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CPSC Moves to Exempt Unfinished/Untreated Trunk Wood in Toys from Heavy Metal Testing, Issues Extension Cord Safety Rule

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a direct final rule determining that unfinished and untreated trunk wood does not contain heavy elements that would exceed the limits specified in the Commission's toy standard, ASTM F963-11. Based on this determination, which is being issued as part of on-going efforts to reduce testing burdens, unfinished and untreated trunk wood in toys does not require third-party testing for the heavy element limits in that standard.

Toys subject to mandatory standard ASTM F963-11, Consumer Safety Specifications for Toy Safety, must be tested by a CPSC-accepted third-party conformity assessment body and demonstrate compliance with all applicable CPSC requirements for the manufacturer to issue a children's product certificate before the toys can be entered into commerce. Among other things, this standard requires that surface coating materials and accessible substrates of toys that can be sucked, mouthed or ingested comply with the solubility limits on eight heavy elements – antimony (60 parts per million), arsenic (25 ppm), barium (1,000 ppm), cadmium (75 ppm), chromium (60 ppm), lead (90 ppm), mercury (60 ppm) and selenium (500 ppm).

The CPSC previously determined that certain materials do not exceed lead content limits, and therefore those materials do not require third-party testing when used in children's products. With respect to the seven remaining heavy elements, the CPSC has determined that unfinished and untreated trunk wood does not contain these elements in concentrations above their maximum solubility limits. However, the literature reviewed did not provide sufficient information to determine that any of the reviewed materials, other than unfinished and untreated wood, do not contain the heavy elements in concentrations above the limits stated in the toy standard.

The other materials reviewed during this process were bamboo, beeswax, undyed and untreated fibres and textiles (cotton, wool, linen and silk) and uncoated or coated paper (wood or other cellulosic fibre). The CPSC chose these materials for research because they are materials the agency has previously determined not to contain lead in concentrations above 100 ppm and they are more likely to be used in toys subject to the ASTM F963–11 solubility limits.

The CPSC notes that the studies examined during this process showed high levels of one or more of the ASTM heavy elements in portions of trees other than trunks. However, commercial timber harvesting involves the process of "delimbing" the tree to create logs that can be transported and cut at a sawmill or lumberyard. Often, the sawmill creates uniform-length planks from the delivered logs. These planks are then sold to wood wholesalers or retailers and are bought by wooden toy and other manufacturers. Because commercial practice creates logs from only the trunks of harvested trees, the wood available for use in toys and other wooden objects is sourced from these logs, or trunks of trees, and not the other parts of trees that could contain the ASTM elements above the limits in the toy standard.

The direct final rule will enter into force on 15 September unless the CPSC receives significant adverse comment by 17 August. If adverse comment is received, the CPSC will move forward with a parallel notice of proposed rulemaking (input on that proposal may also be submitted by 17 August).

Also of potential interest for Hong Kong and mainland Chinese exporters is a recent final rule specifying that extension cords (both indoor and outdoor use cords) that do not contain one or more of the following readily observable characteristics constitute a substantial product hazard under the Consumer Product Safety Act: (i) minimum wire size; (ii) sufficient strain relief; (iii) proper polarity; (iv) proper continuity; (v) outlet covers (for certain two-wire indoor extension cords); and (vi) jacketed cord (for outdoor extension cords).

The CPSC has determined that these are all readily observable characteristics of extension cords and addressed by a voluntary standard (UL 817), that extension cords sold in the United States substantially comply with this standard, and that conformance with this standard has been effective in reducing the risk of injury from shock and fire associated with these cords.

The final rule applies to indoor and outdoor general-use extension cords that can be used with many different types of electrical appliances. Excluded are detachable power supply cords, appliance cords, power strips and taps, and adaptor cords supplied with outdoor tools and yard equipment.

As a result of this action, effective 26 August (i) covered extension cords will be subject to the reporting requirements of 15 USC 2064(b); (ii) the CPSC could order importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers of violative cords to offer to repair or replace the cord or refund the purchase price to the consumer; and (iii) violative cords will be refused admission into the United States and subject to U.S. Customs and Border Protection seizure and forfeiture.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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