Handmade Toys And Clothing: Threatened With Extinction Under US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Save Handmade Toys from the CPSIA

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), as passed by the US Congress in August, 2008, inadvertently threatens to take many handmade toys and children's clothing items off the market. According to the Handmade Toy Alliance, "The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of children's goods that have earned and kept the public's trust: Toys, clothes, and accessories made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the US." 'How can this be,' you may be wondering? Look below for details.According to the Handmade Toy Alliance, cottage industries - among the smallest of small businesses - simply can not afford the hundreds or even thousands of dollars private labs are charging to certify a product, as per requirements of the CPSIA.

Big corporations are directly responsible for causing the lead contamination problem by outsourcing toy and clothing production to China. Paradoxically, now, small US businesses established to serve a market segment which specifically wanted to avoid purchasing lead- contaminated, made-in-China goods is being squeezed out by a rigid and insensible CPSC regulation, which is cost effective only for high-volume manufacturers.

Whether this oversight was a plausibly deniable 'on-purpose,' or merely a coincidence, we'll never know.

The Handmade Toy Alliance is seeking exemptions: and rightly so, as there are plenty of less onerous and more cost-effective ways to manage the risk of childhood lead exposures.

Simply by self-certifying that no components or finishing materials are sourced from China, a huge element of the risk would be removed. By offering a "Not China" exemption to small businesses, commonsense and fairness would be restored.

If a "Not China" certification would be problematic for political reasons, the equivalent risk reduction can be accomplished euphemistically: just by certifying that no vinyl is used. (Chinese vinyl makers are the ones using lead stabilizers - a vinyl additive that industries in Western nations have largely phased out, the exception being that use of lead additives is permitted for certain electrical equipment.)

It is illegal to sell or use lead-based paint in most Western nations. All a US toy or clothing maker or distributor need do is to specify appropriate suppliers of paint or other coatings, and the risk of lead exposure is eliminated.

The remaining hazard is in metal trim, jewelry, and bead work.

If the maker of a hand-made or "boutique" item documents that suppliers have been told that they must not be using lead or lead alloys (such as bronze or pewter), pushing the responsibility to test and certify lead free materials upstream, the responsibility for certification becomes comprehensive for the large paint supplier, and therefore more beneficial to society.

If the boutique business is making jewelry from base or noble metals, they are unlikely to be mining, benefacting ore, and smelting their own metal. The solution is to require metal suppliers to certify lead-free materials, pushing the responsibility upstream to where it is cost effective to perform the lab tests and issue certifications.

You have to wonder why the US Congress, which normally is quite sympathetic to small businesses, did not see the need to hear the small business point of view, and why the CPSC staff did not propose such exemptions for small businesses?

Key background posts on lead in toys.
February Deadline To Get The Lead Out Of Kid's Cloths & Toys: No ...
Barbie, Don't Blame China

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