Saturday, January 24, 2009

What the CPSIA means to me

This entry is not "against" the CPSIA, however, I am worried about how that very necessary piece of legislation has been, and continues to be, mishandled by the vary people who should be making it work. As it stands, it's not doing any good, and won't be able to do any good, until the blame stops being passed back and forth between the CPSC and the Committee for Energy and Commerce.

Like many, many other parents, I was delighted that there were now steps being taken to test imported, lead-contaminated toys. I still am. I am delighted that the toys and clothes and feeding items available to me will be safer in the future. However, there is something gravely wrong with this necessary, well-intentioned law.

What is wrong? The CPSIA is both too narrow and too broadly defined, requiring items known to not contain lead to be tested, specifically disqualifying component testing or testing by materials suppliers, and thus effectively making it impossible for small and micro businesses to comply at all. Some will survive by making only two or three items in batches of sufficient size to send one for testing, but their prices will go up. Some small companies are being turned away by the certified testing labs, because their business isn't lucrative enough. It's even worse if you make one of a kind, unique items - things that might be possible to make from a selection of pre-tested and certified materials must now be made in batches of two, so that one can be destroyed by the testing lab in digestive lead testing.

This would not be a problem if the parts of the law that need defining, clarification, redefining, etc could be dealt with, but the CPSC and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce are dragging their feet, and passing the buck back and forth. Nothing is getting done, even though there seems to be a lot of talking and blamethrowing. That means that all these thousands of small companies, small stores, even libraries and schools, that want to comply with testing, or that already do by only using/buying domestically made materials, are left out in the cold, unable to do comply, because no questions are going to really be answered in time for the deadline(s).

I call it irresponsible, especially given the desperate economic climate our country is in. The fact is that the testing is often unnecessary, and where it might be necessary, it is mandated to be done in the most onerous, burdensome way. Furthermore, the lack of sufficient labs coupled with the short time frame for testing has made it impossible to even get the requisite tests performed, were the tests even easily affordable. Costs have been driven up to amazing levels by the sudden overwhelming demand.

What does this mean to me? I was working on a home business, getting all may ducks in a row, getting ready to sell a few items for kids on etsy. That's not going to happen now.

As I've said elsewhere, my embryonic business is being forced to change focus completely. At least I only had a few items made up to try out sales for the holidays when the impossibility of continuing due to the CPSIA caused me to stop and put everything aside until I could work out what I was going to do.

I even set aside all the standard startup paperwork (thank goodness I put a hold on my plans before I filed for my fictitious business name! I'd have to refile, because it was obviously child oriented!) as soon as the impact of this law became apparent, while I was researching use testing requirements last fall. I had hoped to have everything in place to start small in early December, but my etsy shop instead sat empty, and will remain so until I finish my non-kids designs, and figure out exactly what I'll be doing.

I've looked back at the time I've spent preparing and it turns out it is over 2 years of work down the drain. I am looking to refocus entirely on hand spun yarn, historical costumes, and collector art dolls (NOT for kids, small parts, display only). Time will tell if there is even anyone who wants those things. I'm sad. My kids loved the prototypes of my playthings, wore my cloth diapers and cloth training pants, I wanted to share what I'd made for them with other kids.

As bad as I feel about not being able to share my kid-oriented work with others, I feel worse that I won't be able to buy handcrafted items for my own children, or I'll have very few, and MUCH more expensive, options available to buy. According to this law, I can't even swap my craft work for someone else's craft work, unless both items have been third-party tested according to the law's requirements. Even if all parts are domestically sourced and confirmed lead free and nontoxic by the materials manufacturers, that person-to-person craft swap is illegal, an exchange of contraband for contraband.

I may - may - be able to get samples of the fabrics and notions I use XRF tested so I could list and sell the few items I have ready between now and August, when even that screening process will become insufficient. However, that depends on demand, and I have to work out if the profit I will make on a few all-textile toys, cloth diapers and dressup hats will cover the fees for that, even given how reasonably priced as a small-volume XRF scan consultation can be.

That's where I am. It's not a pleasant place to be. It's like looking at the burnt-out shell of a home you once loved. What's worse is that I'm not alone. It's like a huge city has been obliterated, and we all have to start over.

This has been long-winded, but people in despair want to talk about it. It usually helps to do so. So far, my letters, calls and emails have been ignored. So far, it looks bleak.

At least our inspiration can't be outlawed. I can only hope that next year, some of us can emerge from the wreckage, like cicadas, and begin again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting! Comments are moderated, so do not be alarmed if your comment doesn't show up immediately.