Friday, January 16, 2009

The CPSIA, Me, and You

I have been bouncing the idea of writing about this issue for a while and have avoided it because I did not feel informed enough to write about it. Yesterday, after watching a video of Julie Vallese the outgoing Director of the Office of Information and Public Affairs for the Consumer Products and Safety Commission, I decided it was time. Hey Julie, this one is for you. Oh and no, I am not a "Mommy blogger" and I don't appreciate your implications that you are making by using that kind of language. Thank you very much. In the vein of being fair, a quick summary of this interesting piece of legislation and then a link to the video she did that made me so angry about the whole CPSIA law.

So we need to set the way back machine to last year. Remember it? The recession was some sort of Chicken Little kind of thing that a few were squawking about, but we had a bigger problem, lead in imported toys. Everyone was screaming about the lead paint, dangerous small falling out magnets, and other clearly unsafe conditions on mass manufactured toys. I know that this was the end of my buying toys that were not from EU countries. I in fact kind of made it the excuse to get further into toy making for my nieces and nephews since I loved it so much. So Congress, jumped to action once they heard the cry, "Won't someone please think of the children!" With that, they made some of the most restrictive legislation for children's products imaginable. They basically decided that anything that a child 12 and under can come in contact with needs to be tested and also have low levels of phalates. Here is the law in its entire glory for your reading pleasure.

Sounds good right? Well in theory it is great, no lead and no dangerous cancer causing materials in plastics. OK.... let's really think about this. Anything that can be considered a children's product. So hand held gaming systems? Yep, can't have any lead in those. Not sure how you are going to make those circuit boards, but no lead please. Books, those can't possibly have lead right? Nope, not likely, but they still need to be tested by a third party testing facility. Cloth and clothing? Yep. Toys, well of course they caused the problem in the first place. Bikes? Yep, the lead inside the tires can't be there.

Now I do not know about you, but I do not foresee too many kids licking PC boards with out someone stopping them. But hey, I expect parents to do something after all, they are their kids. So why am I still so hot on this? Well the law requires batch testing of all finished products. This is an easy thing for mass manufacturing to accomplish. They can find the first, middle, and last of a product run easily. They can do all the labeling requirements as well. They can also afford the very pricey independent testing. (Some estimates I found have ranged from $400 per test all the way up to $1000) How does this affect me? Besides the prices for mass manufactured items for children going up, this also puts strain and restrictions onto cottage businesses.

I am a small manufacturer of pants. I also made kids toys for family. If I wanted to sell those toys, made from cotton cloth, polyfill, and thread, I would have to take them for testing. I don't know about you, but I do not see my pelican going for over $400. I am not against safety, I mean that is why I started making the toys in the first place for them. The excessive testing and cost is what I don't really get. So, there is now a huge grass roots movement, Julie that is what it is called, not Mommy Blogging, to get the law amended or changed to allow for some small business exemptions. People who run these child centric business can't seem to get straight answers from anyone about the law, and as written, it will affect anyone, no matter the size of the operation.

So, when I was on the phone with the family and everyone was encouraging me to start a second shop selling my toys, I told them about this. "Oh you can't be reading that right." was said, or "Well don't worry no one will catch you." Um yeah, I am a legitimate business registered with the state, I will get caught. So, people have stared contacting their local press about all this in order to get things changed. This brings me back to Julie and her no no on camera. One of the things affected by this sweeping legislation would be resale and consignment shops; yep that is right Goodwill. They are coming after you for keeping things out of landfills because things could be dangerous.Roll the tape please of Julie explaining how this is not the case.

Did you understand that? And she is blaming people like me for messing others up and spreading misinformation? Maybe if you explained things clearly to us, this would not happen. So resale shops need to use some sort of special powers to know what contains lead and what doesn't? I think if they want people like myself and other home crafters to not be so up in arms about this, they need to come out and explain it because right now the only exemptions to the rules have been won by companies and industries that have large lobbying arms. Like jewelery makers have had gemstones declared safe for children. Hum. Fluffy stuffed toys and hairbows illegal and gemstones legal? Not trying to hurt jewelry makers feelings or anything, but you have to admit it seems odd that some things get the exemption when others that seem to make more sense don't.

I will leave you with some more websites to check out and keep up on this yourself. I guess for now I am going to be putting off making my toys for sale until this gets all sorted out. I wonder how this overall is gong to impact the economy right now? How many homes will lose some vital side money from this that helps keep ends met? How many other dreams are going to be deferred because of legislation that no one seems to understand, even the people who wrote it and have to represent it to the public? - Great Blog that is all over the CPSIA and how it affects her business - The people who are doing a lot to keep things straight and organize the grass roots efforts to get this stopped or changed
A Great Op Ed piece that does a better explanation of this situation than I can do myself.

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