Friday, December 12, 2008

protect small artisans

I've been hearing a lot lately about the Consumer Product Safety Information Act of 2008, a federal law that is intended to protect children under 12 from using products with lead, phthalates, and other hazardous substances. This law applies not just to mass toy manufacturers who import tainted products from China (the original impetus of the law), but also to small-scale artisans making toys and children's items (clothes, diapers, bibs, etc.).

Beginning in February 2009, all of these finished items will now be required to be tested for lead. As of August 2009, testing must be conducted by a third-party certified lab.

As a yarn dyer, I don't have too many concerns that this will affect my business practices. But as someone who loves handmade items made out of natural materials, particularly for my child, I have a great deal of concern that the artisans that I love and support will no longer financially be able to stay in business. Testing ranges from $100 to $4,000 for each batch of identical product. Fines are severe--about $150,000 per violation, I believe.

The following is reposted with permission from the HC forums. I will be sending Rep. Rush an item in the next few days. Although I'm not his constituent, I hope that by being part of a flood of packages, my action may make a difference in his thinking on this law. If your representative belongs to the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection subcommittee, your letter/package will have a particularly strong impact. My own Congressman is on the House Small Business Committee, so I'll probably write him as well.

The idea is to send Rep. Rush (chair of the subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection) a handmade product that will be banned after Feb 10. Below is the letter my dad and I are including with our item -- feel free to copy it, and change as you see fit. If you're not a maker of handmade children's items but you are affected by the law as a buyer of such items, you can amend the letter below to reflect that, and maybe send an item that you want to spare, or just amend the letter to include a description of the item....maybe include a picture.

Anyway, here is an example of a correspondence:

Dear Representative Rush:

On Feb. 10, 2009, due to new CPSIA regulations, the enclosed item will turn into a "BANNED HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCE." Don't let this happen! I am an artisan who owns a wooden toy business. I make my products in my home studio using untreated natural wood, non-toxic glue, beeswax, and mineral oil. Even though I use safe, natural materials to make my items, each one-of-a-kind item I make will require testing; however, it is financially impossible for me to comply with the new CPSIA lead testing standards. I will be forced to shut down my toy business. Not only will this affect our family's income, it will affect hundreds of children whose parents prefer handmade, natural toys for their children.

PLEASE consider amending the legislation to exempt from third party testing requirements:

* natural materials such as wood, wool, bamboo, cotton and uncoated textiles.
** toys and apparel handmade in the US, Canada, and the EU that use trusted safety-regulated supplies.

Also, please consider allowing manufacturers to use lead testing certification from suppliers. This would cut down on retesting and make complying financially feasible for micro-manufacturers like myself.

Thank you for your time.

[your name]

The Honorable Bobby L. Rush
United States House of Representatives
2416 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-1301
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