CPSIA, Children’s Toys, and the role of Handmade

This week, bloggers across the nation are taking to their keyboards to raise awareness of the mess that is the current Consumer Product Safety legislation regarding children’s products, and I’m joining them. For this Monday post, I’d just like to give you a brief overview of the situation and introduce you to the Handmade Toy Alliance, an organization working tirelessly to ensure that handmade toys and the people who make them do not become an endangered species.


(recycled sweater caterpillar and mushroom softie set by lorigami)

Here is an excerpt from their website:
In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public’s trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small parts, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China.

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 most of us would consider this a fairly reasonable request where it comes to these huge manufacturers and importers of toys which have repeatedly endangered the health of our children, very few people stopped to realize this didn’t just mean Mattel and Hasbro, it also meant the little guys selling locally made, one of a kind toys at neighborhood markets.
Beyond that, the sheer scope of this bill meant that secondhand toys sold at thrift stores had to have certification, library books had to have certification, even handmade children’s clothing had to have certification.
While again, some people may think it’s reasonable for tiny companies to have to comply with the same safety regulations as large ones, the hidden fault in that logic is that for small companies, the number of toys made in one “batch” can be as small as one toy. Each batch has to be independently tested and certified, at a cost of up to 4000$ per batch, depending on which tests are required. For Mattel, who makes tens of thousands of toys per batch, this cost is negligible. For a crafter making less than 100 items, this cost is prohibitive.

(handcarved wooden tops by UrbanTurn)

Thanks to the tireless work of the Handmade Toy Alliance and others, some improvements have been made. For instance, fabric is now exempt from lead testing (but buttons, zippers and other notions are not). That said, there is so much further to go with this legislation.

With that introduction, I’ll leave off with one of what the HTA calls their “Casualties of the Week”, beloved Minnesota Mom and Pop toy store The Essence of Nonsense.
“After 28 years selling bears and marbles and magic, the nonsense finally outweighed the essence of beloved St. Paul neighborhood toy store Essence of Nonsense. The charming little shop at 1783 St. Clair Ave. will close for the last time at 5:30 p.m. today…
In contrast to so many small businesses crippled by the economy, Anderson-Sannes, said her loyal customers never failed her. The toy industry did.
“So many toy companies have been bought out by other companies,” she said. Many of the small European toymakers she relied on for her unique product mix are no longer shipping to America because of lead testing requirements and other costs of business…”

Stay tuned this week for more posts about this issue, including the reason why Mattel has been handed a pass on their testing…

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6 thoughts on “CPSIA, Children’s Toys, and the role of Handmade

  1. @danmarshallmn decided to troll me on Twitter after I retweeted you post this morning. Here’s what’s gone on so far:

    me: Such BS – RT @lorigami: The government says my softies are illegal: http://bit.ly/b85UHW #HTAweek

    him: @rainer3 On what basis do you call this BS? Hundreds of small businesses r in jeopardy b/c of the mistakes of Mattel. Pls learn b4 u tweet.

    me: @danmarshallmn It’s BS since small business doesn’t have $$$ to pay for testing due to big companies f’ing up and gov’t over reacting.

    him: @rainer3 Wow–I wish that were the case. Read everything @ http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html and LMK if you still think that

    me: @danmarshallmn if you’re referring to this: http://bit.ly/cj1FnQ, then yes, testing will be required (page 5) by an accredited 3rd party lab

      • Dunno who he is. Conclusion of the story is that he misunderstood my original post and thought I was calling BS on you, not the CPSIA. Looking back at my post, I guess I could have been more clear, but he should have figured out my stance after my first reply. Oh well. No biggie.

      • Neil, as I said I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. I’ve talked to lots of cranks over the past two years who have denied that the CPSIA would have any effects on small businesses at all and your original tweet led me to believe you were on of those. On my third read of your 2nd tweet, however, I realized you were making the opposite point, that the CPSIA is BS and in support of this blog post. Again, I am in full agreement with your sentiment that the CPSIA is BS and I really appreciate this post in support of our efforts to reform the CPSIA. Sorry again for creating a tempest in a teapot.
        -Dan Marshall
        VP, Handmade Toy Alliance

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