Ceramic Decorating / Decorating Ceramics / Columns

CERAMIC DECORATING: Product Safety Updates

March 1, 2011
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A new online consumer product safety database was recently launched at www.SaferProducts.gov. Although the database is required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), which is best-known for regulating lead content in children's products, it can be used to report complaints against any consumer product.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) database allows anyone to go to the website and file a report alleging an unsafe or potentially hazardous consumer product. The only comparable database in the federal government is the site for complaints about unsafe cars at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The CPSC must send consumer reports to manufacturers within five days of filing. Manufacturers can respond with comments and may request that their comments appear with the report in the database. All of this information will be visible and searchable online.

The CPSC must put reports in the database within 10 days after submitting them to the manufacturer, unless the agency agrees that the report is inaccurate. Even if the manufacturer has reviewed the reports and sent objections to the CPSC in time, the CPSC staff is under no legal obligation to resolve the issues raised by the comments before the report is included in the database. If the CPSC has not completed its analysis, or if it disagrees with the manufacturer, the complaint goes public.

All manufacturers or private labelers of consumer products are encouraged to pre-register with CPSC to receive timely online access to reports submitted about their products. A company account will allow the CPSC to contact the company when incident reports are received; an account will also permit the company to comment on the reports. Should companies fail to pre-register, they will face the possibility of not being notified.

Rosario Palmieri, vice president for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and coordinator of the CPSIA Coalition, faulted the rule's definition of who is eligible to post on the database. "The new definition includes attorneys, investigators, professional engineers, agents of a user of a consumer product, observers of the consumer products being used, consumer advocates, and consumer advocacy organizations, among others," he said. "As a result, the database will be filled with bogus reports inspired by political or financial motives rather than safety."

Dissenting commissioner Nancy Nord warned that the absence of strict deadlines for complaint review could mean that unverified criticisms of a product reproduced electronically might end up in wide circulation and unfairly tarnish a manufacturer's reputation. Nord and Commissioner Anne Northrup voted against the rule but were overruled by the three majority commissioners.

SGCDpro Approaches CPSC for Testing Standard

The Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorated Products (SGCDpro) recently approached the CPSC for guidance on working with ASTM International to develop approved standards for testing glass and ceramic decorated products. SGCDpro recognizes that the current consumer test methods associated with the CPSIA are not appropriate methods for decorated glass and ceramics, as they involve crushing the item to determine lead content.

SGCDpro has recommended a leaching test-similar to the Massachusetts test-for use in federal consumer testing. SGCDpro is also seeking guidance on leaching limits, which differ from overall content limits since glass and ceramic decoration is vitrified and cannot be removed or scraped off of the product. The proposal to the CPSC and further updates can be viewed at www.sgcd.org.

SIDEBAR: CPSC Extends Stay on Testing

The CPSC voted on January 31 to extend the stay of enforcement on the testing and certification of total lead content in children's products through December 31, 2011. This is welcome news to manufacturers and decorators who have yet to receive clear guidance from the agency. The National Association of Manufacturers worked with SGCDpro and other industry groups to influence this decision.

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