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U.S. safety regulations Add to ...

Do your products meet the requirements of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)? If you export to the United States, it's crucial to understand this legislation.

Signed into law in August, 2008, it amended several existing acts, including the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and the Flammable Fabrics Act.

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Penalties for violating requirements under these pieces of legislation have increased substantially. The maximum civil penalty for individual violations has risen from $5,000 to $100,000, and the maximum combined penalty has grown from $1.25 million to $15 million.

The CPSIA was designed partly to strengthen safety requirements for children's products. It strictly limits the use of lead in children's products and reduces the permissible concentration of phthalates in toys and child-care articles. It also introduces stringent rules for third-party testing of certain children's products. However, the legislation affects manufacturers of many other types of goods as well.

The body that administers the CPSIA is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which Congress created in 1972 to help ensure the safety of consumer products.

The CPSC has jurisdiction over some 15,000 types of consumer products, ranging from battery chargers and toasters to lawn mowers and portable generators. (Some products — such as cars, drugs and pesticides — are controlled by other federal agencies.)

The act requires a manufacturer or importer of any consumer product covered by the legislation to issue a certificate stating that the product complies with the requirements of the CPSIA or related legislation. The issuing organization must base that statement on tests specified in the legislation. The certificate must accompany each product or shipment, and each distributor or retailer of the product must receive a copy.

As well as amending safety requirements for consumer products and boosting penalties for noncompliance, the legislation also strengthens the CPSC. For example, it boosts CPSC funding to more than $136 million by fiscal 2013, which will allow the commission to hire new employees, some of whom will be on duty at U.S. ports of entry.

The legislation also gives the CPSC more authority to order manufacturers to recall unsafe products, and better protects whistleblowers working for manufacturers, distributors, private labellers or retailers. For more details on the CPSIA and its requirements for manufacturers, exporters and importers, see the CPSC web site.

Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.

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