Monday, January 12, 2009

Farewell to Handmade Toys

If you have not yet heard about the CPSIA, you are in for an unpleasant surprise. This new law will make handmade childrens items utterly cost-prohibitive to produce, putting many of your favorite makers of childrens toys and clothing out of business.

Back in August, congress passed this law intended to increase regulations protecting children from lead poisoning, in response to the widely publicized recalls of products from China last year. Unfortunately, the way the law was actually written was incredibly shortsighted. Instead of focusing on the products that pose the greatest threat to children - imported toys made with lead paint and lead metal childrens jewelry - the law mandates extremely expensive testing for ALL childrens products, regardless of origin, business size, or materials used - only undyed, untreated natural fabrics and raw wood have been exempted - even if all of the components are certified lead-free by the manufacturer.

This means that if your grandmother knits baby hats to sell at the church bazaar, she would have to pay as much as $4,000 per style for third-party testing of her finished product, and would have to re-test if she changed the color of yarn, the style, or even the size of the hat. The testing destroys the item, so she would have to re-make each thing she intends to sell after it had been tested. If she ignores the regulations, she is liable for hundreds of thousands in fines and criminal jail time for selling banned hazardous substances.

This obviously makes hand-crafted childrens items utterly cost-prohibitive to produce. All of those cute toddler dresses made from vintage fabrics, those hand-carved wooden toys, the handsewn plush animals, will be unavailable after February 10th. The crafters who started those businesses to provide parents with alternatives to cheaply made imports will be punished retroactively and their inventory will be unsaleable, as these new regulations apply to items produced before the law was even passed. We all want children to be safe from lead poisoning, but these regulations are written in such a way as to make the problem worse. Only those producers who make the same items in massive quantities will be able to justify expensive testing fees, and even then the cost of products will go up and the choice available to consumers will be greatly decreased.

Do you part and vote on to save handmade childrens items from the CPSIA.

Call your congressional representatives and tell them that this law needs to be taken off the books, and drastically rewritten, or it will destroy scores of small businesses and remove eco-friendly consumer choice at a time when the economy and the environment can least handle it.

Write a letter to the editor of any newspaper you read, online or offline.

For more info on the CPSIA and what you can do, check out, this post from Natures Child, the Wikipedia article on the CPSIA,, and this article from the Wall Street Journal.

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