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International Trade

How to Import Children's Toys into the U.S?

When it comes to regulating imports, the United States is very careful about children’s toys. There are many safety regulations in place because kids at play are a particularly vulnerable population. Children’s items that do not comply with regulations under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act will never reach the toy chests across America.

Children’s products that hurt children are taken very seriously in the US, and companies often will recall items that even have a possibility of causing harm to kids. A manufacturer or an importer will be at fault if a product harms a child, so they will be responsible for ensuring an item’s safety and compliance to the Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety. These specifications for toy safety were once voluntary, but are now mandatory – toy importers must know these specifications and apply them to the products they are importing. It is a very good idea to purchase the complete safety specifications from American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in order to apply it to the products you are importing.

Toys are subject to many regulations, even if they aren’t imported. Not only must they comply with the FHSA to ensure they do not have dangerous parts, chemicals, or lead, and with the regulations set forth by the ASTM toys that are marketed for 12 and under must be tested by a third party and certified safe. There are several labs that are approved for testing these products, and they are the only locations that are acceptable for this testing. It is up to the importer to arrange and pay for testing. Items that have passed muster with the third party testing will gain a Children’s Product Certificate.

Size Restriction

Choking hazards haunt parents. They constantly scan the ground and toy box for doll shoes, tiny blocks, anything that could get stuck in a young child’s airway. Children’s items, such as toys, nursery gear, and baby furniture, cannot legally have small parts, and there are regulations to help prevent harm due to children under three choking on small parts that can come off or break off during normal use of toys. These are items that kids under three will commonly put in their mouths. A small part is something that will fit through a special test cylinder that measures 2.25 x 1.25 inches.

Lead and Phthalates

Lead is the thing that most scares parents. It can cause irreparable harm to children. That is why importers must be vigilant when it comes to lead in their products, especially toys and furniture that children might use. Children’s items may not contain more than 100 parts per million (PPM) of the dangerous substance. The paint and surface coatings are held to an even higher standard of 90 PPM, as they are the most accessible parts of the toy. For more information on these standards, look at section 101 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and in section 2(q)(1) of theFederal Hazardous Substances Act.
Another hazard common to toys is phthalates, which are chemical plasticizers that are often used to soften plastics. It’s not hard to see why it would be a popular chemical for children’s toys, especially in items for younger kids who enjoy putting soft teething rings and rubbery toys into their mouths. This family of chemicals have been deemed unsafe, and congress has actually banned three types of phthalates. You’ve probably heard of BBP, but the other two permanently banned chemicals are DEHP and DBP. It is illegal to use these phthalates in toys, as well as sleep and feeding accessories, or pacifiers intended for children under three. There are three more interim banned phthalates (DINP, DIDP, and DnOP). Unlike the permanently banned phthalates, which cannot be used in any young children’s toy, these three are not to be used in items that will be put into a child’s mouth or used as a sleep, teething, or feeding accessory. You can find more info on these bans in Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) as well as section 5 of Public Law No. 112-28. It is important to know these safety standards in regards to lead and phthalates if you are going to import items for children.


Children’s products will have specific markings and tracking labels on their packaging that will provide identifying information that could be vital in case there needs to be a recall. These markings must be visible and legible. Certain products, such as durable infant or toddler products also require a product registration card and have additional requirements for packaging. Tracking labels must include manufacturer name, location and date of production, manufacturing details like a batch or run number, and information that will allow for the specific tracking of the product’s origin.

Remote controlled toys

Remote controlled toys, such as cars, airplanes, and boats, are fun for older kids and even adults. These toys are subject to special regulations and must comply with the FCC’s radio emission standards. If you are importing an RC toy, they must be declared as compliant with the FCC in order to pass customs.

HTS Code

You can find out what kind of tariff you might be looking at by searching a government data base here (Chapter 95). Find your item’s category on the left, click on it, and you’ll be able to see the duty rates for the countries of origin in the first column on the right, if that country has “Normal Trade Relations (NTR)” with the US. Be careful to look for special sub-columns, as many countries will have special duty rates if they have trade agreements with the US. If the country does not have Normal Trade Relations with the United States, you’ll find it in the second column – some industry people refer to these countries as “Column Two” countries. Reading the HTS columns can be confusing, so the US government has written a helpful guide here.

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