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Model railroading, other collectibles could see CPSIA testing relief

By Hal Miller
Published: September 2, 2010
Consumer Product Safety Commission
A revised draft of the rule for interpreting what is a “Children’s Product” under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) could provide some testing relief for parts of the hobby industry.

In April 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) allowed comments by interested organizations on the proposed interpretive rule. Currently, four factors are used by the CPSC to define a “Children’s Product”:

1. A statement by a manufacturer about the intended use of such product, including a label on such product if such statement is reasonable.

2. Whether the product is represented in its packaging, display, promotion, or advertising as appropriate for use by children 12 years of age or younger.

3. Whether the product is commonly recognized by consumers as being intended for use by children 12 years of age or younger. Sales data, market analyses, focus group testing, and other marketing studies may help support an analysis regarding this factor.

4. The Age Determination Guidelines issued by the CPSC staff in September 2002, and any successor to such guidelines.

Comments received from consumers, manufacturers, trade associations and testing laboratories received responses from the CPSC staff and have been published in the “Final Interpretative Rule: Interpretation of Children’s Product.”  The document was released Aug. 25.

The revised draft of the Rule has been submitted for consideration and finalization at a meeting of the Commission scheduled for Sept. 9, 2010. If approved by the Commissioners, the final rule interpreting the definition of children’s product and the accompanying statutory factors will be published in the Federal Register and become a new section (Part 1200, Definitions, under Subchapter B – Consumer Product Safety Act Regulations) in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

Model railroading has been specifically addressed in the new draft. CPSC staff commented, “We agree that certain model railroads and trains are not children’s products given the large number of adult model railroad hobbyists, the costs involved, and the level of sophistication required to operate them.” Under the revised draft, the CPSC recognizes model railroad products sold through hobby stores are, for the most part, for people above the age of 12.

In contrast, “Children’s train sets may have childish or decorative motifs and are easier to assemble and use by a child,” the CPSC stated, and will have to be tested for lead and other substances harmful to children.

If approved, the final rule will add “model railways and trains made by 24 model railway manufacturers” to the list of examples of “collectible” items that would be considered general-use products. One commenter has asked that the fragility of the materials be considered in determining what qualifies as "collectibles," and requests a registry of collectibles or online listing to provide clear guidance.

Die-cast is another hobby segment that may fall under the banner of “collectibles.” The proposed rule seeks to “distinguish adult collectibles from children’s collectibles based on themes that are inappropriate for children 12 years of age or younger; features that preclude use by children during play, such as high cost, limited production, and display features (such as being packaged on a pedestal).

However, one commenter disputes that all collectibles are of high cost, and the CPSC response backed that up, saying, “High cost is simply one among several considerations we will evaluate when making a determination,” adding, “all relevant factors must be weighed on a case-by-case basis to make a product determination.”