National Bankruptcy Day (aka, have you heard about the CPSIA?)
The CPSIA, or Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, is an incredibly well-meaning act that as designed will have a significantly negative impact on every industry dealing with infant and children's products. This isn't just toys, this is every children's product -- clothing, baby blankets, shoes, school supplies, bikes, care items, ... Created to ensure that kids' products are lead- and phthlate-free after the toy scares of 2007, the CPSIA was potentially a great idea. So why's it a problem?
(keep reading to find out)
Why? Because every product from every manufacturer has to be tested, regardless of what it's made of or how different it is from any other item in that manufacturer's product line. If it's a Waldorf-style doll with a frown instead of a smile -- and everything else is identical -- it needs to be tested because it's a different product. And the CPSIA mandates item testing, not component testing. This means that it's not enough for a manufacturer to test each part of every item they make; they have to test each new product even if it uses components that have already been tested in another product. It's also not enough if the components used in the product are ones that are known to be lead- and phthlate-free -- things like food-grade finishes or organic wool fabric, for instance. And, sadly, suppliers can't provide manufacturers with certification or proof that an item is safe -- that is, we can't give a certificate that says a certain fabric and thread has been tested and proven safe and have that be enough for your clothing line to be considered safe even if all that you use in that line is that fabric and that thread. And it's also not enough if, for instance, size 6 months in blue has been tested -- size 6 months in green also needs tested, and size 12 months, and 18 months, and all other sizes and colors. The testing required affects all producers, from the largest toy and baby product companies to the smallest work at home moms and single item manufacturers. And it isn't cheap, of course -- that would be far too easy.
As an example of this law and its impact, read this statement from a microscope manufacturer talking about how testing the telescope will cost $24,050 while the product itself only brings in $32,000 over two years. What does that mean? It means the telescope will be discontinued, of course, as will many other items.
People who make baby, child, and infant products for etsy, Hyena Cart, ebay, and other places will be affected too, whether they make one-of-a-kind boutique items or otherwise. Will John Michael Linck, whose lovingly handcrafted wooden toys are cherished in our house, be able to justify the testing with the volume of sales he has each year? I don't know, but what a shame it would be if he had to close. What a shame it would be if any of the people who so carefully, so lovingly make the toys, clothes, and other items that we love to look at and try to incorporate into our lives were unable to keep doing so!
More links to look at:
The Handmade Toy Alliance
National Bankruptcy Day
Petition: New Product Safety Laws Need Clarifications Now
Save Handmade Toys From the CPSIA (the comments are particularly interesting)
Fashion Incubator's CPSIA & Consumer Safety Forum -- a very in-depth forum on our frequently recommended fashion-incubator site, where you can learn specifics about almost everything related to the CPSIA -- including reading about children's consignment stores that are closing because of the act!
One quote that really strikes home from Fashion-Incubator:
"We need for consumers to know that this law will put many of us rather than importers out of business at a time when the economy can least absorb it. They need to know that come February, many of the products they expect to find in stores won't be there. I think consumers will start to get the hint once they start getting tickets for transporting their infants without car seats because they can't buy them in stores. Considering the consequences, there is little doubt the rules and regulations such as they are, will be rescinded. The only issue is, will they be rescinded before they bury too many of us. This law represents the last nail in the coffin of U.S. manufacturers."
We're already seeing fallout from these regulations -- and let me stress that the fallout isn't a matter of keeping unsafe products off the market. Selecta Spielzeug, a German wooden toy manufacturer, has discontinued doing business in the US, citing dramatically increased costs due to CPSIA regulations. I'm told that Holztiger, another German wooden toy manufacturer, has chosen to do the same, and other companies may soon follow. These are high-end companies that strictly abide by all European safety regulations and have no problem complying with the concept of the law; it's the specifics of the testing, labeling, and packaging that cause them to give up and leave the US. This is the tip of the iceberg, folks, and unless things change we're going to see a whole lot more.
People aren't trying to completely gut the law -- we all want children to be safe and nobody is saying that products shouldn't be regulated (okay, I'm sure somebody is somewhere, but I don't know who!). They're simply asking the government to apply some common sense to the regulation. An example of that request can be seen in the National Association of Manufacturers' Petition to the CPSC, which has quite a lot of details about what testing should and should not be necessary. The main changes the petition asks for are:
"rational exclusions from lead testing of materials including wood, paper, cotton, and other materials known by science to not contain lead.
Furthermore, this petition calls for the use of materials-based certification instead of unit-based certification, which would allow our members to rely on certifications from their raw materials suppliers instead of repeating tests multiple times for each product made from those materials."
So why am I telling you about this? Both so you're not surprised if many things change on February 10, when the first part of the act goes into effect, and also so you can help work to encourage a more reasonable version of the act -- one that doesn't so completely gut the industry, and at a time of such complete economic chaos!
What can you do? Here's a great post about talking to congress about the CPSIA, which could prove useful also when you submit comments to the CPSC about the CPSIA by January 30 -- they want to hear what you have to say, so please do make your voice heard!
I have this fear that I haven't been clear enough in this post, just because the whole concept of the CPSIA is so incredibly scary that it's hard to write about without sounding like I'm exaggerating. But I really strongly encourage you to look into what's going on, because this is really serious -- without changes in the regulation, I'm really afraid of what we'll see in 48 days.