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Monday, December 8, 2008

Do You Love Handmade? Have kids of your own? Buy for kids? Then the CPSIA could change life as you know it.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 12/10: Etsy has spoken out against the unintended consequences of the CPSIA in an eloquent open letter published in the Storque:


Sorry for the radio silence, folks, but I've been utterly heartsick since Saturday. Why, you ask?

I learned about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and its ramifications for my little business. And for handcraft businesses like mine throughout America. This law goes into effect in February, and as written it is a death knell to the handcraft movement for children's items.

Remember last December, when folks were freaking out about lead in children's products and toxic toys? This legislation came out of those concerns. It purports to protect children from lead and pthalates by requiring rigorous testing for all products intended for use by children under the age of 12.

Good thing, right?

Not as the law is written, unfortunately. While I sympathize with the sentiments behind it -- of course I do! I'm a mom with two small kids! -- the CPSIA is feel-good legislation at its worst. It slaps on a bunch of regulations and requirements in the broadest of manners, without thinking through the details.

And did I mention it will put me out of business? At least the Baby Friendly Beads part of Mama's Magic Studio. That or I'll be operating illegally.

Why? Because the CPSIA requires end unit testing on every product intended for use by children under 12. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to do this testing, regardless of how small the business. These tests run into the hundreds of dollars. And every piece of my jewelry is one of a kind, so would require a separate set of tests. It isn't enough to test a single prototype. Since each piece of my jewelry sells for $50 or less, the math just doesn't add up.

It isn't enough to test the components, nor is it sufficient to rely on your suppliers' certification of the safety of the materials. Apparently, according to the CPSIA, simply knitting yarn into a baby blanket or putting beads on a cord mysteriously changes the composition of said materials and requires a whole 'nother set of tests, because they might have suddenly turned toxic. There are no exemptions for small businesses and "micro" manufacturers like myself and most handcraft artisans.

Yes, it is that ridiculous. I'm no lawyer, so I had a hard time reading through the text of the act, but I've been researching this ever since I heard about it on Saturday, and enough savvy folks are coming to the same conclusions. The CPSIA will either virtually end the production of handmade childrens' goods here in the USA, or it will turn the large majority of artisans producing children's goods into criminals.

With hefty fines and the possibility of jail time. As of February 10th, 2009.

There's even a movement starting to designate February 10th "National Bankruptcy Day" Not just because of all the businesses that will be forced to close their doors, but also because those manufacturers who can afford to test their products will almost definitely be passing on their costs to consumers. Get ready to pay more for all sorts of children's goods, and to have much fewer choices. Ain't that grand, in this moment of economic crisis?

The whole thing is a big mess, and folks are just in a panic about it. Myself included. Perhaps the biggest irony is that during the toxic toy scare which started it all, many people started to turn to handmade, American-made items for their children, because they felt (rightly, in my opinion) that these were safer. Instead of trusting the big companies and their Made In China labels, many consumers looked to individual artisans who were personally responsible for their products, who put their love and care into every item they made and did their very best to make safe products with integrity, everything from clothing to toys to furniture. If CPSIA goes forth, that handmade option will likely no longer exist.

Our representatives need to hear from The People on this one, folks. (Write your representatives here and your senators here). If you support the handmade movement, if you like being able to buy handmade childrens' goods, if you support small businesses, if you have kids or buy stuff for kids, please speak out. Loudly! Tell the CPSIA the legislation needs to include testing waivers and/or reasonable consideration for small businesses (you can use this online form here), contact the media, tell your friends.

Here is one way to express your support: American Apparel has put together a very easy to use form letter about this issue, including a section for you to express your own opinions if so desired. Use this link to send it to your representatives and senators in a matter of moments:

If you want to read further about all this:

Here is the original text of the CPSIA as it now is written:

Here's the gist of it in the FAQ section:

More about National Bankruptcy Day:

The Handmade Toy Alliance is speaking out loud and clear against the legislation. Here are their suggestions for how you can help:

Kathleen over at Fashion Incubator has been working hard to get this law changed, and her site really has the lowdown on the law in general and also how it would affect the childrens' apparel industry. (Remember, we're not just talking babies here; this is anybody under age 12!)

Cool Mom Picks has spoken out against this legislation here:

Here's what some other bloggers are saying -- the first, Smart Mama's post, is especially helpful in giving an overview:

Mom-101: In support of work-at-home moms, and other reasons to defeat the CPSIA act

Here are some Etsy forum threads discussing the CPSIA and its impacts on handcraft businesses. So far no word from Etsy about this other than to point to their Terms of Use and say we're each responsible for acting legally. Sigh.

Other articles about this:

From the Online Wall Street Journal:


From BoingBoing

From CBS (about the current state of the CPSC)

If you know of other resources, please let me know! I will be continuing to update this post as other folks speak out and share their knowledge and opinions about this potentially disastrous situation.


fixedgeargal said...

this is really shocking and the first i have heard of it. artists as criminals? absurd! i have no idea how this is going to be enforced/regulated though. it really is gasoline to the fire of these hard times we are all going through.

tierramor said...

Well, the form asked for a question so here's my question:

"Do you realize that this legislation will put many locally owned, high quality, artisan and handmade craft businesses out of work? Please listen to this consumer and redraft the legislation immediately so it protects against mass produced, unsafe goods...and provides protection FOR our local artisans."

cath c said...

hi jen, thanks, this is extremely informative, you've really done your research! i will do what i can writing to to my reps, etc.

Jen said...

Thanks so much, Cath. Yep, I've been doing my research -- it has basically consumed the past few days. Aaargh!!!

Miri, that's *exactly* the kind of question that needs to be asked. Thank you!!!

Fixedgeargal, I'm shocked too. It just doesn't make sense and is indeed gas on the fire. And not enough people know about it. The law passed in August, but only recently did folks like me start to realize what this law meant for us and for our businesses.

cath c said...

ok, so i went another step and posted a link to your blog on my fb wall, along with a link to the ipetition.

Jen said...

You're an angel, Cathy. Thank you!

Kelly said...

Yikes! I haven't heard this news yet! I'll post a link to your post on my blog as well, Jen. This is absolutely unfathomable.

Jen said...

Thank you so much, Kelly. I really appreciate your help!

Little Dickens Designs said...

It's pure insanity, isn't it? I blogged about this too. I so hope our voices will be heard!