohibitive.

This was the focus of the second public meeting we held on January 22. It was with the apparel industry and they talked about manufacturing of children’s clothing (which could extend to doll clothing). Scientific presentations were made from a number of industry representatives regarding yarn, cotton, manufacturing in general, etc. You can see all of the presentations here.

Are vintage electronic toys (like old Atari game consoles) that are likely to contain lead solder banned from any sort of resale under this law?

The law allows CPSC to exempt certain electronics products from testing if it can be proven that the lead in the product (most likely the soldering) is inaccessible by children under 12 (ie. covered by casing or sealed).