Child product safety laws

Child product safety laws, by requiring warning labels and prohibiting harmful components or design elements, protect young people from potentially dangerous toys and other products, while adding expenses to manufacturers creating and marketing those products.

Two important laws affecting child product safety are the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 and the Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972. The Federal Trade Commission Act established the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As one of the first agencies to oversee consumer protection, the FTC’s primary responsibilities are to enforce consumer protection laws and to assist in resolving consumer issues. Safety, consumer;childrenThe Consumer Product Safety Act created the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC’s primary responsibility is to protect the public from risks from more than fifteen thousand different products. The CPSC oversees the evaluation of product safety, assists businesses in developing standards, helps minimize conflicting state and local regulations, maintains a database of product-related injuries and deaths, and conducts research into the causes and prevention of product-related deaths, illness, and injuries.Laws;child product safetyChildren;product safety laws

Children have been the innocent victims of illness, injuries, and even deaths resulting from the use of consumer products. Children’s products and toys are often manufactured in countries that do not comply with U.S. child product safety laws. More than 70 percent of the toys sold in the United States are manufactured overseas, with the majority imported from China. In addition, selective classification of products may also exclude products that are not intended for children’s use but that often fall into their hands. To ensure child product safety, the CPSC defines children’s products as items designed or intended for use by children twelve years of age or younger. Children’s toys are defined as products designed or intended for use in play by a child twelve years of age or younger. Child-care articles are defined as products designed or intended to facilitate sleep, the feeding of children, or young children’s suckling or teething.

In 2008, Congress passed a comprehensive consumer safety law, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. This act significantly affected U.S. child product safety requirements. The law banned phthalate, phthalate alternatives, and lead in children’s products; mandated third-party testing and certification of children’s products; and ordered the creation of a public product safety database containing information on use of consumer products. It increased civil penalties for violations of product safety laws and introduced provisions for enforcement of product safety laws by state attorneys general. It also mandated warnings in advertising and Web sites for toys and games, established whistle-blower protection for employees reporting safety violations, and increased the authority of the CPSC to dictate the terms of product recalls. Finally, it instituted greater enforcement efforts involving other federal agencies, foreign product safety regulators, and state health agencies.

Further Reading:

  • Felcher, E. M. “Product Recalls: Gaping Holes in the Nation’s Product Safety Net.” Journal of Consumer Affairs 37, no. 1 (2003): 170-180.
  • Peterson, K. F. “A Clear and Present Danger: Consumer Product Safety and Recall.” Trial 44, no. 1 (2008): 9.
  • Swartz, J. A. “Danger at Play: Inquisitive Children Invariably Handle the Products They Encounter in Their Homes.” Trial 39, no. 12 (2003): 40-44.

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Federal Trade Commission

Occupational Safety and Health Act

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