Sunday, December 7, 2008

Recently Passed Act Regarding Childrens Product Safety Might Have Horrendous Consequences

Here is a public service announcement for the day. This has been copied from an email sent by Tree City Diapers.

In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production violated the public's trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small part, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick.

The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

While we all applauded efforts by the federal government to tighten the safety standards for toys, we all got much more than we bargained for. The law that was passed extends to all products directed to children 12 years of age and younger, and includes such things as clothing & toys and much more, with very few exceptions or exemptions. That wouldn't be so bad, but there are a few requirements that, if left as is, will force most small businesses (and many medium & large sized businesses) out of business....including retailers, and work at home moms.

How this affects retailers and manufactures:

1. Existing Inventory: The law states that any affected product that does not meet the new standard (with the exception of phthalates) cannot be sold from the shelves after February 10th 2009. The problem is that the law includes many new items that have not been under a previous regulation, and have not been tested. To test these items now, on the retail or wholesale level is prohibitively expensive, and/or simply not possible. So it is very difficult to confirm compliance (although most items in most companies would be compliant), and at the same time, penalties for selling anything that doesn't meet the standard are very stiff. The options for anyone with inventory are not pleasant.

2. 3rd Party Testing by SKU: The law will require 3rd party testing in the future for each sku (or style). The large pair of jeans have to be tested separately from the medium size of jeans...even though all materials are the same. This makes testing prohibitively (impossibly) expensive. There are other ways to form a testing regimen and be just as satisfied with the results.

3. Markings: All products manufactured after August 12th, 2009 must have markings on the package and permanent markings on the product indicating where, by whom, and when the product was made. Large corporations can afford purchasing multiple dies to do this. Small companies cannot. European companies with limited sales to the USA likewise cannot.

4. Complexity: The law is extremely complex. Needlessly so. It is requiring companies to hire lawyers just to get a grasp of what is required of them. Also, the requirement of including certificates of compliance of each product shipped, with each product is overly burdensome. Electronic certificates has been approved, and will help, but even then there is a substantial cost to the additional administration---which does very little, if anything, to improve the safety of our toys.

5. Frequency of Testing: We are still trying to get a clear grasp of this. However, it is very possible that each batch must be tested/certified. This is fine for large companies running 10,000 or 100,000 pieces per batch. For small manufacturers, with small runs, it multiplies the enormous cost from point #2, even higher.

What this means is small, innovative companies that typically make niche products, will be forced out of business, or forced to narrow their product range and sell to the mass market. Product availability and selection will diminish. We will be primarily left with imported plastic toys from China. Yes, quite ironic isn't it.

If you have a favorite company that makes children's products or you enjoy shopping on websites like Etsy or Hyena Cart then this act could put them out of business. Contact your representative before February (this is when the law states that any product not in compliance cannot be sold) and let them know that they should revise the act to make it more sensible and feasible for manufacturers to comply.

How to find your representative

If your representative is on the Committee on Energy and Commerce they are very involved in this piece of legislation.

For more info see and National Bankruptcy Day.

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