CPSIA Stay Brings Time to Find Compromise

BlogHer Original Post

On January 30th, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously to place a one year stay on the testing and certification requirements for certain products manufactured for use with children 12 and younger.

The stay of enforcement provides some temporary, limited relief to the crafters, children’s garment manufacturers and toy makers who had been subject to the testing and certification required under the CPSIA. These businesses will not need to issue certificates based on testing of their products until additional decisions are issued by the Commission. However, all businesses, including, but not limited to, handmade toy and apparel makers, crafters and home-based small businesses, must still be sure that their products conform to all safety standards and similar requirements, including the lead and phthalates provisions of the CPSIA.

Handmade garment makers are cautioned to know whether the zippers, buttons and other fasteners they are using contain lead. Likewise, handmade toy manufacturers need to know whether their products, if using plastic or soft flexible vinyl, contain phthalates.

...The Commission trusts that State Attorneys General will respect the Commission's judgment that it is necessary to stay certain testing and certification requirements and will focus their own enforcement efforts on other provisions of the law, e.g. the sale of recalled products.

This stay, which will remain in effect until February 10, 2010, gives the Commission time to work through proposed rules changes or new legislation which it is hoped will mitigate the demands on crafters and small independent manufacturers of children's clothing and toys.

While this stay is good news for those crafters active in the Buy Handmade movement, it is not necessarily good news for consumers of mass-produced children's products.  In the Wall Street Journal article Regulators Delay new Rules for Testing Lead in Toys, the Center for Environmental Health noted that they

found several Valentine's Day stuffed-animal toys sold by Rite Aid Corp. and Longs Drugs, a unit of CVS Caremark Corp., with lead exceeding the new national standards that take effect on Feb. 10. The lead levels found in one of the stuffed-animal toys were more than 15 times the new federal limit, the Center for Environmental Health said. "There should be something to back up a claim that the products are safe, but without testing and certification there's no assurance," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman for the group.

The toys are made by Dan-Dee International Ltd., a China-based manufacturer of toys and novelties with U.S. offices in Jersey City, N.J. Company officials didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

How are crafters reacting to this stay?

Wacky Hermit, who blogs at Organic Baby Farm, is doing a CPSIA By The Numbers analysis of the act.  In the first part, she analyzed all the product recalls for 2008 and their effect on the health of US consumers.  her conclusion:

Of the 63 recalls that would have been prevented by CPSIA, only 1 resulted in an injury (a child ingested lead paint from a crib and had elevated blood levels of lead). This means that  had CPSIA been in place for 2008, one child would have been helped.

In Part Two of her analysis, WH explains why it's impossible to know that all items are safe (in her example, snaps on children's clothing) without testing each and every item.. 

The Domestic Diva is not jumping for joy yet.  Because manufacturers are still not permitted to sell products that exceed the new lead levels, and because she fears wholesale suppliers of her children's clothing will be reluctant to stock goods that might not be salable, she is going ahead with lead testing and certification on her goods.

Z Recommends Seller Beware.

Scholar and Rogues calls this No Child's Product Left Behind.

What can you do?
  Contact your federal legislators and speak out about the CPSIA, perhaps avoid toys and other products for children that are manufactured in China? 

On February 5, 2009, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced the Consumer Product Safety Reform with the goal of protecting "families, charities and small businesses from regulations and lawsuits that could kill thousands of jobs."  The most important feature of this bill (in my opinion) would be a reform which would allow small manufacturers (including home-crafters) to use the testing/certification that suppliers have done for components of their products.

Debra Roby blogs her creative life at A Stitch in Time and her journey to fitness at Weight for Deb.

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