Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I've been saving a CPSIA post as a draft for weeks, adding to it when I could find spare moments. Then I came across a post on another bloggers site, and she says everything I wanted to. Here's some CPSIA info from Sarah, author of My Charmed Life.

"Safe" at What Cost?

You know what keeps me up at night? Well yes - two fussing four month olds - but what do I lie in bed and think about after they are again sound asleep? What interrupts those precious few minutes of peace I get each morning in the shower and hangs over my head like a dark cloud for the rest of the day?

Five letters. CPSIA. Implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act begins on February 10. Sadly, most of the general population has never even heard of it. Many of those who have heard of it may assume it's a good thing - with a name like that, how could it be bad? We want safer products, right?

This legislation is troubling on so many levels. It will have a severe impact on my business to be sure, but it also affects me generally speaking as a parent. I love my children, they are my world. Of course I want to protect them. The original intent of the CPSIA was likely just that, to protect our children from harmful substances such as lead and phthalates. Somewhere it got off track, way off track, and now I firmly believe it will do more harm than good.

The CPSIA comes after a year which saw recall after recall in the toy world, largely involving toys imported from China which contained dangerous amounts of lead. As written, the CPSIA requires that each and every children's product (the definition of which is VERY broad) be subjected to costly third-party testing and issued a certificate of compliance with stated levels of lead and phthalates. Products which do not have this certificate of compliance will be treated as banned hazardous substances. Even inherently lead-free items such as unfinished wood and unembellished fabric are subject to these requirements. Simply stated, under the CPSIA, products will be treated as hazardous until they are proven otherwise.

The cost of compliance will simply force many small businesses and artisans who produce small runs of handcrafted items out of business. The vast majority of these products are safe and ironically, in many cases, were intended to provide an alternative to the questionable, mass produced, imported children's products on the market. It's hard to imagine how the new law will be enforced, but the penalties for non-compliance are stiff.

Raising kids in today's economy is not easy and I like to save money where I can. This past fall, I went to a local kids consignment sale. The sale was held in a large warehouse and everything from clothes to highchairs, toys to baby carriers and more was available at a fraction of the retail cost. I was able to purchase two enormous bags of clothing for my kids, along with a couple of puzzles for around $150. These clothes will make up the bulk of their wardrobes for the year. Included in the haul were many items that look just like new and several complete outfits for my daughter (Gymboree, no less) with the tags still on them. Kids outgrow their clothes so fast, particularly in the smaller sizes, that many hardly get worn at all. It makes sense as a budget-conscious mom to take advantage of this fact, right?

Being that the twins are our last children, we had planned to sell some of their gently used things as they are outgrown. Clothing, bouncer chairs, furniture...these things aren't cheap and recouping some of their cost would certainly help us down the road. You'll find parents reselling items on Craigslist, eBay, at yard sales, consignment sales and the like. This is about to change. The CPSIA is retroactive. This means that any selling of children's products currently in existence is about to become illegal. Billions and billions of products will become contraband literally overnight. They will have to be destroyed because they cannot legally be sold. Imagine the environmental impact.

There will be no more consignment sales, or bargains to be found on kids items at thrift stores and yard sales. We'll have no choice but to shop retail, from products produced by manufacturers who are large enough to incur the required testing. Undoubtedly that cost will in turn be passed onto the consumer. Poor selection at a higher price, just what we need in an economy that already finds many on the verge of bankruptcy.

Is there hope that this legislation can be amended before it is too late? I wish I knew. There are efforts underway by the handcrafting community to bring attention to this issue, but time is growing short. In an article published in Friday's Los Angeles Times, only one of six children's thrift stores contacted had even heard of the law. Many parties who will be deeply affected have yet to learn of those five little letters: CPSIA.

You can read the entire law here.

You can read my previous post, which includes links to help you contant your senators and representatives here.

Bottom line, CPSIA needs some tweaking to save handmade toys, consignment stores, work-at-home moms, our budgets, the environment, and everything else in danger if the law passes as written.


Melissa said...

Sarah now has a series going of personal stories of Etsy sellers that are closing their "doors". It's amazing to me that no one in charge seems to know the answers.

Oh wait. It's government.