Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year and Let's Keep Handmade Toys Safe and Legal in the US

Happy New Year to everyone! I had a terrific holiday this year with lots of family and friends around. It was busy but lots of fun.

But I also spent a good chunk of my time working with a group called the Handmade Toy Alliance to keep handmade toys not only safe but legal. That's right, I said legal. You see, after the made-in-China scandal of 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission went into action to write a law that would require companies that sell children's goods to do many things that would obstensibly create safer toys in the US. I say obstensibly because, although their intentions were sound, the CPSC with Congress created a law that would in effect outlaw handmade toys. Simply put, the law would be so burdensome and expensive to comply with, that only large-scale manufacturers of cheap plastic toys would be able to afford to put toys out to the American public. This certainly wasn't their intention.

The Handmade Toy Alliance, along with lots of other grassroots organizations that are involved in producing goods for kids, are working to get the law changed so that they will be able to afford to comply with the rules. But to let the public know, we decided to put out a press release--written by yours truly--that describes what we've been doing to date. I hope that you will contact your local congressional leader to let them know that you want to keep handmade toys--the safest that are out there--a viable small business in our country.

So, here is the release! Feel free to pass it along to friends!


New Consumer Standards Jeopardize U.S. Handmade Toy and Children’s Goods Industry: Handmade Toy Alliance endorses modified petition that preserves small businesses

Boston, MA, January 2nd 2009—Today the Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) announced their endorsement of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) petition to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The HTA is a grassroots alliance of 139 toy stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers from across the country, who want to preserve consumer access to unique handmade toys, clothes and children's goods in the USA.

The NAM Petition, released December 18th 2008, calls for the use of component-testing certification for children’s products manufactured under the new CPSC law, as opposed to the currently mandated unit testing. HTA, in agreement with NAM, is urging the CPSC to consider the “common-sense, risk, health and safety-based exemptions,” that will “protect the public while minimizing unnecessary economic impacts on business that lack any added safety benefit to consumers.”

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 was passed by Congress in August of this year in response to the children's products recalls in 2007. Currently under the CPSIA, which goes into effect February 10th 2009, all goods produced for children aged 12 years and under must undergo expensive third-party tests for lead, phthalates, and other chemicals as finished products. Goods must also contain a permanent “batch” label indicating where, when and by what company the product was manufactured.

It’s the one-size-fits-all nature of the law that is causing waves in the children’s goods industry. Small or micro manufacturers point to the concept of batch labeling as an important inventory-tracking mechanism in the event of large-scale recalls of an item that was produced in the tens of thousands, but suggest this makes much less sense in the case of a company that produces only 250 felted baby slippers a year. According to HTA member Cecilia Leibovitz of in Vermont, a handmade children’s items store, “The owners of our companies are personally involved in every aspect of production, from procurement to storage, design, and assembly. The scale of these businesses does not permit outsourcing or loss of control over the production process.”

HTA members acknowledge the importance of the improved safety testing for children’s products, but believe that manufacturers large and small will incur exponentially greater compliance costs if they are required to test every product component individually at the finished product stage, instead of relying on testing results for each product’s component materials prior to assemblage.

Without component-based certification, many small businesses will be forced to shut their doors, according to HTA members. “In essence, only large-scale companies that produce massive lots of plastic toys or kid’s t-shirts in China will be able to comply with the law. Do we want that? I know my customers don’t.” says Jen Grinnell owner of a specialty children’s retail store in Massachusetts.

“But component-based testing would allow many of us to continue our business, while adhering to the current regulations outlined in the CPSIA,” says Jill Chuckas, owner of Crafty Baby, a hand crafted children’s accessories company in Connecticut.

Simply, the HTA is calling for common-sense rules that fit with the realities of the children’s goods industry without compromising consumer safety. An example of this type of regulation exists already for Organic Food Certification. According to Dan Marshall of Peapods Natural Toys & Baby Care in Minnesota, “Materials-based certification is also used in other industries, including organic food certification. Component testing is already a federally recognized and reliable method, to ensure the overall end product’s safety for consumers.”

The CPSC has proposed new rules excluding “natural materials” from redundant testing processes. According to Dan Marshall, “The reasoning behind the proposed exclusion of natural materials from the new law is that the CPSC believes there is little to no risk that a piece of wood, cotton or wool by itself could become contaminated with lead during storage and manufacturing.” The same reasoning, according to HTA members, should apply to all other materials that are commonly used in children’s goods and have already been properly tested before being made into a finished product. Many of these components, such as flour, food coloring and flax seed are currently regulated by the FDA as foodstuffs. The HTA is compiling a preliminary list of these natural materials to submit to the CPSC.

Dan Marshall, Peapods Natural Toys & Baby Care
The Handmade Toy Alliance
Tel. 651-695-5559

Jill Chuckas, Crafty Baby, Owner, Designer (Stamford, CT)
The Handmade Toy Alliance
Tel. 888-788-5168

Rob Wilson, Vice President, Challenge & Fun
The Handmade Toy Alliance
Tel. 888-384-6200

National Association of Manufacturers Petition:

The Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) is a grassroots alliance of 139 toy stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers from across the country, who want to preserve unique handmade toys, clothes and children's goods in the USA.


1 comment:

softearthart said...

Hi, from New Zealand, interesting reading , cheers and "Happy days" Marie