Tonight, as I sit at the computer for a moment before working on--ironically--a handmade gift, I feel the pull to join hundreds of other bloggers (like Sarah Jane) and crafters who are posting about the controversy surrounding the CPSIA, or Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. If this goes into effect February 10th as it is currently written, then all handmade gifts for children under 12 will have to go through a barrage of expensive testing and conformity to be cleared for sale, both on the shelves as well as on sites like etsy that we all love so much.
The Act was well-intended, to prevent large companies from selling harmful products to children, with a focus on lead and phthalates. It mandates third party testing and certification, and requires manufacturers of all goods for children under the age of 12 to permanently label each item with a date and batch number. However, the writers of the Act did not take into account the tens of thousands of small businesses and crafters who sell children’s products. They will be put out of business by this law due to the prohibitive testing costs.
For example, let's say a stay-at-home mom knits a darling little sweater and puts it up for sale on etsy. Each particle of that sweater--each zipper, button, thread, fabric and yarn--much be separately tested. Third party testing can range anywhere from $100 to $500 per test. You do the math. So while a home crafter or small business might make products that are perfectly safe for children, in all likelihood they won't be able to afford the proof.
So who will be affected?
Parents of young students:
Parents can expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.
Anyone who reads children's books:
Can you believe this: all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them (read the letter from the American Library Association). That’s okay though, there's always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.
Lovers of handcrafted things:
That charming blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process, making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.
People who care about the planet:
All items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.
Thrift store shoppers:
You will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for secondhand treasures. Many resale and consignment shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.
Antique toy collectors:
Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase (read the article here). “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.”
The American Economy:
If it's even possible, the American economy will be hit even harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.
The Worldwide Economy:
As you know, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses. Read the recent article from Forbes on this issue.
So what can you do to help?
Call your Congressman (the time for letters and emails has passed), and ask them to request--er, demand--a hearing from the Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss this new law. Find out your representative's position on this important issue, and let yours be known. Encourage him or her to take a bipartisan look at the big picture and consequences of passing this law without amendment to include the protection of handmade gifts, books, antique toys, vintage treasures, small businesses, stay-at-home moms...the list goes on and on.
Thank you for indulging me...I'll exchange my soapbox for my much preferred sewing machine now. I just didn't realize the implications of this law until I read some of the evidence and articles and I am very, very concerned.
(image courtesy of hasenpfeffer incorporated)