US Product Safety laws can be very technical and complex. However, at 30,000 feet they make sense. Let’s look at the primary standards that apply to hard goods and why those standards are important.

Most Promotional Products: (Writing Instruments, Bags, Outdoor, Meeting, Awards, Fashion Accessories, Apparel, etc.)

  • Focus: Lead (toxic), Phthalates (hormone disruptor) and Physical Hazards (cut, pinch, tip over, collapse, choke, etc.)
  • Standards: The CPSC, California Proposition 65 (Prop 65) and other states limit the amount of lead in painted surfaces of products. Prop 65 limits the amount of lead in PVC and other materials. The CPSC and Prop 65 limit the amount of phthalates in PVC. Most writing instruments with caps and end plugs should have ventilated caps and secure end plugs to prevent choking. Bags should be tested for lead in all materials and phthalates in soft plastic (esp. PVC). Folding chairs should be inspected for weight limits, tip over and pinch hazards. Apparel and flammable solids should be tested for flammability hazards. BBQ grills should be tested for tip over hazards and food contact of the grill (see below). Folders and note books should be tested for Prop 65 lead and phthalates in soft plastic. Awards should be tested for lead in surface coatings. Lead crystal shipping to California requires a Prop 65 warning. Wallets, CD cases and fashion accessories should be tested for Prop 65 lead and phthalate content. All products should be inspected for sharp points and edges, faulty mechanisms and other functional hazards that can cause personal injury.

 Food & Drink Contact Items: (Drinkware, Tableware, Utensils)

  • Focus: lead (toxic), cadmium (toxic), BPA (hormone disruptor), n-hexane (toxic), heptane (toxic) and other extractives (toxic)
  • Standards: The FDA limits the amount of certain chemicals (lead, cadmium and others) that can leach out of metal, plastic, wood, ceramic and glass for surfaces that come into contact with food or drink. Prop 65 limits the amount of lead and cadmium that can leach out of decorations and food and drink contact surfaces of ceramic and glass food and drink items. A number of states have adopted laws prohibiting bispenol-A (BPA) in reusable plastic (mainly polycarbonate) food and beverage containers. Freezer gel should be tested for microbial and toxic substance content (esp. antifreeze components).

 Child Products (intended primarily for use by children 12 and under)

  • Focus: Lead and Other Heavy Metals (toxic), phthalates (hormone disruptors), physical hazards (choke, cut, pinch, eye irritation, noise, asphyxiation, etc.)
  • Standards: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and California (Prop 65) limit lead in painted Child Products and components (metal, plastic, etc.) of Child Products as well as in art materials. The CPSC limits the amount of other heavy metals in paint on Toys (Child Products used for play). The CPSC and Prop 65 limit the amount of 6 different phthalates (make PVC soft). The CPSC prohibits or requires warnings for physical product hazards (choke, cut, flammability, stick, pinch, sound, eye irritation, microbial, etc.).


  • Focus: Fire and Shock Hazards, Mercury Content (toxic) and Emission of Frequencies (interference with other electronics)
  • Standards: Plug-In electronics should be tested for fire and shock hazards. The federal government and several states impose limits on mercury content of batteries. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limits the frequencies that electrical products can emit. Prop 65 limits lead content in electrical circuitry (mainly lead solder).

There are many more standards that apply to specific products, but the above will give you a quick overview of the primary concerns of our industry today.

~Margit Fawbush


Leave a Reply