Jan. 30th, 2009

jan_andrea: (ARGH)
Hurray! The commission has added a one year stay of execution on the CPSIA -- the provisions are still in effect, but testing is not mandatory on most items. So we're in the clear until Feb 10, 2010, by which time the guidelines should be much clearer and based in actual science, instead of scaremongering.

Thank you to everyone who wrote and called the CPSC and their representatives -- I really think that made all the difference.

2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Everyone wants safer toys and other items for their kids -- there's no question of that. So in 2008, Congress approved the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a sweeping reform of current safety legislation. Sounds great, right? Now our kids can be protected from lead and phthalates in numerous products, and who on earth would vote against that?

Well, the trouble is the broad scope of the legislation. It doesn't target only plastic or lead-painted toys from China. It targets every single item made and sold in the United States that will be used on or around children. Whether you're a giant corporation importing toys, or a tiny garage business making wooden toys, or, like me, a mom sewing slings to help pay her mortgage, everything has to be tested. Testing for lead costs more than $100 per item. And this means, every fabric, every color, every different color of ring, has to be tested for lead. For me, that means a conservative estimate of $8000, based on my current fabric inventory (add another $2000+ if I add more colors or fabrics in the future, which I will need to do eventually). I would also need to test zippers and snaps -- each different color -- so I would be looking at around $10,000 (minimum) in testing. That's a huge portion of my annual profits.

Obviously, that is totally unsustainable for a small business, or even a big one. My business, along with pretty much every single other cottage industry, would be forced to close down, or face fines of $100,000 and even jail time for violating this law.

This goes for other textile items as well... including knit hats, blankets, cloth diapers, stuffed animals and other plush, and boutique clothing. *Every* WAHM producing anything of that nature will be affected by the law. Keep in mind that lead levels in fabric are already low -- on the order of <10ppm. The standards right now are 900ppm, falling to 90ppm in the future. Even at that level, the vast majority of fabrics would pass... but the act doesn't specify that fabrics are exempt.

The economic impacts this law has on business in America cannot be understated. One gentleman has gone so far as to dub the day the testing provisions go into effect (Feb 10, 2009) "National Bankruptcy Day", because any business that hasn't tested its products will be unable to even liquidate its inventory (since untested products are assumed to be full of lead and thus hazardous), leading to mass bankruptcies. That's NOT what our already-shrinking economy needs right now.

The law was well-intentioned, to keep children from getting sick and dying from lead poisoning. But it ignores the fact that the vast majority of lead-tainted products were from large manufacturers, almost universally imported from Asia, and instead puts this impossible testing standard squarely on the backs of small American businesses, the very ones that Americans *want* to shop with right now for their record of safety and honesty. What this act will end up doing is making it impossible for small businesses to compete (since the costs of testing will have to be passed on to consumers, and small businesses will pay disproportionately compared to big ones), and limiting the choices Americans have in their shopping.

These sites offer more information:
If you value small businesses and handmade products, I urge you to contact your representatives, sign the petition above, and email the CPSC and let them know that this act is *not* what you want. Handmade products are historically far safer than imported, mass-produced ones, yet the latter will be all that is left in the marketplace if the act goes into effect as written.

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