Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act

[In the last day there has been a slight improvement to this issue. The commission tentatively agreed, among other things, to exempt clothing, toys and other goods made out of natural materials. Like I said, slight improvement. They opened up a 30-day comment period at if you would like to let them know what you think. Keep on sending letters to your representatives, too.,0,6917858.story]

This is a little dry, but stay with me? It is important. I've put important points in bold for you skimmers out there.

Starting February 10 the new Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) will take effect. The CPSIA was initiated and passed to protect our children from dangerous chemicals and components in their toys, clothing and furniture. While the CPSIA is a noble, worthwhile and needed act of Congress, it was hastily put together.

In its current form, CPSIA will require every one item from every batch of product intended for those 12-and-under to be rigorously tested using expensive lab testing. Many small businesses will be crippled by financial burden. Many parents vowed to buy handmade toys for their children this year and last. The way the law currently reads, those crafters who made your children's toys may be put out of business by this expensive and frequently unnecessary testing

This issue is really confusing. That's the problem. There are many issues involved here. It cannot be adequately explained in a few paragraphs. Look how long this post is and I haven't even begun to cover this issue. In the interest of brevity, let me short cut this for you. The act is damn confusing. Without further clarification and amending, the CPSIA could potentially bankrupt a huge number of small businesses or put them out of business. As a small business of one, that kind of freaks me the hell out. Since I supply materials, I am currently exempt from CPSIA testing. I can imagine very easily that a flurry of hastily written (but well meaning) legislative action might endanger my livelihood the way it is endangering the livelihood of crafters and artists who create for children. [Think carved wooden trucks, handmade dollhouses, knitted toys, sewn doll clothes, handmade easter bonnets, premie caps! All of these may be included under CPSIA.]

Essentially what I want you to do is to call or email your representatives and ask them to clarify this act and to issue guidlines. I really believe this will be all sorted out if enough people ask for it too be. Perhaps I'm being naive?

I think I might have stopped making sense paragraphs ago. It's late and I'm tired. Let me post some information written by people who can speak more intelligently than I can on this issue. I am also posting the text of the letter I sent to my elected officials. The same letter can be found by clicking this link, entering your zipcode, clicking the email link under your senator or representatives name, then choosing to send the letter called "URGENT: New Product Safety Laws Need Clarifications Now". After choosing this letter you will be allowed to either send the form letter or write your own.

More information:

Here is the text of the letter I sent. I can't take credit for it. I have put the important points in bold. Send your own letter by clicking here:

The CPSIA legislation was an important contribution in efforts to strengthen product safety laws to make sure only safe and compliant products are sold to our nation's children. While well-intentioned, this legislation contains several provisions that impose new and burdensome requirements that increase costs at a time of economic upheaval but do not offer any improvement in the safety of children's products, including toys, clothing, and footwear. If left unchanged, such requirements, especially considering this dire economic environment, will have a disastrous impact on many companies.

As you know, the August 14, 2008 legislation included a new ban on lead in children's products (no more than 600 parts per million (ppm) by weight of any part of the product). According to the CPSIA, the new lead requirements take effect beginning February 10, 2009. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has determined that this new requirement will apply to goods in inventory, as well as goods made on or after that effective date. This ruling effectively makes this new lead requirement retroactive. This means that product that produced several months ago, and which is safe and legally compliant today, will not be able to be sold on February 10. This seems unfair, as it means we are being held responsible for a standard that didn't even exist when those goods were made. Moreover, it will be extremely difficult - and in some cases impossible - to retroactively certify that individual goods already in the warehouses and on the store shelves meet the new lead standard.

In short, the ruling puts at risk millions of dollars of inventory.

Moreover, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has so far failed to provide significant guidance or issue regulations on how the new lead rules should apply to children’s products, even those that are inherently lead free. [Like knitted toys!--Me] While the CPSC recently released four proposed rulemakings addressing testing exemptions for products and materials that are lead free, these rulemakings do not go nearly far enough. As February 10 quickly approaches, guidance has thus far been provided in a piecemeal approach while the CPSC wades through a backlog of information requests and juggles multiple new rule makings with limited resources. Because of the incomplete guidance, companies are being forced to undertake duplicative testing of components or to test elements of children’s products that are either inaccessible or that are inherently lead free. While testing forms an important validation, these conflicting and burdensome requirements - especially for products and components that are inherently lead free – do not advance children's safety. In fact, the current system, if left unfixed, undermines our public safety system by shifting focus away from risky products.

I respectfully request your help ensuring that the CPSC institute rulemaking to clearly define the scope and applicability of the new lead regulations and testing requirements for apparel and footwear products. I also urge that CPSC announce and implement an orderly enforcement schedule that focuses initial phases on education of these new requirements. Finally, I believe the decision by the CPSC to apply the lead ban retroactively needs to be reconsidered as soon as possible since the practical impact of this decision, in today's economic environment, will have an adverse effect at a time the government is spending billions to stimulate the economy.