Monday, January 05, 2009
I’m sorry… I can’t sew a baby quilt for you. I might end up in a federal prison. My sewing machines could be confiscated. I don’t have $100,000 to pay the fine or even $5000 to get the quilt certified as “safe.”
If you make anything at all that will possibly be used or worn by children under the age of 12, you are now subject to an appalling new law that requires very expensive laboratory testing on every single item “batch” you make. For example, if I make a long nightgown from a certain flannel, it has to be tested for lead and other chemicals. That will cost thousands of dollars. If I then make a short nightgown or pajamas from that same fabric, I will have to pay the same amount to have each of those items tested, also. (For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that the flannel is a nice fire retardant polyester, okay?) Further, we have to test every component separately. If I make your daughter a dress with elastic in the wrists, a zipper in the back, a ribbon at the waist and buttons on the front, and even a hook and eye at the top of the zipper, I would have to send the finished garment to a lab and have every single element of that garment separately tested. If I make the same garment with short sleeves, I have to start all over. That dress would cost you about $7000.
Can you imagine what it would cost for me to make you a scrap quilt for your new baby? Every fabric, thread and batting would have to be individually tested by a laboratory. That quilt would cost $12,000.
Unfortunately, I can’t sell you a quilt I have already made or finish a quilt top and sell that – the law is retroactive.
THIS IS NOT A HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION OR A WORST-CASE SCENARIO.
Somehow, this sweeping legislation – the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) – was passed with great enthusiasm under the banner of “child safety.” Presumably it was spawned by the lead-tainted articles imported from China, but our elected officials have applied it to every large and small manufacturer and retailer in America. It goes into effect on February 10, 2009. The official federal website trumpets it as one of their major accomplishments:
The Consumer Protection/Toy Safety bill. In addition to giving the Consumer Product Safety Commission the tools and resources it needs to fulfill its responsibility of protecting the American public, this legislation will implement the toughest lead standard for toys in the world. It will also require manufacturers to include tracking labels to aid in the event of a recall and mandate third-party testing of toys. The bill passed the Committee unanimously and the House by a vote of 407 to 0.
Suddenly, this is big news. No one noticed it when it happened. After all, it was an election year and our legislators were trying to impress us with how they were “protecting” us. I don’t believe any of them read past the first paragraph of the bill when it was introduced.
The testing costs cannot be absorbed by small and medium-sized businesses. At typical net profit levels prevailing in the children’s products industry, the $6,144 cost of testing probably exceeds the anticipated total net profit derived from three or more years’ sales of the item. This does NOT take into account the cost of development, the cash expense of buying the inventory or the cost of owning inventory (usually estimated at 2.5% per month). Given that children’s products have finite commercial lives (three years is a good life for a consumer product), the CPSIA test costs might exceed the present value of creating a new item for many, if not most, businesses. So, will this product ever come to market? Not under the CPSIA. The only products left for sale will be mass market items where the scale of their production runs can support this wasteful expense.
Does your grandpa make little wood toys or dolls to sell at craft shows or the church bazaar? Sorry, he is officially retired.
In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public’s trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small parts, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China.
The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.
All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and updating their molds to include batch labels.
For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers, however, the costs of mandatory testing, to the tune of up to $4,000 per toy, will likely drive them out of business. And the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007. Toy makers won’t be the only ones impacted by the CPSIA, the thousands of US businesses who offer clothing, jewelry and other gifts for children –in essence– the entire children’s industry will be as well.
The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earned and kept the public’s trust. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children’s products will no longer be legal in the US.
Thriving small businesses are crucial to the financial health of our nation. Let’s amend the CPSIA so that all businesses large and small are able to comply and survive!
From the Los Angeles Times
New safety rules for children’s clothes have stores in a fit
Some owners say the cost of testing for toxic lead and phthalates will shut their businesses. The law goes into effect Feb. 10.
By Alana Semuels
January 2, 2009
Barring a reprieve, regulations set to take effect next month could force thousands of clothing retailers and thrift stores to throw away trunkloads of children’s clothing.
The law, aimed at keeping lead-filled merchandise away from children, mandates that all products sold for those age 12 and younger — including clothing — be tested for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable. Those that haven’t been tested will be considered hazardous, regardless of whether they actually contain lead.
“They’ll all have to go to the landfill,” said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Assn. of Resale and Thrift Shops.
The new regulations take effect Feb. 10 under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was passed by Congress last year in response to widespread recalls of products that posed a threat to children, including toys made with lead or lead-based paint.
Supporters say the measure is sorely needed. One health advocacy group said it found high levels of lead in dozens of products purchased around the country, including children’s jewelry, backpacks and ponchos.
Lead can also be found in buttons or charms on clothing and on appliques that have been added to fabric, said Charles Margulis, communications director for the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland. A child in Minnesota died a few years ago after swallowing a lead charm on his sneaker, he said.
But others say the measure was written too broadly. Among the most vocal critics to emerge in recent weeks are U.S.-based makers of handcrafted toys and handmade clothes, as well as thrift and consignment shops that sell children’s clothing.
“We will have to lock our doors and file for bankruptcy,” said Shauna Sloan, founder of Salt Lake City-based franchise Kid to Kid, which sells used children’s clothing in 75 stores across the country and had planned to open a store in Santa Clara, Calif., this year.
Clothing and thrift trade groups say the law is flawed because it went 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 overnight.
These groups say the law should be changed so that it applies to products made after Feb. 10, not sold after that date.
That would take action by Congress, however, because the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s general counsel has already determined that the law applies retroactively, said commission spokesman Scott Wolfson.
THIS IS NOT A HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION OR A WORST-CASE SCENARIO.
And a subject near and dear to homeschoolers’ hearts: BOOKS!
Book burning on Feb. 10th 2009 due to CPSIA
(written to booksellers about the CPSIA law)…
The truly bizarre part is that the new regulations apply retroactively. Even if it was printed 50 years ago and the publisher no longer exists, you need to have a certificate proving it’s not filled with lead. Even if it is the only remaining copy of a rare children’s book worth thousands of dollars and only will ever be handled by collectors, you cannot sell it because you can’t prove it is not filled with lead.
Anything manufactured after November 10th 2008 should have come with a certificate certifying it has been tested for lead. If your distributor didn’t provide one, you need to call and get one. As of February 10th, it’s in fact illegal for your distributor to sell you a kids’ book without a certificate of lead testing, no matter when it was printed.
Objects without a certification still have to be tested. So those copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows that were printed in 2007 that are still available new at Amazon may have to be destroyed as of February 10th 2009 because they haven’t been tested for lead. (Amazon is taking this seriously and sent a mail to all affiliates asking them to provide the lead testing certificates for all items)
How bad can the punishment be? For selling books? Up to $100,000 PER ITEM and up to five years in jail. It’s also a felony. Get busted, you may lose your right to vote in some states. Even if you can fight it in court, you’ll likely go broke doing so and your local newspaper will carry the headline “Local business selling lead tainted goods”… even though you know they aren’t. Good luck getting them to print the retraction months or years later after that PR disaster.
This includes not just selling, but distribution. So you can’t donate the untested goods to your local library, Good Will, or literacy program. You also can’t sell them to overseas collectors either, as they’re illegal to export. (preventing dumping of truly toxic goods on third world markets is one of the few good portions of this law. Good job on that, bad job on the rest)
Here is the most comprehensive and authoritative resource I can find on this issue: http://www.thesmartmama.com/bg/ Note that she says that she can provide a certain kind of testing at reasonable prices on existing merchandise for the next six months – after that, the expanded testing must be done at specific authorized private laboratories.
THIS IS NOT A HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION OR A WORST-CASE SCENARIO.
The bill was very thorough. There are provisions for how a seller can describe or advertise an item. You are not going to get away with selling teddy bears or diapers or children’s books by labeling them as “adult”. In addition, there is funding for people to search out and turn in those malefactors who are selling mislabeled or undocumented items. Is that what was meant by “creating jobs?” Or shall we just rejoice in the plethora of new private labs that will spring up to accommodate the need?
This isn’t about protecting our children. It’s about legislators in an election year, passing bills without reading or researching them. It’s about building monopolies for large manufacturers and retailers as the only ones who can afford to participate in such a large-scale certification and tracking system. No one wants our children endangered. But realistically, this is government control gone amuck. And no one even knows about it!!
And really, if anyone thinks this will eliminate further tainted products from China, they are very naive. I expect that they will test one of a million Barbie dolls and that is supposed to assure us that the rest are similarly safe. There will be spot checks, of course, but the sheer volume of merchandise will drown out any problems.
OF COURSE all the imported Chinese merchandise will be lead free. And the gymnasts really were over 16.
OH – another very good article about this: http://www.squidoo.com/FixCPSIA Nice clear outline of the issues.