M&E Daily

New Children’s Product Safety Rules: Keys To Compliance

Los Angeles — A new federal law requires manufacturers of products intended to be used by children to certify that the items do not contain paint, coatings, or ink with ink above certain limits, and as of February 10 of next year, the law will require manufacturers of children’s products and toys to certify that their goods fall within limits for the presence of other forms of lead and other potentially harmful chemicals.

To what extent the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which mandates third-party testing and certification for individual product components, applies to the makers of videogames and other entertainment media is still unclear. But with retailers taking a broad approach to compliance, every party in the videogame and DVD supply chain is having to consider how to meet the new rules.

MESA, in conjunction with the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), held an online seminar on Sept. 16 to facilitate dialogue between entertainment content owners, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers on CPSIA compliance. Here are some highlights from presentations by Sean Bersell, EMA’s VP Public Affairs, and Kenny Aldridge, Corporate Compliance Officer of DVD and videogame manufacturer Cinram.

What products the statute covers

CPSIA limits for lead paint, coatings, and ink apply to toys and other products intended to be used by children. The lead content restrictions apply to all products designed or intended primarily for children age 12 or younger, and the limits on phthalates (chemical additives in certain plastics) apply to children’s toys.

EMA has submitted a formal request to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to declare that storage media are not subject to the phthalate restrictions, as game cartridges and DVDs aren’t in and of themselves playthings. Bersell says the CPSC has not yet responded.

The rules also may extend to disc cases and other packaging that consumers retain after purchase, as well as plush items or other bonuses that come with special editions. In determining the intended age range for the product, Bersell notes that the CPSC is more likely to weigh factors such as a product’s use of licensed characters than, say, an industry rating such as T for Teen.

What the law requires

In addition to third-party testing of representative product samples for acceptable lead or phthalate levels, CPSIA will require certificates of “conformity” from every importer, manufacturer, or private labeler of children’s products early next year.

Cinram’s Aldridge, who has helped develop a CPSIA compliance strategy for members of the DEG: Digital Entertainment Group, notes that certificates can be electronic. The replicator’s own packing slips, for example, list a URL where certificates can be viewed.

Product coding and labeling also will facilitate the identification and recall of any contaminated product, Aldridge says. On DVD and Blu-ray discs, Cinram will rely on the proprietary codes that it has long stamped into disc masters. It remains an “open item,” however, whether package suppliers will mold a reference code into plastic cases and jewel boxes, or whether codes can be printed with (lead-free) ink.

Cinram currently tests its products on a quarterly basis, but looks to move to an annual testing program in 2011.

Developing your own process

Aldridge offers several lines of questioning for each company to consider in developing CPSIA compliance. Among the key questions:

•How will your suppliers furnish product certifications to you?

•How many products do you need to test and label yourself?

•How long will it take to test your products a year from now, when every toy manufacturer will presumably be testing as well?

•How will you maintain your testing and certification records to facilitate customer access?

•Have you determined how a product recall would take place?

•Lastly, do you have a different legal interpretation of your product’s CPSIA involvement than your customers?

How to stay informed

The CPSC offers a PDF of the legislation with specific limits and requirements, along with answers to frequently asked questions and updated clarifications, at www.cpsc.gov/ABOUT/Cpsia/cpsia.HTML.

In addition, check www.mesalliance.org and www.entmerch.org for future CPSIA compliance programs specific to entertainment manufacturers and merchandisers.