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Child product safety law turns US homecrafters into criminals

By Adriana Stuijt     Dec 15, 2008 in Health
A Quincy, Massachusetts woman who runs a micro-business from her home, warns that a new US law requiring costly testing for lead in children's products and toys ' is going to turn millions of home-crafters into criminals'.
For our latest report on 9 January 2009, see
Kiki Fluhr, who runs the All the Numbers Handmade homecraft business from her Quincy, Massachusetts home, warns that the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which becomes effective from February 10 next year, will turn micro-businesses like hers into illegal manufacturers of "hazardous substances' overnight. Also see:
We will all become criminals
This law includes hand-knitted, quilted and hand-sewn clothes, wooden toys and the myriad of other products for children which traditionally have been sold by arts-and-crafts shops countrywide for decades. These are usually produced by cash-strapped people at home.
She says that even granny's home-made quilts sold in the local arts-and-crafts shop won't be exempt from this new law. Also disastrous is the fact that thousands of tons of these often exquisitely-handcrafted products in the pre-existing stock of shops also will have to be dumped as contraband which under this law will be deemed to contain 'banned, hazardous substances' after February 10 -- because the Act is retroactive. Each product will have be tested at huge cost and produce a certificate of compliance before it can be sold. Handcrafters say they can't afford this huge price-tag of $4,000 for each test.
National Bankruptcy Act
Thousands of American microshops like Kiki's will be forced to go out of business because of this Act. She calls it the National Bankruptcy Act which is turning every home-crafter into a felon overnight: every manufacturer, reseller and retailer will need to prove compliance or risk being charged with a felony. A conviction carries tens of thousands of dollars in fines and potentially even jail time.
Read page 7 of the act here - with reference to the required testing of children's products on page 7. Lodge complaints against this act before January 20 2009 here.
Fluhr says that she has spent the last six months growing her business, 'working incredibly hard to create a great product. '
The Act was drawn up after last year's massive recalls, when dozens of dangerous, lead-tainted Chinese toys and children's products were recalled.
"In August 2008, in response to that disaster, the Consumer Product Safety Commission passed this legislation.
She says while it's laudable that the new law bans lead and phthalates (a chemical used in some vinyl products) from all children’s toys, apparel, decor, and accessories, it's a disaster for micro-businesses like hers. She works with organic materials -- and traditional handcrafters like her are very conscious of the safety of their products. However they can't afford to have each product tested at the cost of $4,000 per item to get their certificates of compliance. So they will not only be forced out of business, but their pre-existing stock will be outlawed.
Manufacturers -- all these microbusinesses included -- will have to obtain a certificate of compliance: anyone who makes clothing, toys etc regardless of volume, needs to have each and every component tested by a CPSC-accredited laboratory at huge cost for each individual product.
"This includes not just toys, but clothing, jewelry, blankets, sheets, books, bibs, strollers, carriers, and anything else that a child younger than 12 might come in contact with," she said.
"These tests have to be done at a CSPC accredited lab, and cost as much as $4,000 with an average of around $500. So for me, I offer three different types of dresses. Each dress contains two different fabrics, as well as buttons, and thread (each of which needs to be tested), so that’s potentially $2,000 to test one dress. But I have three styles, so that’s $6,000.
And when I get a new bolt of fabric, I need to start all over again. I can only make 15 dresses from one bolt, so there is no way I could make the testing financially feasible".
She agrees wholeheartedly that the children must be protected from harmfull chemicals. "However this law, as it is currently written, will affect handmade toy and apparel makers - the very people many of us turn to for safe toys, clothing and decor for our children."
"At present, there are no exemptions for small businesses and “micro” manufacturers like myself and most handcraft artisans."
Even lead-free and phthalates-free products must still be tested...
The law as it stands now, makes no exception for quantities made, where the garments/products are made or anything else. Nor is there an exception for unadorned fabric components, unfinished wood components, materials which, by their nature, are free of lead and phthalates.
Guilty until proven innocent...
Also, the law takes a “guilty until proven innocent” approach, which would treat a handmade, unfinished wooden toy that doesn’t meet the certification deadline as a “banned hazardous substance” which would be illegal to distribute in this country, she said.
This legislation is also retroactive for any pre-existing inventory as of Feb. 10, 2009. This means that everything on the shelves in those big (or small) stores will also be “banned, hazardous substances” – contraband.
"Larger corporations that can afford testing will incur thousands, maybe millions of dollars in fees, and this expense will be handed down to the consumer, probably making the prices for children’s products go through the roof."
No more selling old things on eBay or Craigslist...
"This also means that after that date, even selling your kids old things on eBay or Craigslist will be illegal. Charities will not be able to accept donations without a certificate of compliance either.
"February 10, 2009 is being dubbed “National Bankruptcy Day” by many people in the apparel and toy industry.
If this legislation is not amended, it will affect everyone from port workers to parents looking for legal products.
"Billions of dollars worth of children’s products will have to be destroyed because they can’t be legally sold, and this will cause major environmental problems," she said.
Fluhr says that she's all for higher safety standards and keeping the kids safe -- however this law is overreacting. "It will put thousands of manufacturers of children’s products out of business -hurting our economy and causing even more loan defaults. Though this legislation was well-intentioned, it cannot be allowed to stand."
"This law affects every stay at home mom trying to help put food on the table and every grandmother knitting blankets for the local craft fair. It makes the thousands of us who have found a niche in the burgeoning handmade market have to make a tough decision – continue to produce items illegally and possible incur a $100,000 fine, or close up shop and maybe not be able to pay the mortgage this month...."
How to object to this Act
She urged home-crafters and micro-business owners to lodge their objections no later than January 30 2009 to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Office of the Secretary, email . They can be faxed to (USA) 301 504-0127
The Office of the Secretary,
Consumer Product Safety Commission,
Room 502, 4330 East-West Highway,
Bethesda, Maryland 20814 US.
Comments should be captioned: Section 102 Mandatory Third-Party Testing of Component Parts'
More about Consumer product safety, Crime, Children clothes safety, Hazardous substances, National bankruptcy act
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