It started over a decade ago... major corporations looking to make more money on their product, without having to raise prices. These companies believed it was best to send manufacture their products overseas. For awhile, it didn't seem like a bad idea.
Yes, there was a large amount of Americans that were downsized or lost their jobs altogether. But the economy seemed to be prosperous, and if people are making money with their financial investments, then the job losses are considered a necessary evil, or collateral damage.
Then, our children's toys were found to contain alarming percentages of dangerous, toxic chemicals, like lead. It wasn't just one or two products and the incident's were not isolated. A couple of years ago this seemed like an epidemic and just last year, toy companies were reeling from poor sales because of the the scandal.
Of course the government felt they needed to do something to prevent this from happening again, so they composed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. An act that forces all companies, from manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and retailers to all comply with a rigorous testing procedure.
The one problem, and a rather common occurrence when the government decides to attempt to correct a problem, is the how stringent the law is for everyone in not only the toy industry, but for every industry that creates children's products. Of course, this trickles down to the home-based handmade industry.
Makers of children's toys, clothing, furniture...everything for children under the age of 12 years old will be affected.
Starting on February 10th, 2009, anyone selling items that can be used by children 12 years old or younger must be compliant with this law or face stiff fines of $100,000 per offense. The way the law is currently written doesn't allow for a blanket compliance for each individual component.
If you manufacture parts for toy cars, use must have every single component in compliance. The part distributors that sell them to the manufacturers, must also send all the parts out for compliance, and then the manufacturer must take the finished product for testing...even though all the components have already been tested and compliance papers issued! Once the manufacturer has their compliance papers intact, they can then begin to send the toys into the stores. From my interpretation of this crazed law, it appears that the store must now take the toy for testing, as they too will need to be compliant... yes, it's bordering on insane.
As the government is always apt to do, they left themselves quite a bit of leeway with this act. They are allowing themselves to decide that a product could possibly be used by a 12 yo child (or younger) so products that a handmade crafter feels is safe, may not be (and the same goes for small and mid-sized business owners) So even though a handmade jeweler may make expensive necklaces or bracelets, the Consumer Product Safety Commission could decide that the $100 necklace they sell, could be bought for a 12yo (or younger) and without compliance papers, stating that the components that have probably been tested at least once, if not many more times already, your finished item will not be in compliance...because they say so.
To this blogger, this act favors the big corporations. They are having a pretty successful holiday season and are flush with funds to pay for these expensive tests (oh yea, tests will run approx $1,500 or more per item) and they'll probably have the ability to write off these expenses or at the very least, pass the expenses on to the consumer.
For the small home-based handmade crafter/artist, the small businesses and even many of the mid-sized businesses, it will likely mean a "mass-going-out-of-business" for all of them. In this blogger's opinion, it means that the big corporations that are mainly responsible for this mess, will be the only companies left standing when the smoke clears.... their competition essentially eliminated.
The more I consider all of the options several members of the handmade community have, the more this Act begins to smell bad. Handmade crafters out of business, small business closed, almost every mid-size business will probably be forced to shut their doors... all for good.
Of course the big corporations already have lobbyists hard at work, throwing millions of dollars around so that they aren't quite as affected...but that's for a future blog.
With barely 2 months to become compliant (and that probably isn't possible before 2/10/09) we as a community need to act as a whole. Write your Congressmen and women, contact the media and let them know about this Act. Don't be surprised that many of them will know little about it, this has been planned to keep it a secret until after the holidays.
After all, if the word gets out, how can these toy companies make all the money they'll need to pay for testing. Don't stand idly by, do something now...make your voice heard...let your government officials know you appreciate the fact that they seem to care about our children, (though I don't know why they think a 13 yo is immune to the toxins) but the Act, in it's current form, will have a huge trickle down effect on small business owners and cause what the handmade community is now call -2/10/09... National Bankruptcy Day!
Don't let that happen!
For more info on the the CPSIA, go to http://www.etsynj.com/ and read the National Bankruptcy Day article and links.
'til next time...