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Millions of homecrafters face bankruptcy after Feb 10

By Adriana Stuijt     Jan 4, 2009 in Lifestyle
The Feb 10 2009 deadline for millions of American homecrafters requiring expensive testing of their products, is approaching fast. Child-products without certificates proving they have no lead content, will have to be scrapped; export products included.
The new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act – passed hastily to bar poisonous foreign products – also will require millions of American homecrafters to have each of their products tested at huge cost, ranging from $500 to $4000 per product.
See law here. A one-year extention was granted for certain homemade products and handcrafted toys - but after a year, these millions of homecrafters will also have to comply with the law.
For the latest update on this story posted on 9 January 2009, see:
Formal complaints against this act had to be before January 20 2009 Comments must be labelled: Section 102 Mandatory Third-Party Testing of Component Parts'. Lodge complaints to email
Also see our first story on Dec 15 here
Without the CPSI certificate of compliance, millions of homecrafters selling their products on EBay, at fairs, in home-shops and at charity shops face conviction under this Act, which goes into effect on February 10 this year. Convinction carries tens of thousands of dollars in fines and potentially even jail time.
No more selling old things on eBay or Craigslist...
And all the products sold on eBay or Craigslist will also require such certificates of compliance or they will be breaking the law. Also affected: millions of charities, which will no longer be able to accept donations without a certificate of compliance. And this certificate can only be obtained through expensive testing by an SCPC-accredited laboratory." Without such certificates, billions of dollars worth of uncertified children’s products will have to be destroyed because they can’t be legally sold without an CPSI-certificate of compliance, and this will cause major environmental problems," said Massachusetts campaigner Kiki Fluhr.
The handmade toys alliance is also up in arms.
They warn: 'The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of children's goods that have earned and kept the public's trust: Toys, clothes, and accessories made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the US.
"And if this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered...'See
The Act was drawn up after last year's massive recalls of dozens of dangerous, lead-tainted Chinese toys and children's products containing lethal phthalates.
This law however also includes all the products made in the USA, including homecrafters’ 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. Read page 7 of the act - with reference to the required testing of children's products here
Little time to object:
Homecrafters say there has been very little opportunity to campaign to get this aspect of the law changed before the deadline. The presidential elections and the holiday season have greatly hampered these efforts. The law was passed in August without much fanfare nor much publicity – -- and it was passed very hastily, with very little input from the country’s millions of homecrafters, they complain.
The homecrafters’ campaign to have the law changed before the objection deadline of January 20 this year was kicked off by one Massachusetts homecrafter, Kiki Fluhr, a young mom who runs the All the Numbers Handmade shop from her home. She refers to the law as the National Bankruptcy Act and predicts that tons of beautiful homecrafted stock will have to be thrown away.
She agrees wholeheartedly that the children must be protected from harmful chemicals. "However this law, as it is currently written, will affect millions of makers of handmade toys and apparel for children - the very people who many of us now 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."
See our previous story: here
Kuhr says all the homecrafters of the US 'will become criminals from February 10 if they continue to sell their homemade stock without the required certificate of compliance to prove that it had been tested for dangerous contents such as lead'.
Homecrafters now have to make a tough decision: whether to sell their stock without the certificate and face massive fines and even imprisonment under this new law, or scrapping all their old stock and going out of business.
She says the new law will turn micro-businesses like hers into illegal manufacturers of "hazardous substances' overnight. Kuhr says that ‘even granny's home-made quilts sold in the local arts-and-crafts shop won't be exempt from this new law’. And the pre-existing stock from homecraft-shops also will have to be dumped as ‘contraband', she said, because the Act is retroactive, and without the required certificate of compliance, all such products will be deemed to contain 'banned, hazardous substances' after February 10.
Fluhr says that she has spent the last six months growing her business, 'working incredibly hard to create a great product. ' And 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".
Even known 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.
"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." Fluhr: "This law 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." Also see my personal blog on this subject here
"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 20 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 Homecrafters, Consumer product safety, Lead
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