Protector of Good vs. Evil

Be A Superhero For Clients By Knowing Exactly What Needs To Be Tested In Various Products

SGSClarity is often elusive with product testing. Distributors may not know what standards they need to comply with, let alone which tests to conduct to ensure they meet those standards. Testing companies like SGS will offer their expertise and can explain what tests are best to run on which products. To demonstrate, Counselor brought four products, courtesy of Top 40 supplier Prime Line (asi/79530), to the SGS testing labs. SGS experts talked about what to look for in each product, and then walked through the test methods they use to see if each product is compliant. Here's a look at each:

Drawstrings Bags The CPSIA was designed to test and regulate children's products – items intended specifically for children 12 and under. But what about general-use items that can be used by anybody? That's the question staring out from the SGS conference room table, where two drawstring bags from Prime Line lay side by side. One has a rustic transfer decoration of a camping outpost; the other, a giveaway bag with a cartoon stick figure for a children's fun run. Surely the latter bag falls under the CPSIA's iron hammer? Not exactly. "Items that are for general use need not be tested as children's products unless they have child-appealing features," says Piyush Shah, director of technical support – hardlines for the company's U.S. consumer testing services. "This does not have that." If it were a children's product, the drawstrings would potentially be strangulation hazards and would be tested as such. Even with general-use products, "If a client said to test it for strangulation hazards," adds Christina Crimi, assistant laboratory manager, "we would test it."

Though the bags look exceedingly similar in design, there are differences that matter in how SGS would approach testing. While one bag features sewn-in strings, the other has knotted strings threaded through metal grommets; the grommets would have to be tested for lead if the bag fell under CPSIA guidelines. The most obvious difference between the two – the fabric – doesn't ultimately matter. Even though one bag is made from a cotton canvas material and the other is nonwoven polyester, fabric is exempt under the CPSIA.

Scrambler Puzzle This popular toy arrived with multiple imprints, each in different colors representing popular chocolate candies. While visually pleasing, the various colors also increase the chance of a lead-contaminated ink. To be safe, SGS would have to scrape and test every color and individual logo on the product. That, along with the variety of physical tests, "is why we will normally ask for six samples," says Shah. CPSIA does allow component testing now, which certainly saves on the number of samples a client would have to supply. In this case, SGS could test the individual squares and make do with just one sample of the finished product.

The SGS experts also spot a tiny ring inserted into the empty square in the puzzle. It's obviously designed to be removed so the game can be played. But if the puzzle is handed out with no instructions to discard, that creates a potential problem. "If there are no instructions provided," says Shah, "we would recommend testing it for phthalates."

Beach Ball There is no doubt that the beach ball is a toy, and thus falls under the CPSIA guidelines for lead and phthalates. Shah and Crimi point out a number of features that must be tested: the nozzle and vinyl coating for phthalates; the multiple colors of paint for lead; and the vinyl material itself for lead in its substrate.

But that's not all. Examining the beach ball, the SGS experts pick up on a small-but-important detail: a tracking label, printed on the side of the ball. It's seemingly minor, but tracking labels are an essential part of the CPSIA regulations. By comparison, the scrambler puzzle carries no tracking label. If it's not on the product, it has to be on the packaging.