child playing leaves

Safety is in the forefront of every consumer’s mind, particularly when purchasing products for children in this holiday season. Even items that appear harmless, like sleepwear or hair accessories, can sometimes be the source of unforeseen hazards, such as flammable fabrics or harmful chemicals. In order to reduce the potential for injury and fatality to children, in 2008 the U.S. government enacted a comprehensive safety regulation which requires third party testing, labelling and certification of all children’s products, including clothing, footwear and accessories. 

This regulation is known as The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and covers safety regulations for restricted substances, flammability, physical/mechanical properties and other safety related regulations. Compliance with this regulation is compulsory and is strictly enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The CPSC has authority to recall non-compliant merchandise, penalize manufacturers and importers with monetary fines and/or destruction of product, as well as civil and criminal penalties. Compliance with the regulation requires meeting a variety of test standards. As one can see in the following statistics, the introduction of this comprehensive regulation has resulted in a decline of product recalls in the past five years.

Restricted Substances

The CPSIA regulates lead in all children’s products. Lead is harmful to the nervous system and if ingested or exposed to in high quantities, can be fatal. High risk materials used in children’s products  that may contain lead and must be tested are metal, plastic, PVC, vinyl, paint and coating. These materials are commonly used in trims and findings such as zippers, snaps, buttons, D-rings, heat transfers, and any paint or coatings that may be applied to these components.

Certain phthalates are restricted in toys and childcare articles. Phthalates are used as plasticizers in flexible PVC products to keep them soft and pliable. A child care article is defined in the CPSIA as a product designed and intended to facilitate sleep or the feeding of children up to the age of 3 or to help such children with sucking or teething.

The CPSC has included baby bibs and sleepwear in the definition of childcare articles and therefore children’s pajamas, robes and loungewear with heat transfer prints, plastisol prints, skid resistant feet, PVC or vinyl feet, plastic components or decorations, must be tested for phthalates in addition to lead.  The CPSIA restrictions are: 

Lead in Paint For children's products only 90 ppm
Lead in Substance For children's products only 100 ppm
DEHP, DBP or BBP In all toys (up to 12) and all childcare articles ≤0.1% (per phthalate)
DINP, DIDP or DNOP Toys (up to 12) that can be placed in the mouth and childcare articles ≤0.1% (per phthalate)


Flammability of wearing apparel and children’s sleepwear is regulated by the CPSC and therefore falls within the scope of the CPSIA. All wearing apparel sold in the US must comply with Federal regulation 16 CFR 1610. Hats, gloves and footwear are exempt from this regulation, therefore testing and certification are not required. There are certain fabrics, which although are not exempt from the regulation, are exempt from testing, but do require a certificate of compliance. 

Children’s sleepwear must meet the requirements of 16 CFR 1615/1616 which are much stricter than those of 16 CFR 1610 and also must have a certificate of compliance. Robes and loungewear are defined as sleepwear by the CPSC and therefore must comply with the children’s sleepwear regulation.  There are several exemptions which include sleepwear sizes 0 – 9 months and tight fitting sleepwear, however, these must be tested and comply with the general wearing apparel requirements.  

Small Parts, Sharp Points, Sharp Edges

The CPSIA regulates small parts, sharp points, and sharp edges in children’s toys and other products due to the risk of choking, skin laceration and punctures. Although apparel, accessories and footwear are technically exempt from the scope, the same level of risk exists in these products and the CPSC may recall any product they deem unsafe, regardless of a regulation. Based on children’s product recalls for small parts, sharp point and sharp edges, it has become a well accepted industrystandard to include this testing for all children’s products.  

Recent Recall Summary - 2015 to Date

hazard number of recalls
Lead 3
Drawstrings 13
Choking Hazard (Small Parts) 6
Sleepwear 10

SL Recall by Category

Children’s Product Certificate (CPC)

The CPSIA requires manufacturers and importers to issue a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC) confirming compliance with all applicable standards, bans, rules and regulations. The CPC must be supported by test results issued by a CPSC accredited third party laboratory and must accompany the import shipment, either physically or electronically so that it is available upon request by the CPSC or US Customs and Border Protection. If a children’s product does not have a CPC, this is considered a violation of the CPSIA. 

Tracking Labels

Children’s Products also are subject to tracking label requirements which must be permanently attached to the product and the product packaging. The label must provide information relating to the style, lot, batch, date and place of manufacture in order to identify product in the event of a recall.

Let’s face it – accidents happen and are often unpredictable and unavoidable, but just as often, we can predict and avoid unnecessary hazards by designing safety into the product, complying with government rules and implementing safety practices. In addition to government requirements, many companies establish their own safety standards which exceed government requirements. For example, drawstrings on children’s upper outerwear have been constituted a substantial product hazard by the CPSC and are unlawful to use at the hood or neck area of jackets, coats and hoodies, but many manufacturers and retailers have extended the rule to apply to garments other than upper outerwear and areas other than the neck and hood. Practices such as this, and compliance with existing laws, lead to safer products for children.

SGS global laboratories are CPSC accredited for all CPSIA safety tests and our team of regulatory experts can work with you to develop a Reasonable Testing Program, another CPSIA requirement, to help ensure safe and compliant products.

For more information contact your local SGS representative, or our global team and visit our website.

Louann Spirito
Director Technical Support, Softlines
SGS North America Inc.
t: +1 973 461 7919

Karen E. Kyllo, Ph.D.
Deputy Vice President, Global Softlines
SGS North America Inc.
t: +1 973 461 7934