In order to educate consumers as well as designers, artisans, authors, manufacturers, retailers, publishers, and resellers about the effects of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, tomorrow is "CPSIA Blog-In Day." You are invited to blog about the CPSIA and the effect it will have on you and your family. Proponents of this law argue that you can't put a price on kids' safety - and they're right. The problem is, they haven't read the law.
No one is objecting to tougher lead standards in children's products, or to limiting kids' exposure to phthalates. Unfortunately, the CPSIA imposes new testing and certification requirements that many individuals and small businesses devoted to making handcrafted toys, clothes, accessories, and books for children cannot afford to comply with - meaning that on February 10, 2009, they face a choice: Defy the law or go out of business. Those that can survive still face tough decisions. Already, many of them have had to lay off employees - in a tough economy where jobs are scarce. Many of them will simply have to destroy their inventory of children's products and stop selling them in the future. Public libraries are contemplating whether to remove books from their shelves - or ban kids twelve and under from the library. Schools and school libraries are also affected. Imagine that on February 10, your child's textbooks must be taken away - destroyed or locked in a storeroom, because they are deemed "hazardous substances." I invited readers of my blog to fill out a survey on the CPSIA and its effect on their businesses.
"Safety laws are important," says bookseller Zach Smith, "but they need to target specific things that pose a problem - they should not indiscriminately blanket the entire market."
Connie Hughes writes, "I think it is ridiculous to make such a sweeping law to protect children from products that have no chance of containing lead. The hand smocked baby bonnets I make and sell in no way use any product that contains lead or is exposed to lead, yet I will be penalized by this law." More affordable tests have been deemed acceptable as initial screening mechanisms, but insufficient to comply with the requirements of the CPSIA. They might serve to give resellers and thrift shop owners that "level of confidence" that the goods they sell won't get them thrown in jail. After all, they're exempt from the testing and certification requirements, but they will still be held liable if they sell any product containing lead. How the CPSC plans to prove that second-hand goods came from one thrift store or another is beyond me.
Another survey respondent who signed only as "C." adds, "This is going to have such a huge impact on the nation as a whole! Especially with the economy in the state it's in, people are relying on small business, and second hand items to get them through!"
One argument I hear, occasionally, goes like this: "If you can't afford to properly test your products for safety, you shouldn't be in business selling products to children." While that seems a fair point, consider this: Many of the businesses hit hardest by the CPSIA were started by parents and grandparents and people who cared about kids in response to all the recalls of lead-tainted children's goods imported from China by mass-market toy companies. They wanted to create safer, healthier, more environmentally friendly toys, clothes, and accessories. And they're being punished for it. Those who have already broken the law, exposed our kids to harm, and put their lead-laden products on the market are going to survive this!
Children's clothes typically don't contain lead. In fact, of all the kids' clothes recalled over the last two years, I found lots of choking and strangulation hazards, but no lead or phthalates. But where is the cry to ban drawstrings and buttons? The CPSIA only calls for warnings. Glancing through the lead-related recalls of the past two years, it looks to me like most of the problem goods were, basically, cheap crap. Not quality handmade items. Not books.
That's right - books aren't exempt from the CPSIA! I found two instances of lead involving books - both of which were attributed to painted wire bindings. The only books that might contain lead or phthalates in any significant amount have painted metal trim or flexible plastic bits or toys packaged with them. Ordinary books made of paper, cardboard, glue, and ink simply don't have lead in any quantity of toxic materials that would pose a danger to a child's health - even if he ate the entire book. As a mother, a writer, and a citizen who places high importance on the value of a good education, I am - by God - willing to take that chance with my kids' health.
To think that "rulemaking" and a series of minor, specific exemptions is sufficient to save small businesses in America is to open the door to costly, time-wasting litigation. It even wastes the time and resources of the CPSC, meaning they're LESS likely to have the resources to stop the really unsafe products that make it to the U.S. market. Meanwhile, families are hurting already from the downturn in our global economy; this will sound the death knell for countless small businesses as February 10 - National Bankruptcy Day - approaches. It is time to REPEAL THE CPSIA.
If you don't already have a blog, now would be a good time to start one. This affects everyone. Please don't sit back and think "somebody else" will take care of it. They're trying, but they need your help, your voices, your opinions.