December 18, 2008

CPSIAm So Screwed! Update: What Can Be Done NOW To Fix The New CPSC Lead Testing Law?

Good news for the small children's manufacturers, handmade toy and clothing makers, etsy crafters, and everyone else about to be driven out of business by the exorbitant cost of the CPSC's expansive lead testing regulations that go into effect next February: I'm not in charge of rallying troops to contact their congressional representatives and the CPSC, and I'm not in charge of researching and propagating concrete ideas for fixing the CPSIA rules before they go into effect. Because I've been busy dropping the ball.

But a lot of people are mobilizing--and there are plenty of things to be done right now that can have a real impact on keeping safe handmade and small-scale children's products in the market. Here are a couple of places to go:

  • Z Recs has put together a short list of 5 things to do right now--make that, 5 things you can do right now--to help handmade, natural/organic, and independent makers survive the CPSIA. The top two: get informed on what needs to be changed, and start making calls. [ZRecs]

  • At Cool Mom Picks, Liz and Kristen have put together an excellent resource page, Save Handmade, which has a clear overview of the CPSIA issue, as well as solid links and news. [coolmompicks, thanks jason]

  • And then there's this, some insider perspective from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, but who has been following the entire CPSIA saga from inside the industry. First, the good-bad news: "I frankly think [the handmade and independent makers are] going to have to come up with creative solutions, because I doubt any amount of congress-writing is going to get anything done in the near-term."

    So what's a creative solution? One of the biggest complaints of handmade and small-scale producers is the CPSIA's requirement to test every children's product for lead, even if it's made from materials that are known to be lead-free [like organic cotton or wool, or oak], and even if they are made using commercial materials [like yarn or fabric] that is known to be lead-free. DT's source says:

    The CPSC has issued a request for comments regarding using component parts testing vs final product testing to satisfy the third-party testing requirements. [sure enough, here's the pdf, jan. 30, 2009] Although I haven't seen anything in the "save the handmade toys" blogs about this, it's possible that this is a plausible way to save at least *some* of the industry. Sadly, I do not know enough about margins on things like yarn, felt, etc, to know if this would simply put the cost overboard, but here's what I'm envisioning:

    - handmade toy alliance/etsy etc and others gets involved in the comment process and gets some approval for component testing for items that are some combination of unique ("OOAK") or handmade, or where less than 10 of the same item are made, or are made by a business with gross revenue of less than X, etc.

    - some providers of yarn, wool, felt, cloth diaper PUL, cutesy fabrics, etc etc, and makers of all kinds of other popular crafty things have their items tested (spreading out the cost over larger lots), and then sell those "certified" components to the crafty population who can then use that to meet their third-party testing requirement.

    Okay, so I can already see the issues with this (e.g., it doesn't fix the other CPSIA things like lot numbers; it could make these components so expensive it still puts handmade peeps out of business; and technically, every component would have to comply in order to pass the testing), but it's something they might want to explore.
    Alright, creative people, start gettin' creative! But call your congresspeople too, just to be sure.


    Thank you for spreading the word to your readers.

    I doubt any amount of congress-writing is going to get anything done in the near-term

    That's the truth. None of these guys wants to be running for reelection in a couple years and have someone run this ad against them:

    [ominous voiceover]
    "Senator Soandso actually voted against keeping lead out of our children's toys. Call Senator Soandso and ask him why he hates children. Sentator Soandso, a risky choice."

    From the point of view of Congress, keeping something like that off the air is worth bankrupting a few hundred small businesses. They don't care about you.

    I'm afraid I agree on the legislative changes front. After nothing for 20+ years, NO ONE is going to vote to "loosen" lead standards or punch a bunch of "loopholes" exemptions into the hard-fought law, no matter how badly written it is. But if congresspeople don't hear from their constituents about how they will be impacted, they'll be less inclined to care

    But motivating congress could still be effective for two reasons: a) holding hearings could publicize and maybe quantify the impact, and highlight flaws/contradictions in the legislation. and b) it could steer Congress's interests in the rulemaking process, where such egregious details could be mitigated a bit. After 1/20, baldly partisan posturing against GWB's CPSC [hello, Feinstein & Boxer] won't be of any use. Instead, prep for a collaborative effort to "fix" the problems GWB left behind.

    There's a very specific to-do here, in fact: get a new date for the canceled House Energy & Commerce sub-committee hearing on the CPSIA implementation, which was originally set for Dec. 10.

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