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Monday March 20, 2017

CPSC and Labs Discuss Test Consistency Guidance, More

CPSC staff March 16 expressed interest in finding the best way to ensure that third-party labs have consistent understanding of testing issues. That came in a two-hour session at the agency's headquarters set up by the International Federation of Inspection Agencies (IFIA). The consumer products segment of the organization includes labs well known in the CPSC arena.


Such guidance potentially could come in the form of lab bulletins although the visitors seemed open to workshops or other face-to-face meetings. The goal, however, would be to ensure everyone has the same input. Indeed, the purpose of the second hour of the session was for CPSC to give feedback on specific issues that labs are encountering.


Another particularly substantive aspect of the meeting was CPSC seeking how to better determine the validity of test results. The issue arose over frustration with documents that have pictures of many products but poor clarity on what the listed results apply to. There was wide reaction that such papers are not normal.


The related conversation was on the possibility of faked results. Numerous participants urged agency staffers to call if they have question as labs typically have results databases that they can reference. There can be tipoffs like report numbers, dates, or signatures. One visitor said there are ways to build indicators into electronic versions of documents that will flag if they have been altered. On the other hand, fakers are becoming more sophisticated, mirroring such trends in product and mark counterfeiting. Simple solutions like "page x of y" are easily thwarted.


Elsewhere, CPSC staffers explained when they will reach out to labs about test results. It's not typical on specific issues as staffers deal directly with the responsible importers or manufacturers although there is general willingness to join conversations between companies and their labs.


A few highlights of other discussion points included:

  • There are no current plans at CPSC to update its lab accreditation and product certification provisions.

  • CPSC work on phthalates screening – such as with infrared technology – is bumping up against equipment limits. There is concern about confidence in consistent results at the low levels required for children's products.

  • CPSC staff still is reviewing the comments received last fall (PSL, 11/7/17) on possible testing determinations for phthalates.

Members of IFIA's Consumer and Industrial Products Committee are Bureau Veritas, DEKRA, CSA, Intertek, SGS, TÜV Rheinland, TÜV SÜD, and UL. Representatives of most of them were at the CPSC session.