Ten year anniversary of safer school supplies: Happy Birthday, CPSIA!

Landmark consumer legislation has had a monumental effect on protecting kids’ health.

Kara Cook-Schultz

It’s back to school season, and parents and teachers are shopping for school supplies. Many parents wonder how to make sure the products they buy are safe for their kids. The good news is that this week marks the 10th anniversary of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). This law has had a monumental effect on safeguarding children’s consumer products such as school supplies, water bottles and toys.

The CPSIA was passed by Congress after 2007’s “year of the recall,” when more than 170 million pieces of children’s jewelry containing high levels of lead were recalled. That same year, parents found backpacks and toys that contained lead. People clamored for better laws that would protect their families.

Following this outcry, a bipartisan effort led to the passage of the CPSIA. This law mandates testing of many children’s products, better tracking of labels for children’s products, a ban on phthalates in children’s products, and establishment of a public product safety database where consumers can exchange safety information and report incidents to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (check it out at saferproducts.gov). Another key change was giving the government real clout to fine companies that sell toxic products up to $15 million.

The CPSIA has lowered the amount of lead allowed in kids’ school supplies from 600 parts per million (ppm) to 90 ppm. In a world where many parents send kids to school with water bottles, ensuring that those water bottles are safe is paramount. For example, Base Brands was selling Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottles. When the federal government tested the bottles, it found that the bottles contained exceeded the lead standard. In response, stores took about 2,000 of water bottles off the shelves before school started this year.

Under the CPSIA, the government also has identified and recommended a recall for other water bottles with lead paint, crayons containing glass, and arts kits contaminated with mold. Ten years ago a bipartisan group of legislators took significant steps to protect children from toxics. A great way to celebrate this anniversary is to strengthen these protections by permanently removing some of the worst toxic chemicals we’re still finding in school supplies and other kids products. U.S. PIRG is asking the CPSC to boost its regulations and investigate school supplies containing chemicals like asbestos, lead, benzene, and phthalates. Still, we have more work to do. 


Kara Cook-Schultz