Kids’ empty shelves: CPSIA continued

by Walter Olson on January 14, 2009

Raggedy Andy pillow fight

Much of the alarm over the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the federal law enacted last year in response to panics over Chinese toys with lead paint and the phthalates found in plastic, has focused on the effect it will have on toys and related kids’ products, driving many of them from the market because it is too costly for handcrafters and small-run manufacturers to pay for the testing of every lot. (One protest site is entitled National Bankruptcy Day, after Feb. 10, the day the law is set to go into effect.) But the law is much wider in application than that. It also applies to a sweeping array of children’s goods including clothing, bedding, Scouting patches, and countless other fabric and textile goods for kids’ use; paper goods, school supplies, homeschooling kits, as well as library books and audiobooks, board games, baseball cards, and the like; outdoor gear, bikes, backpacks, telescopes and sporting equipment; home furnishings when marketed for use in kids’ rooms; and much more.

Endangered Whimsy is “a gallery of handmade products endangered by the CPSIA”. Just Add Charm has a CPSIA Awareness Series with other examples of products that could soon be withdrawn. There’s at least one Flickr group, too.

And that just scratches the surface. A familiar high point of many ethnic and heritage festivals is the children’s dance or ceremonial troupe in traditional costume. Yet handcrafted kids’ clothing, especially if intricate and including numerous components (beads, pendants, lace inserts, etc.) is likely to be highly expensive to test in compliance with the law. The same applies to the moccasins, buckskins, and dance gear that are cherished traditions for many Native American kids at powwows.

Some of the local press has been paying attention in recent days and the issue is beginning to reach the national press as well. The Wall Street Journal editorializes today. That attention has come only after weeks of mounting outrage at the grass-roots level, which as John Tozzi at Business Week has noted, has offered an emblematic example of the role of the new social media in giving voice to public concerns: besides alarm-raising at hundreds of blogs and forums (including Etsy and eBay), there’s been a torrent of Twitter discussion, a Ning group, YouTube, and nine Facebook groups so far. Even six month old babies are upset, or so their relatives say.

The initial reaction of many small businesspeople was to ask for as slight a modification in the law as they could, but it has become apparent that the law’s unreasonableness is across-the-board and systematic. Rick Woldenberg explains why a maze of exemptions and proliferation of categories would itself prove highly onerous, perhaps unworkable, for small businesses. Sarah at Just Add Charm writes, “it seems to me that a repeal of the CPSIA may be a better solution than trying to amend it to make it workable”. More on that idea here. I agree. Congress must repeal this bad law.

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1 Holly Jahangiri 01.14.09 at 1:42 am

Agreed. Repeal the CPSIA. I’m a mother; I care deeply about product safety when it comes to my kids. But this law is overreaching to the point of ridiculousness. It needs to be repealed and rethought. A few days ago, I was saying “…and rewritten.” But given the text of the original Act, and the “clarifications” offered to further muddy the waters, I’m not inclined to be generous – these folks can’t write, and have no business crafting broad, sweeping legislation like this AT ALL. Just repeal it.

2 Alan Kellogg 01.14.09 at 5:26 am

Feb. 35th, 2009

Today in response to complaints the CSPIA is damaging the market for children’s goods, the DoJ has announced that testing being too great a burden on the industry, all children’s products are being banned. Clothing, toys, even eating utensils are hereby outlawed. From now on children must go around naked, play with rocks and sticks, and eat with their hands. Bedding and soap being barred as well, dirty children sleeping naked on bare floors should become a common sight. Said one prominent environmental spokesman, “Water usage alone is going to see a huge decrease.”

When asked their opinion most children would reply, “No more baths? Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

3 Xmas 01.14.09 at 6:11 am

Science in the classroom…dead!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlMh7MJiodY

The head of a company that makes science kits for school kids discusses the CPSIA. Plus he talks about other small production run businesses, such as things made for blind and deaf children.

4 Amy 01.14.09 at 9:01 am

Thank you for this. I am a mother first, but also a creator and seller of handmade goods for children, and this law will essentially shut me down or force me to sell illegally. (Black market anyone?) We need to stop killing american businesses and just STOP IMPORTING from the countries where all this garbage started! You can’t FIND lead paint in America…so why should an american made toy be forced to go thru all this? Its absurd. I continue to fight it, I have a youtube protest video you can find on http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org and am making a 2nd (and 3rd, or however many is needed) one as well.
FIGHT THIS! WRite your lawmakers! Write a REAL letter! Fromt he Heart! Email them–REPEATEDLY!
SAVE HANDMADE!
http://blog.mamaslittlemonkeys.com

5 Wacky Hermit 01.14.09 at 9:42 am

With autism on the rise, you’d think people would be concerned about helping those with the condition, but sadly it isn’t so. CPSIA will affect the availability of numerous autism therapy products such as weighted vests and blankets, sensory brushes, and cocoon swings– things that don’t qualify as medical devices regulated by the FDA, things insurance doesn’t pay for, things that are impossible for many people to make, things that sell only in small quantities to niche markets.

Why would that surprise me though? They certainly weren’t thinking about autistic children (some of whom are annoyed by the “flicker” in fluorescent bulbs, which they can see) when they decided to ban incandescent bulbs. Why would they think of us now?

6 Kathleen Fasanella 01.14.09 at 10:04 am

If I may humbly suggest that those interested in the effects of the legislation on apparel to visit Fashion-Incubator which was at the forefront of getting the word out on forums and sites across the web. I also put up National Bankruptcy Day and I mention my background in the apparel industry specifically because special interest groups claim I’m in the pocket of “large toy manufacturers” but allow me to state emphatically I don’t even know any and was publishing on CPSIA well before the news of the effect on toy makers propagated across the web. I also suggest visiting the War Room for up to the minute updates and focused activism where all information is factual, moderated and vetted for accuracy. There’s also the automated mailer to email legislators in one fell swoop. Lastly, we are asking people to fill out the Economic Impact Survey. The latter link also includes every CPSIA entry published on Fashion-Incubator.com, the content of which has been copied and pasted across the web without attribution.

7 Jim Finkel 01.14.09 at 2:15 pm

The new CPSIA rules affect all multi-speed bicycles as well as any bicycle that has hand brakes. The steel cables for these bikes feature one end that is anchored in a lead bearing block and one “free” end that is threaded through the cable housings, terminating in a clamp on either a derailleur (multi-speed) or a brake (multi-speed and BMX). The lead block provides an anchor point that allows the device to work. To keep the stray ends (not lead mounted) of the cable from piercing the rider or anyone who may brush against a cable, the typical closure has been a small lead cup. These cables are very stiff, very sharp, and easily penetrate clothing and skin. That cup prevents many puncture wounds. BMXers are directly affected as hand brakes are used on these vehicles.
On a related note, the earlier CSPC requirements for bikes/lights/reflectors are still playing out, where the adult bicycle is considered as a child’s toy and is legislated as such. See John Forrester’s site for much more on this. Of note is that the conclusions of Dr. Forrester contradict the policies which promote a “bikeways only” philosophy. So not only the contents but also the use of bicycles is subjected to a contentious set of rules.

8 William Nuesslein 01.16.09 at 7:01 am

I anguish for the various firms that would be put out of business by CPSIA. But this is not the proper argument. If theise businesses put children at risk, then they should be closed down. The determining factor is the risk.

There is no scientific evidence that lead or phylates harm people. The lead scare was to get suits against paint companies. The recent congressional testimony about Phylates was literally insane.

I remember well when my friend Jimmy and I used to cast lead sinkers for fishing. It was great fun. As was playing with mercury. Lead and mercury are not pathogens like Malaria. The law is bad because the Science is bad. As I mentioned before, absolutely no child could be harmed by the lead content of paint on plastic toys. The adhesion of the paint to the plastic is very strong.

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