February 20, 2009
The HTA and the Times

The New York Times wrote an editorial about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Unfortunately, they seem to have misunderstood what all the fuss is about.

As many parents, and ultimately manufacturers, learned the hard way, the Bush administration did not make the safety of toys and other products a priority. That led to the recall of millions of toys -- some because of lead paint, others because of hazards such as small and powerful magnets that children swallowed. The Obama administration now has an opportunity to fill that regulatory gap by appointing new leadership for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Last year, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, giving new authority and resources to a shockingly understaffed agency. The law has been described, accurately, as providing the safety net that consumers assumed they already had.

Unfortunately, the commission has yet to implement important aspects of the new law. The delay has caused confusion and allowed opponents to foment needless fears that the law could injure smaller enterprises like libraries, resale shops and handmade toy businesses.

One of those opponents is the Handmade Toy Alliance, which includes my cousin Jill, who makes her blogging debut with a response to that piece.

Our issue with the CPSIA has nothing to do with an inability to provide safe toys. It has to do with the inability to cost effectively prove that we have safe toys. We must also point out that this law is not just about toys, but rather all products intended for children aged 12 and under.

We must also take issue with the following statement, "The law provides ways to address such concerns without undercutting its new and vitally important protections against lead or other toxic substances in children's products." Unfortunately, the law does not address our concerns. We agree that it is vitally important to have protections in place to keep toxins out of our children's environments. Many of our member businesses began their companies as a reaction to the toy recalls. They take extra care in researching the products they make and carry in their stores, and are completely involved in the production process. Rather than supporting these businesses, the law requests costly third party redundant testing that would effectively put thousands out of business. If large corporations are all that stand after this law is implemented as is, then who is truly served?

The stay of enforcement does not negate the lead limits or phthalate ban. In fact, the CPSC was quick to point out in their press releases that they do not have the authority to override the limits. Therefore, manufacturers still need to comply with the letter of the law.

She was a lot gentler with them than some other people, but I think she made her point just fine. Welcome to the blog world, Jill!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 20, 2009 to National news
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