Thursday, January 15, 2009

Once More with CSPIA

Voting at to present the CSPIA issue to Obama after the inauguration ends today at 5EST. If you haven't done so yet, please vote! VOTE HERE!

If you are unfamiliar with the issue, here is a C&P of a little blurb I wrote about it on my friends' blog, Scrutiny Hooligans:

In August 2008 Congress passed a new law called the Consumer Safety Protection Improvement Act (CSPIA). This law was drafted and passed in reaction to the high levels of lead found in some plastic toys imported from China and was intended to stop such a thing from happening again. It lowers the amount of lead allowable in kids’ items and requires all items intended for use by children under the age of 12 to be tested for lead and phalates (an additive that increases flexibility in plastics and vinyl).

At first glance, this sounds like a good thing. Unfortunately, the broad an sweeping nature of this law and prohibitive testings costs will make it impossible for small businesses to comply and ultimately force them to shut down. Goods need to be tested by “SKU” which means that every color and size of an item need to be tested separately, even if they are all made from the same materials. These tests need to be re-done with every ‘batch’ made. This is fine for large corporations who make batches of a million, but for the hand crafter making batches of 10 at a time compliance is impossible and one of a kind items will cease to exist. The law does not allow businesses to test materials that may be used to make multiple items, one of each finished item must be tested. Testing can run from $100-4,000 per item, so just one pair of pants coming in 4 different sizes could cost anywhere from $400-16,000 to test, double that if you want to offer the same pair of pants in a second color. The law does not take the type of materials being used into consideration, so toys and clothing made in the US from 100% organic natural materials and have no risk of containing lead or phalates will have to be tested right alongside cheap plastic toys being imported from China.

The law includes every single item made for children under 12: every title of every kids’ book, every article of clothing, every toy, bedding, art supplies, everything. February 10, all kids’ items that don’t comply will be considered contraband and people who continue to sell them risk being prosecuted for trafficking in hazardous substances. Organizations like Project Linus and charities who knit hats for preemies will have to shut down or operate illegally. Knitting a sweater or sewing a stuffed bunny for your nieces and nephews will be against the law. As a consumer you will no longer have the option of buying handmade indie gear for your kids, you will only be able to choose between large toy companies that can afford the testing. The few mid-level toy companies who continue to sell in the US (think Haba, Plan Toys, Playmobile) will have to raise prices to cover testing costs.

There is a large grassroots movement among toy makers and hand crafters to get this law repealed. In response, the CSPA has issued a few amendments to the act. Resellers (such as Goodwill and consignment shops) will not have to test goods before they are sold, but they will be held responsible if something they sell an item that does not meet the lowered lead standard. They are considering exempting goods made with some natural substances in their natural form: some gemstones, undyed wool and unprinted fabric among them. If you add thread, buttons, string or anything with color to any of these, however, they are no longer considered to be in their natural form so it is a useless amendment.

There are many things you can do to keep pressure on Congress to repeal the law:

You can vote at to have the CSPIA issue presented to Obama after the inauguration later this month:

You can sign the petition to save handmade from the CSPIA:

You can write and/or call your Congresspeople and Reps:

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