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Monday September 04, 2017

NEMA and Buerkle Discuss Fidget Spinners and More

CPSC Acting-Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle August 29 expressed receptiveness to updating the agency's fidget spinner advice to address button battery ingestions. That came in a meeting she and her staff held with NEMA and makers of such batteries.


NEMA's Jonathan Stewart offered the organization's aid in crafting such a message. He illustrated the concern by noting there are YouTube videos in which school-age children show how to replace the batteries. Those youth are not a concern directly, he acknowledged, but their younger siblings might be, especially if batteries are left loose.


The problem is exasperated by the lack of communication that occurred between spinner makers and battery companies. The latter were not asked for input by the largely Chinese manufacturers, so the product emerged without heads up – a similar track as hoverboards a few years ago.


NEMA's concern is with disposable batteries and risks of internal electrochemical burns from ingested units. CPSC's August guidance (PSL, 8/14/17) did deal with batteries, but focused more on overheating risks from rechargeable ones.


The visitors also discussed effort towards button battery safety in general, including the expected release of an updated standard likely later this year.


Of note is a possible future change to the icon depicting a young child reaching for a battery and beneath the crossed-circle "no" symbol. It was the result of CPSC staffers' desire for an accurate depiction of the ages at risk (PSL, 2/22/16) versus a draft idea showing a baby. NEMA members are working with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to develop a general “Keep Out of Reach of Children’” icon for global use across all consumer product lines. The updated standard will be published to include warning label requirements but without referencing the new icon. Once the IEC finalizes its work, the U.S. standard will be amended to include the new icon, likely in the first quarter of 2019.


Another topic involved explanation of NEMA's multipronged approach to battery safety involving packaging, education and outreach (including standards), battery compartment design, battery design, and warnings. On the design front, Stewart explained that there is a technological turnover challenge. Even with promising or successful solutions, there will be lags in making them ubiquitous. Decades of consumers products are configured to past or existing batteries and will remain with consumers.


The group also raised 15(j) treatment for button battery compliance, a tack NEMA suggested as early as 2015 (PSL, 9/7/15) with then-Chairman Elliot Kaye. At the session with Buerkle, Stewart asserted the applicability of 15(j) criteria such as readily-observable elements, effectiveness, and substantial compliance. At issue are NEMA's C18 standards.