Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CPSIA Blog In -- What it means to you!

I've spoken a couple of times about the CPSIA and its effects on my business... but I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about how the CPSIA affects everyone. Not just me, not just you, but virtually anyone who lives in the United States. Take a second and become informed -- write your representatives and tell them you are worried about the impacts. Without Americans standing up and demanding change nothing will happen and you *will* be affected.

So, what is it?

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was approved by Congress and signed into law in September of 2008. It states that, on February 10th, all children's items sold (all items intended for children under 12 years of age) must meet "acceptable" levels of lead -- 600 ppm. In August, that number will drop to 300 ppm. As it is retroactive, it applies to everything that HAS been made and everything that will be made.

Ok, but I don't make anything for children... so I'm not affected, right? Well... no... Let's take a second and see who IS affected by this legislation:

Do you purchase handmade items?

If you purchase handmade items, or items created by a small-scale manufacturer, you will see your options completely disappear come the 10th. Why? As the testing for lead is placed solely on the shoulders of the manufacturer (regardless of whether a supplier has already tested for lead), the costs for small-scale businesses will be astronomical. No handmade artisan can afford the testing (which runs $75 per component of the final product). As they cannot afford to test, as the law dictates, they will be forced to shut their doors. You will no longer be able to find handmade items on Etsy, Ebay, Art Fire or in your local craft fairs for children unless they are in direct violation of the law, which carries severe penalties.

Do you visit libraries?

It's not just handmade that's being affected -- as the law covers *anything* that's made for children it includes books. Libraries loan children's books, so they are liable for the mandatory testing as well. No library would be able to afford the cost of testing every book in their children's library so they will be faced with tough choices. They can either ban children from the library, test all children's books or thoroughly eliminate their children's section. As libraries will not be able to afford the testing the most logical consequence is that you'll see children's sections disappear.

Perhaps your child will appreciate War and Peace instead of the Berenstein Bears.

Do you shop in second-hand stores?

Do you, out of choice or necessity, visit the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or one of the countless other second-hand stores for your shopping needs? If so, you might just be affected. Second-hand stores, while under no strict obligation to test, still must be sure that the items they're selling for children are free of lead. They are just as liable as the original manufacturer if they sell something lead-tainted -- including vintage children's clothing.

Again, like the libraries, second-hand stores are faced with few good options. They can stop accepting donations of children's items, they can test or they accept the possibility that they could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the words of the CPSC's former spokeswoman, they don't have to test... but they have to be sure the stuff they're selling is free of lead. Many second-hand stores will stop carrying children's items to avoid facing this kind of liability.

Do you support charities like Project Linus (a charity that accepts handmade blankets to give to sick children in hospitals)?

As the CPSIA applies to all things traded, loaned, sold or given away, logic would dictate that as it affect libraries, it will, too, affect charities. Perhaps we can all give some great made-in-China blankets to sick children instead of lovingly-handmade quilts.


In the end, the CPSIA affects you if: you've ever borrowed a children's book from a library, ever visited a children's story time hour at the library, plan on borrowing a children's book from the library, bought anything from a second-hand store, will buy anything from a second-hand store, appreciate handmade items, purchase organic (since many makers of organic items are handmade, small businesses), care about the economy (this will shut the doors of thousands of small businesses) or, essentially, live in the United States and are a parent/aunt/godparent/grandparent/etc of a child.

Please, please take the time to demand Congress and the CPSC amend the law. Ending lead in children's products is GREAT, but the law is poorly written and overly broad. It casts too wide of a net to catch the fish (essentially, cheaply made crap from overseas) and will destroy businesses where many of the owners are work-at-home mothers.

Take care everyone!

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