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CPSC Proposes Safety Standard for Infant Bath Tubs, Considers Petitions to Ban Supplemental Mattresses for Play Yards and Products Containing Certain Flame Retardants

Infant Bath Tubs. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is proposing a safety standard for infant bath tubs that is based on voluntary standard ASTM F2670-13, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Infant Bath Tubs, with several modifications to strengthen the standard. If this standard is finalised it will be a children's product safety rule that requires the issuance of a notice of requirements to explain how laboratories can become accredited as third-party conformity assessment bodies to test infant bath seats to the new standard. Comments on this proposal are due no later than 28 October.

ASTM F2670-13 defines an infant bath tub as a tub, enclosure or other similar product intended to hold water and be placed into an adult bath tub or sink or on top of other surfaces to provide support or containment, or both, for an infant in a reclining, sitting or standing position during bathing by a caregiver. Falling within this definition are products of various designs, including bucket-style tubs that support a child sitting upright, tubs with an inclined seat for infants too young to sit unsupported, inflatable tubs, folding tubs, and tubs with spa features such as handheld shower attachments and even whirlpool settings. The ASTM standard permits infant bath tubs to have a permanent or removable passive crotch restraint as part of their design but does not permit any additional restraint systems that require action on the part of the caregiver to secure or release. ASTM F2670-13 excludes from its scope products commonly known as bath slings, which are typically made of fabric or mesh.

The CPSC is proposing to modify section 7.1.2 of ASTM F2670-13 (latching or locking mechanism durability) to permit continuous testing of infant bath tub latches through 2,000 cycles. Also under consideration is the addition of an appendix regarding section 7.1.2 to clarify that although the cadence of testing has changed to accommodate a broader variety of infant bath tub designs the intent of the standard is to require continuous testing while maintaining a rate as close to 12 cycles per minute as can reasonably be achieved. The CPSC believes these changes will augment product safety by improving the accuracy, consistency and repeatability of durability testing.

Section 7.4.2 would be changed to require that a 50 pound (22.7 kg) bag of steel shot be used to test infant bath tubs in the required static load testing, rather than a block of high-density polyethylene, which might damage or puncture some tubs. Additionally, the text of this section would be amended to make the required weight equivalent whether stated in pounds or kilogrammes.

Section 8.4 would be modified to require warning statements on infant bath tubs and infant bath tub retail packaging to have prescribed warning language, and for the warning statements to be permanent, conspicuous, in contrasting colour(s), bordered, and in type larger than currently required. Section 8.4 would also require additional warnings for infant bath tubs with suction cups. These changes would be accompanied by exemplar warnings.

Section 9 would be changed to require that instructional literature for infant bath tubs contain new prescribed warnings regarding the risks of drowning or falling, explain the proper use of the product, and emphasise the safety practices stated in the warnings. The instructions would also have to address appropriate temperature ranges for bath water and instruct users to discontinue use of infant bath tubs that become damaged, broken or disassembled. These changes would be accompanied by an exemplar warning.

The CPSC notes that agency staff and ASTM are working to investigate how the observed risks of bath slings should be addressed. In addition, ASTM has formed two task groups to address the risks posed by these products. One group is developing performance requirements for infant slings that can only be used with infant bath tubs, which will be addressed in the infant bath tub standard, while a second group is developing requirements for bath slings that are used separately or as tub accessories, which will be addressed under a separate standard.

Play Yard Mattresses. The CPSC is seeking input by 13 October on a petition requesting a ban on supplemental mattresses for play yards with non-rigid sides, which are currently marketed to be used with non-full-size cribs, play yards, portable cribs and play pens. The petitioner asserts that that these supplemental mattresses should be deemed banned hazardous products because they present an unreasonable risk of injury and death to infants and that no feasible consumer product safety standard would adequately protect infants from this risk. While the current standard (ASTM F406-13, Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Non-Full-Size Baby Cribs/Play Yards) requires each such product to be sold with a mattress provided by the manufacturer with a total thickness not to exceed 1.5 inches and to contain warnings never to add a mattress, the petitioner adds, supplemental mattresses continue to be marketed to consumers for use in portable cribs and play yards.

Products Containing Flame Retardants. Input may also be submitted by 19 October on a petition requesting that several categories of products containing additive organohalogen flame retardants be declared banned hazardous substances under the Hazardous Substances Act. The ban would cover durable infant or toddler products, children's toys, child care articles, other children's products (other than children's car seats), upholstered furniture sold for use in residences, mattresses, mattress pads and electronic devices containing organohalogen flame retardants. The petitioners assert that the targeted chemicals are used extensively in the consumer products categories that would be covered by their rulemaking request. They add that, based on the physicochemical properties of additive organohalogen flame retardants, all such chemicals in this class will migrate out of consumer products and persist in the indoor environment. The petitioners contend that because organohalogen flame retardants are foreign to the human body and inherently toxic due to their physical, chemical and biological properties, human exposure to these chemicals will result in adverse human health impacts.

Pool and Spa Equipment. A third petition is requesting the CPSC to initiate a rulemaking to determine that vacuum diffusion technology is an anti-entrapment system under the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act. Section 1404(c)(1)(A)(ii) of the VGBA requires that each public pool and spa in the United States with a single main drain other than an unblockable drain be equipped, at a minimum, with one or more of the following anti-entrapment devices or systems: (i) safety vacuum release system; (ii) suction-limiting vent system; (iii) gravity drainage system; (iv) automatic pump shut-off system; (v) drain disablement; or (vi) any other system determined by the CPSC to be equally effective as or better than these systems at preventing or eliminating the risk of injury or death.

The petitioner asserts that VDT can help prevent risks of entrapment as a backup layer of protection and serves the same purpose as a safety vacuum release system. VDT is defined as "a system that removes the intense vacuum draw from the intake point of a pumping system by occluding the intake orifice from swimmers and diffusing the vacuum from a potential blockage immediately in multiple directions from the blockage." The petitioner adds that VDT is only effective when the drain cover is missing and acknowledges that it does not protect against full-body entrapment.

Comments of this petition may be submitted by 5 October.

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