Product safety & compliance

A Quick Guide to CPSIA Compliance for Manufacturers and Retailers

Enacted in 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is a United States federal law that upholds safety standards for consumer products, with a particular focus on children’s products.

Enacted in 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is a United States federal law that upholds safety standards for consumer products, with a particular focus on children’s products.

Hailed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as a “landmark consumer product safety law,” the CPSIA was created with one goal in mind: safety. Its mandate is to greatly reduce the number of child injuries or deaths by imposing strict consumer product safety rules on items intended for use by anyone under the age of 12.

Which products does the CPSIA regulate?

The list of products regulated by the CPSIA includes—but is not limited to—toys, clothing and footwear, jewelry, school and stationary items, furniture for children, toddler products such as walkers, and cribs and strollers.

CPSIA regulates not only harmful chemicals such as lead content and phthalate content (phthalates being chemicals that soften plastics); regulations also apply to products regarding durability, usability, and safety. For example, blankets with a too-loose weave have been known to cause risks of strangulation in infants. Recently, the CPSIA also introduced new mandatory standards to help prevent furniture tip-over, including stability testing and minimum stability requirements for dressers, wardrobes, etc.

CPSIA compliance via third-party testing

For a regulated product to be CPSIA compliant, it must be tested by a CPSC-approved third-party laboratory where product samples undergo a variety of safety tests including flammability testing, testing for hazardous substances including heavy metals and cadmium, stuffing material cleanliness, battery testing, and as mentioned above, tests to ensure non-harmful levels of lead and phthalates.

Typically, third-party laboratories also provide additional certifications that meet other regulatory testing requirements, ASTM F963 being one example.

If a product passes inspection, it will be issued a Children Product Certificate (CPC) or General Certificate of Conformity (GCC). Importers/retailers must have any certificates readily available as proof of compliance in the event of an investigation or audit.  

Product vendor responsibilities regarding CPSIA compliance

Product vendors (manufacturers, importers, and private labelers) are primarily responsible for ensuring the products they manufacture or import are CPSIA-compliant, meaning they meet all safety standards and are not subject to product recalls.

As outlined above, most products regulated by the CPSIA must pass rigorous testing by accredited third-party labs before being allowed into the United States. Additional safety standards may apply to regulated products, such as those found in the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) for toys or in the Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA) for clothing.

In addition to ensuring product compliance with all safety standards, product vendors must also provide accurate and complete information about their products, both to the CPSC and to consumers. Product information includes tracking that can be used to pinpoint the source of a product and its “journey” throughout the supply chain.

Product vendors are also obligated to report any potential safety issues or defects to the CPSC and fully cooperate with product recalls or other corrective actions.

Retailer/wholesaler responsibilities regarding CPSIA compliance

Wholesalers and retailers are not directly responsible for ensuring products they sell comply with consumer product safety standards.

However, the CPSIA does ascribe certain obligations to retailers. For one, retailers or wholesalers cannot sell any product that is subject to a recall or does not comply with applicable safety standards. Retailers or wholesalers must also report any information they receive indicating that a product may not be fit for sale—either in violation of product safety standards or presenting an unreasonable risk of injury.

Wholesalers and retailers must also maintain records of products they sell, including information about the manufacturer, the importer, the date(s) and qualities of product sold, and any required certifications. If required, these records must be made available to the CPSC.

For CPSIA-regulated products, wholesalers and retailers must ensure CPSIA compliance; failure to comply or cooperate with CPSIA directives can mean significant civil penalties (fines), loss of brand reputation, and potential insolvency/bankruptcy as consumers may hesitate to purchase from a company whose products fail to meet safety standards.

Creating a CPSIA compliance framework

While manufacturers hold the majority of responsibility regarding CPSIA compliance, retailers can and should work with manufacturers to document the compliance process and create a compliance framework, as outlined below:

  • Understand CPSIA requirements

Manufacturers and retailers alike must become intimately familiar with CPSIA requirements, including any updates and amendments. This includes safety standards, certification requirements, and labeling and reporting requirements.

  • Establish a compliance program

Once requirements are clear, introducing internal policies and procedures can ensure CPSIA compliance—and additional peace of mind. A compliance program might include a reliable system for tracking and documenting compliance, compliance training for employees, and clearly outlined processes for how to respond to recalls and other compliance issues.

  • Meet CPSIA requirements through testing

As required by federal law, products regulated by the CPSIA must be tested by CPSIA-accepted testing laboratories. On the CPSC website, companies are able to search for testing laboratories and find the one(s) that meet product testing requirements.

  • Store and update compliance records

In the event of an audit or investigation by the CPSC or other regulatory parties, manufacturers and retailers must supply all records, including test results, additional certifications, tracking information, etc.

The Consumer Federation of America describes the impact of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act as “groundbreaking”, as it endowed the CPSC with “the necessary authority to enforce product safety laws”, introduced new safety codes and manufacturing standards on products for children, and created a consumer-driven reporting database ( to increase transparency and accountability for retailers and manufacturers.

A Quick Guide to CPSIA Compliance for Manufacturers and Retailers

Shawn Cady

Shawn Cady is a career technologist and serial entrepreneur specialized in retail, foodservice and healthcare. He's got a mind full of questions, and a teacher in his soul. So it goes...