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New CPSC Legislation Mandates Compliance From Bulk Vending Industry

by Philip Brilliant, A&A Global Industries
Posted On: 10/27/2008

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With the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, suppliers and operators alike must understand that product safety is now a responsibility mandated by state and federal legislation. The fines and penalties for failure to adhere to these regulations are very real and can be issued to both suppliers and operators. If you are not familiar with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, get familiar! And if you aren't sure that the toys you are buying comply, find out from your supplier today, or get them out of your machines.

(See related story here.)

Much of the legislation pertains to lead content. The legal limit is set at 600 parts per million, but drops to 300 ppm in a year's time. In three years, if technologically feasible, the limit drops to 100 ppm.

Regarding phthalates, the ban begins January 1, 2009, in California and on February 1, 2009, for the rest of the country. Phthalates derive from phthalic acid, which when added to plastic allows molecules to slide against one another, making it pliable. It is a chemical known to cause certain types of cancer.

Relating to phthalates, the law says:

Beginning 180 days after the date of enactment, it will be unlawful for anyone to provide: Any children's toy or child-care article that contains concentrations of more than 0.1% of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP); any children's toy that can be placed in a child's mouth or child-care article that contains concentrations of more than 0.1% of diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) or di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP).

However, the CPSC shall, in consultation with a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel, determine whether to continue in effect this prohibition or to prohibit additional phthalates or phthalate alternatives by promulgating a rule.

State attorneys general are empowered to enforce the new laws. While civil penalties to a manufacturer are capped at $15 million, there are provisions for criminal penalties that may include fines, imprisonment and/or asset forfeiture. This is one of the areas of the law that is changing, so it is unclear how much the seller (in this case, a bulk vending operator) will be responsible. However, it is clear that federal, state and local municipalities are cracking down on toy safety and will have no tolerance for offenders.

The bill increases the Consumer Product Safety Commission's budget to $80 million for fiscal 2009; its funding will grow yearly, and be $136.4 million in 2014. Thus, the commission has the financial strength to back up its commitment to enforcement.  The legislation also addresses mandatory testing (which suppliers should already be conducting), tracking labels, federal preemption (states can adopt stricter standards) and the sharing of information among states.

Words like "dibutyl phthalates" and "diisononyl phthalates" may seem like mumbo jumbo, but our industry cannot afford to ignore them. Because our predominant demographic is children, it's "time to get the lead out" (pun intended) and understand that what is put in vending machines will also be put into the hands and mouths of children. That makes us all responsible.

The National Bulk Vendors Association is keeping close tabs on the legislation and will watch the specifics of enforcement to see how deep it extends to operators. Members will be kept up-to-date and educated on products, and be able to confirm that they meet the safety standards set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

No one likes complicated laws, especially when they affect livelihood. In the past, the onus of safety was put on the suppliers, and the manner of testing was left up to them -- and they used different standards. But today the standards are defined, and the ramifications of selling unsafe toys extend to anyone involved in their distribution and sale.

Toy safety is a top priority for both political parties. Now that it has become law, the CPSC and other federal and state agencies are going to be looking for violators to make examples of. Bulk operators must be familiar with this legislation.

PHILIP BRILLIANT has been in the bulk vending industry since 1995 and currently serves as vice-president of A&A Global Industries. He has managed facilities for the bulk vending supplier in New York City and Los Angeles, where he worked directly with operators. He is now based at A&A's corporate headquarters outside of Baltimore. Brilliant also chairs National Bulk Vendors Association's Legislative Committee.