Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Do you know about this law?

Some of you may not know about this new law while others of you are preparing for its impact on your business. I wasn't too concerned some months ago. I am now. I am gearing up for February 10th.

The original post below was written by Elle Mac, aka GreenMamba on Etsy. She kindly gave me permission to use it (thank you!).

On September 12, 2007, Congressman Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, introduced the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act, a bill that was intended to protect children from exposure to toxic products. After the recent influx of harmful toys and other children's products from China, this was meant to be a relief to parents and concerned consumers all across the nation. It became law on August 14, 2008 and is scheduled to become effective February 10, 2009. However, a closer look reveals it to be a poorly crafted and extreme piece of legislation that has more potential to cause harm than to do good. Rather than carefully researching the topic and drafting a law that would underscore the importance of child safety and place proper restrictions and requirements on major manufacturers and importers, it has created a hostile environment for any but the largest makers of children’s goods. By requiring a battery of expensive tests for each and every item and certification for all components – including resale goods - it is poised to shut down thousands of small businesses and bring many charitable companies and practices to a screeching halt.

The law (not for the fainthearted or the legalese-impaired):

In layman’s terms: Any and all products that are made for, or marketed to, children 12 and under will be subject to the new laws and testing and/or certification requirements. Testing is for lead, flammability, and certain phthalates, and can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars per item. (For a few cost examples, see here; and for a list of approved labs, see here.) Every individual component and/or color combination of an item (for example: fabric, thread, filler, buttons and other embellishments for a plush toy; paper, ink, board, and all binding materials for a children’s book) must be tested.

What this means for small businesses, resale shops and charitable organizations: Families, individuals, and small companies which specialize in handmade or limited production children’s items will be forced out of business as they will be unable to absorb the costs of testing and certification. Resale shops, although exempt from direct testing, will be forced to stop reselling all used children’s goods, as they will likely be unable to certify that those goods fall within safe-testing limits. Non-profits will be unable to collect and distribute any used children’s products, as they will not be able to certify that all goods are within CPSIA limits.

What this means for handcrafters: Aside from being grossly cost prohibitive, this will effectively eliminate the creation and sale of any handmade and one-of-a-kind (ooak) children’s products, as the testing consumes the components being tested. Obviously, this will put many small and micro businesses out of commission.

What this means for individuals: Consumers will no longer have the option to choose between mass manufactured, resale, recycled, or individually crafted children’s clothes, toys, books, furniture, jewelry, etc. Expensive testing and certification will drive up the costs of all children’s products. School and art supplies and science kits/materials, as well as some sports equipment, will be subject to testing, and will increase in price while likely decreasing in availability. Trips to the library and bookstore may become a thing of the past as libraries and shops may be forced to pull thousands of books from shelves and/or ban children under twelve from walking through their doors.

Yes, it all seems quite extreme. But these are the realities US families, consumers and businesspeople will be facing if the CPSIA is not carefully and realistically amended before its implementation on February 10.

Public outcries have been pouring in from every corner of the US. Protests and petitions have been launched. Are these people who oppose the new law against improved measures for child safety? Far from it. What they are asking for is a more realistic approach to the problem. More cost-efficient testing methods; use of certification from manufacturers of supplies to show compliance in products created from those supplies; exemption for certain categories of items that are not intended for children (ie: certain antiques and collectibles, and products made with raw or untreated materials), etc.

What can be done? Get the facts – search ‘cpsia’ or check out the sampling of links below. Join forces with thousands of others in petitioning congress to re-visit the legislation and amend the requirements.

Get informed:

Get involved:

A series of excellent (Forbes) articles:

Scrap The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Scrap The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act--II

Scrap The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act--III

The bottom line is this: We can protect our kids without going to extremes, and without eliminating jobs and choices. Demand a smart law – not a reactionary one.


If you feel compelled, please take action. This affects all of us!

Here is a CPSIA action kit put together by

Save Handmade!

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