My cousin Jill runs a small business that makes baby toys and accessories - she sent us a handmade bib and diaper-change pad that we got a lot of use out of when Olivia was born. Recently, she's been active in a group called the Handmade Toy Alliance, which was formed in response to HR 4040, a bill passed by Congress last year after all those reports of Chinese-made toys that contained lead. The bill itself is fine and addresses a real need, but the language has been interpreted by the Consumper Products Safety Commission to require all toy and baby-product manufacturers, including small crafts shops like Jill's, to perform third-party testing in regards to lead and phthalate levels for each batch of each product they create and label or mark the product accordingly. That's a big burden on small businesses, and the HTA has been asking for a clarification that removes this burden on them. From an email she sent out to family members:
The group I have joined, www.handmadetoyalliance.org, is proving to be a great alliance. I have taken an active role in the organization, helping to draft a letter to the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), expressing our view to allow alternate means of certification for mine and others product lines. Other letters were also written in support of various petitions and groups. A press release was put out to share our groups' views with all. I am listed as one contact on the press release.
On change.org, our proposal was passed through to the second round of voting. This is HUGE and was a place that all of you were extremely helpful when you cast your vote. The top ten issues will be presented to President Obama as a call to action for the very beginning of his presidency. The second round of voting begins today, Monday, January 5, 2009, and goes for 10 days. Please vote again at this link:
I am attaching our press release to this letter. If you have any press contacts or are so inclined to submit it to your home town's paper as an area of interest for you, please, I urge you to do so. The more press we get on this, the better position we will be to push our legislators to make a change in the way the law is implemented. You can also refer to this article in this link for further reference for the press.
If you are so inclined, write your Congress people. Tell them that the CPSIA has "unintended consequences" for small business owners of children's products throughout the USA and that you are urging them to consider a "technical amendment" in support of the Handmade Toy Alliance's recommendations to the CPSC. Feel free to list my name as a contact and do list the web-site (www.handmadetoyalliance.org). If you would like any other supporting documentation to go with your letter, just let me know. Be sure to use the key phrases that I have listed in quotations. Remember, even if you don't buy products for children under age 12, this issue does affect you through your taxes. Schools, too, will be forced to prove that everything that comes in contact with children under age 12 have been tested and certified.
UPDATE: Today's Chron has a story related to this effort, focusing on children's resale stores.
"We will have to lock our doors and file for bankruptcy," said Shauna Sloan, founder of the Salt Lake City-based Kid to Kid Franchise, which sells used children's clothing in 75 stores across the country.
There is the possibility of a partial reprieve. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is responsible for enforcing the law, will consider exempting clothing and toys made of natural materials such as wool or wood.
But exempting natural materials does not go far enough, said Stephen Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association.
Clothes made of cotton but containing dyes or noncotton yarn, for example, still might have to be tested, as would clothes that are cotton-polyester blends, he said.
Clothing and thrift trade groups say the law is flawed because it was rammed through Congress too quickly. By deeming that any product not tested for lead content by Feb. 10 be considered hazardous waste, they contend, stores will have to tell customers that clothing they were allowed to sell Feb. 9 became banned substances overnight.
These groups say the law should be changed so that it applies to products manufactured after Feb. 10, not sold after that date.
That would require action by Congress, however, because the Consumer Product Safety Commission's general counsel has determined that the law applies retroactively, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said.
Boston, MA, January 2nd 2009--Today the Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) announced their endorsement of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) petition to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The HTA is a grassroots alliance of 139 toy stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers from across the country, who want to preserve consumer access to unique handmade toys, clothes and children's goods in the USA.Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 06, 2009 to National news
The NAM Petition, released December 18th 2008, calls for the use of component-testing certification for children's products manufactured under the new CPSC law, as opposed to the currently mandated unit testing. HTA, in agreement with NAM, is urging the CPSC to consider the "common-sense, risk, health and safety-based exemptions," that will "protect the public while minimizing unnecessary economic impacts on business that lack any added safety benefit to consumers."
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 was passed by Congress in August of this year in response to the children's products recalls in 2007. Currently under the CPSIA, which goes into effect February 10th 2009, all goods produced for children aged 12 years and under must undergo expensive third-party tests for lead, phthalates, and other chemicals as finished products. Goods must also contain a permanent "batch" label indicating where, when and by what company the product was manufactured.
It's the one-size-fits-all nature of the law that is causing waves in the children's goods industry. Small or micro manufacturers point to the concept of batch labeling as an important inventory-tracking mechanism in the event of large-scale recalls of an item that was produced in the tens of thousands, but suggest this makes much less sense in the case of a company that produces only 250 felted baby slippers a year. According to HTA member Cecilia Leibovitz of CraftsburyKids.com in Vermont, a handmade children's items store, "The owners of our companies are personally involved in every aspect of production, from procurement to storage, design, and assembly. The scale of these businesses does not permit outsourcing or loss of control over the production process."
HTA members acknowledge the importance of the improved safety testing for children's products, but believe that manufacturers large and small will incur exponentially greater compliance costs if they are required to test every product component individually at the finished product stage, instead of relying on testing results for each product's component materials prior to assemblage.
Without component-based certification, many small businesses will be forced to shut their doors, according to HTA members. "In essence, only large-scale companies that produce massive lots of plastic toys or kid's t-shirts in China will be able to comply with the law. Do we want that? I know my customers don't." says Jen Grinnell owner of LivingPlaying.com a specialty children's retail store in Massachusetts.
"But component-based testing would allow many of us to continue our business, while adhering to the current regulations outlined in the CPSIA," says Jill Chuckas, owner of Crafty Baby, a hand crafted children's accessories company in Connecticut.
Simply, the HTA is calling for common-sense rules that fit with the realities of the children's goods industry without compromising consumer safety. An example of this type of regulation exists already for Organic Food Certification. According to Dan Marshall of Peapods Natural Toys & Baby Care in Minnesota, "Materials-based certification is also used in other industries, including organic food certification. Component testing is already a federally recognized and reliable method, to ensure the overall end product's safety for consumers."
The CPSC has proposed new rules excluding "natural materials" from redundant testing processes. According to Dan Marshall, "The reasoning behind the proposed exclusion of natural materials from the new law is that the CPSC believes there is little to no risk that a piece of wood, cotton or wool by itself could become contaminated with lead during storage and manufacturing." The same reasoning, according to HTA members, should apply to all other materials that are commonly used in children's goods and have already been properly tested before being made into a finished product. Many of these components, such as flour, food coloring and flax seed are currently regulated by the FDA as foodstuffs. The HTA is compiling a preliminary list of these natural materials to submit to the CPSC.
Dan Marshall, Peapods Natural Toys & Baby Care (St. Paul, MN)The Handmade Toy AllianceTel. firstname.lastname@example.org www.handmadetoyalliance.org
Jill Chuckas, Crafty Baby, Owner, Designer (Stamford, CT)The Handmade Toy AllianceTel. email@example.com www.handmadetoyalliance.org
Rob Wilson, Vice President, Challenge & FunThe Handmade Toy AllianceTel. firstname.lastname@example.org
National Association of Manufacturers Petition: http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org/document-to-share/CPSCPetition1208.pdf
The Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) is a grassroots alliance of 139 toy stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers from across the country, who want to preserve unique handmade toys, clothes and children's goods in the USA.