Friday, December 12, 2008

Handmade Toys in Danger in US

I thought I'd let you know about a law that was passed this past August, but will not go into effect until February. I know that not all of you are parents and as such are not interested in the least with this, however, since I've joined the cottage industry after baby c's birth, I felt a connection to this on two levels.

I'm sure we all remember the recent problems with toy imports from China containing unsafe amounts of lead. Well, unfortunately these negative experiences with import have caused a bit of a knee-jerk law to be passed, giving the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) the ability to prevent unsafe toys from getting into the hands of our children. Everybody wants that, right? Sure! However, the new law, the Consumer Product Improvement Act of August, 2008, requires that not only all items that could be made into a child's toy be tested for lead and phthalates (phthalates are found in PVC, for those who didn't know, and have been linked to reproductive issues amongst other things) AS WELL AS the final product. Example: I for some reason decide that I want to make teddy bears out of recycled children's clothes. In this instance, the children's clothes have already been tested for lead before they became children's clothes the first time, however, I get to send the finished product out for lead testing at a third party tester for a SECOND testing, costing me lots of money and jacking the price of said teddy bear up to about a grand.

That's just one example of the ludicrous ways that this law can be read. It's been made abundantly clear that the CPSIA is going to be read in the broadest sense of all applicable terms, as well. So 'manufacturer' includes small businesses as well as one man 'micro-manufacturers'. In addition third party mandatory testing of 'certain' products intended for children is pretty much being interpereted as all.

Even though I do not sell handmade toys, furniture, or clothing, I do sell yarn, and this could possibly have an affect on what little business I have, as people purchase yarn not only to make themselves things, but also to make into items for resell. I would not have to submit my yarn for testing as it is considered materials, but since some of my business is from the folks I just listed, they would not be able to purchase my product because the final item would be subject for testing once it was obvious it was intended for a child's use. Even though the yarn that I sell is wool, which is a fiber that is excluded from testing, it becomes included because I alter the yarn when I hand-paint it or dye it.

When talking to others about this law, it's easy for them to say 'sacrifice a few for the betterment of many', however we are talking about a law that will put thousands of stay-at-home-moms and dads out of business and force them back into a job market during a period of high unemployment rate and a failing economy. It is not the small amount of items that these few produce that are the cause of the problems that we have encountered with lead and phthalates, it is the large overseas manufacturers that we import from. Why are we not monitoring only them, as we already have strict enough standards to go by in the United States? Instead, United States citizens are being made to suffer due to another country's lax standards.

I included a letter that I submitted to Congressman Tom Cole as well as to Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn. Please take the time to do the same, otherwise your kid's handmade Christmas gift could be considered 'toxic until proven lead-free' in February.

Here are some links to the CPSIA law and some of the requirements of the law.

Dear Senator ____,

Like many people, I was deeply concerned by the dangerous and poisonous toys that large Chinese toy manufacturers have been selling to our nations families. And, I was very pleased that Congress acted quickly to protect America's children by enacting the CPSIA.

However, I am very concerned that the CPSIA's mandates for third party testing and labeling will have a dramatic and negative effect on small toymakers in the USA, Canada, and Europe, whose toy safety record has always been exemplary.

Because of the fees charged by Third Party testing companies, many toymakers, clothing and accessory makers, from Maine to Oregon will be driven out of business. Their cottage workshops simply do not make enough money to afford the $4,000 price tag per toy that Third Party testers are charging.

I urge you to quickly rewrite the CPSIA so that toys made in batches of less than 5,000 units per year or manufactured within the USA and trusted countries with established toy safety regimes such as Canada and the European Union be held exempt from third party testing requirements. Such toys could still be subject to random auditing by the CPSC.

If you feel that testing should still be required, then the CPSC should be made to offer free testing services for USA toymakers and importers from Europe or Canada with revenues less than one million dollars.

These toy makers have earned and kept the public's trust. They provide jobs for hundreds and quality playthings for thousands. Their unique businesses should be protected. Please visit to learn more about this issue.

Again, I stress that I am concerned about the ability of the cottage industry in the United States to be able to stay in business, especially in this time of recession, after this law goes into effect. We all share a desire for the items our children come into contact with to be lead-free, but there are better ways to go about it than are listed in this law.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Motherhood sure looks good on you! An excellent post!