Friday, December 12, 2008

Now what do we do?

We all know about the lead content and other problems with toys recently.  Something obviously should be done about it.  I've recently become aware of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), passed by Congress to deal with this problem.  But is this really the best solution?

This legislation looks pretty good at first glance.  The gigantic toy manufacturers should have no problem meeting the standards, and our children will be safer for it.  But the act requires testing by an independent third party, and most small toy manufacturers will not be able to afford that.  Even toys made of obviously safe components, for example, of wood and finished with food-grade beeswax, would have to be tested for lead!  Toymakers in Europe have been held to a very strict standard of lead content for a long time, and now I read that some are pulling out of the US market because it is not cost effective to pay to have their (very safe) toys tested to prove their safety.

With the threat of lead in toys, many families turned to smaller toymaking companies for their safer materials and uniqueness.  Personally, I like toys that are not plastic and not emblazoned with a character from a TV show or movie; I think it helps a child develop imagination.  But that option may be a thing of the past come February 10, 2009. 

And this is not limited to toys.  Anything marketed toward children, whether clothes, accessories, or whatever, will have to be tested.  My mind goes wild thinking about the possibilities.  How much will the cost of necessities like clothing that we have to buy for our children rise as manufacturers cover the costs of this testing?  What about sellers of vintage toys?  And my favorite places, consignment shops and thrift stores?  Will they have to test every older toy and piece of clothing before it can be sold?  What about Grandma making toys to sell at the church bazaar?

I sell toys on Etsy.  I don't have a huge investment in them, and if things go south I can always make something else to sell.  Or just stop selling and make oodles of toys and clothes for my own little ones.  But my heart goes out to those family businesses who will lose everything over this.  Do you think they will get a bailout?  Not likely.

If you'd like to read more about it, check out the Handmade Toy Alliance.  And if you are so inclined, please contact your congressman and respectfully suggest that he fix this.

Another note - My friend Maya found this link, and I didn't want it to stay hidden in the comments.  It lists some easy things you can do to help.


Sarah said...

Well, Kim, y'know the g'ment folks are just too busy for little people these days. There's that pesky business of buying up senate seats for the more ambitious ones. Also, they probably might be too busy givin' away money to the mishandled banks and auto industry to care how many other small businesses go under because of a dumb law. that never should have passed. (Do I hear trumpets outside the walls of Jericho?)

maya said...

also see z recs' article, "five steps you can take to save natural/handmade companies from the cpsc and cpsia"