December 15, 2008

Please read! The CPSIA affects EVERYONE!

I am writing this as blogger of handmade and vintage items, as well as, a small business owner. I would like to inform you of a new legislation called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) that was recently passed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in August of 2008. This new law was created with the intention to protect children under the age of 12 from coming in contact with lead and other harmful substances that can be found in toys, furniture and clothing. I think it's really great that the CPSC is being so active in this battle to protect young children but when this law goes into effect on February 10th, 2009 thousands of small and medium size manufactures and retailers Internationally will be forced to shut their doors (or at least shut their doors to the US).

According to this new law, every manufacture and retailer (regardless of whether they are a sole proprietor working from home or a multi-million dollar corporation) importing into, exporting out of or within the United States needs to have their products tested to comply with this law. Testing would be to ensure substances such as lead and phthalates are not found in toys, furniture or clothing used by any child aged 12 and under. Any manufacture or retailer who does not comply with these laws are at risk of being charged with a felony which could involve thousands of dollars in fines for each violation as well as jail time.

From what I understand, manufactures (if you make the end product you are a manufacture) will have to gain certification by having their items tested at a CPSC approved lab. These tests are devastating to a small business owner. As an example, the estimated cost for a test could be around $500 per test. To show you how much of an impact this is on a small business owner or at home crafter here is an example:

If I want to make a jacket for a 5 year old to sell in my Etsy shop I would have to have each of the following tested: exterior fabric, lining, thread, snap buttons, and zipper. That's 5 x $500 per test = $2,500 for one jacket. Now, if I want to make 10 similar jackets in different fabrics or different colors those need to be tested separately too so now you're at $25,000 for 10 jackets. Wait, it gets even better! If at any time I run out of these materials, decide to alter the jacket by adding a hood, or change the lining fabric I will have to have the entire piece retested to comply with this law. It is simply not economical for a company small or large to run these tests.

In addition to the mandatory testing, this new law also states that anything that was manufactured before February 10th, 2009 and has not been tested to meet CPSC standards cannot be sold. This means after February 10th, 2009 it would be illegal for you to have a yard sale or donate your old clothes to be resold at a local thrift shop. I also want to bring to your attention that since retailers cannot sell pre-existing inventory that has not been tested, perfectly good items which would have otherwise been sold will become worthless and probably end up in your local landfills. Also, because of the costs incurred by all of these tests the prices of children's items would increase exponentially. Schools will take the biggest hit as basic school supplies such as science equipment, books, furniture, writing utensils, etc... would need to be tested in order to be sold to a school and because of all the small businesses closing up there will be fewer donations made to many needy charities.

Another issue with this law is that there is no clear definition of what is intended or not intended to be used by a child aged 12 and under. If you look around you there are so many kids these days under 12 years old that run around with cellphones, purses, wearing make up, buying adult size clothing and retailers advertising to that specific market. (Example: Family phone plan) How can this law be regulated if there is no clear definition? and why does it only apply to items for children age 12 and under? Do you magically become immune to lead poisoning after your 13th birthday? The CPSA has said that they determine what is intended for the use of a child based on what the general consumer believes is for a child. For example, a Blythe doll is a collectible and not a toy for a small child but if you ask the general consumer who does not know what a Blythe doll is they would probably say it's a toy and therefore it IS a toy and needs to be tested. It does not matter what you label it or if you put up a disclaimer saying that your items are "not intended for anyone 12 and under". If you sell something that is generally perceived by the public as a childrens item then it is a childrens item regardless of who you say you are marketing to.

February 10th, 2009 has been labeled "National Bankruptcy Day" by many manufactures and retailers in the industry Internationally. While I do agree it is important that measures need to be taken in order to protect children, this law as it stands will only contribute to the downfall of the US economy. I want to make it very clear that shop owners do want to comply with this law but the way the law is currently written there is no chance of survival for many small businesses.

Changes need to be made so please make your voice heard by signing a petition, write to and call your congress person, send a letter to talk show hosts like Oprah, Ellen, Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, contact your local news stations and follow along at It would be a real shame to see all the lovely handmade shops, vintage shops, thrift shops, local retailers and manufactures of children's products be forced to close their doors come February. Feel free to post any links to sites with info relating to the CPSIA and to re-post this info on your own blog.

Sign the petition:

Vote for Change at

The Handmade Toy Alliance has provided a sample letter and listed contact info for your Congress Person and Senators:

National Bankruptcy Day Site:

Write to man who sponsored this bill and send him an item of yours that will be illegal to sell after Feb 9th, 2009 in protest.

Bobby L. Rush (D)
Washington Office
2416 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-4372
fax: 202-226-0333


Pretty Little World said...

I signed the petition and posted a link to your excellent informational post on ETSY!!

Thanks for writing this wonderful post today!

Maggie said...

Great post and thanks for the links. I'll be passing this along.

Jennifer Ladd said...

Very clear and well-written. You outlined all the problems with this well-intentioned but poorly written law. Thanks!

umlauf said...

Informative and concise post. Let's keep spreading the word; the fight is FAR from over!

ApartmentCat said...

Thank you for providing so much info on the proposed Bill and its wider implications. It is absolutely ludicrous! I posted a link to your post in my blog -

Here's hoping it gets shot down.

Steph said...

Thank you for such an informative article. I had been struggling for a way to post about it on my blog, overload of information. I posted a link to your article-

Pamela Kramer said...

Thank you for spreading the word to your readers.

linda said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.