The Future of Wrap Conversions
This is another fun regulatory topic. But it will impact YOU directly IF you want your wrap turned into a ring sling, mei tai, onbu, or other carrier.
New regulations, which you’ll have PLENTY of opportunity to read about on this blog in the coming months, are going to be going into effect later this year. Actually, the regulation affecting Mei Tais and other similar carriers is already mandatory and the 6 month compliance period expires in September. The regulation affecting wraps and ring slings will become mandatory in a few months. The babywearing industry is now going to be regulated by ASTM standards. (ASTM is an independent, private company that writes standards for various industries.)
These new standards require a new level of testing for all babywearing products. CPSIA requires testing for lead (and, for some products, phthalates), tracking information for all products, registration cards for baby carriers, and certain information on labels. ASTM will require testing for safety and a whole new set of labels. Those of you who have bought certain brands of carriers recently may have noticed the giant new tags with pictures of people showing how to wear them – those are the tags required by ASTM.
The testing that’s required must be done on every carrier that’s substantially different or made from different materials. (As an example, I’ll likely need to change my ring slings to only one or two types of fabric – probably a linen/cotton blend and a light cotton twill, from only one mill. Then I’ll have to test a ring sling made from each of those fabrics, since they’re different, but not each color of each fabric. I’ll talk more about upcoming changes to Wallypop’s product lineup in a future blog.) Others in the babywearing industry are working to clarify what this means exactly in terms of deciding what’s substantially different, particularly as it relates to wrap conversions. However, the testing is destructive (and, might I add, expensive). It also requires a separate carrier be tested for each possible carrying position.
What this ultimately means is that USED wraps will no longer be able to be legally made into conversion carriers.
Why? Essentially, there’s no way to account for the wear and tear on the wrap. The manufacturer (converter) will have no way to be assured that the used wrap is not substantially different from an identical new wrap that has passed the testing. Since baby carriers must be tested for adherence to the standard in order to be legally sold, there’s just no way to comply in the case of conversion carriers from used wraps.
What does this mean for YOU? We anticipate the new standard being made mandatory yet this year. If you’ve been contemplating having your wrap made into a conversion carrier of any sort, you might want to do that sooner rather than later.
NEW wraps will still be OK, but converters will face a large compliance expense associated with the testing that’s required. Current guidance from the CPSC’s small business ombudsman is that different brands of wraps, different weaves of wraps, and different fibers of wraps are all considered different enough to require separate testing. (In addition, carriers with different strap styles – like wrap straps or narrower straps, carriers with different body styles – like infant or toddler, etc. will all need to be tested separately. I would not be surprised if this ASTM regulation shuts many smaller converters entirely out of the market. 😦
I need to note that, intellectually, I support these regulations. Assuming that people who make baby carriers care about compliance and care about babies, it should help make sure that the carriers being sold are safe. That they won’t tear, that the fasteners won’t slip, etc. Practically speaking, considering that well over half of the people currently making baby products including carriers wholly ignore all the OTHER laws they’re supposed to be following, I’m not too confident that, in the real world, this will truly make things safer. Hopefully savvy consumers will know to start making sure that the carriers they buy are ASTM-compliant, but there’s no practical way for consumers to really and truly know if they are. If someone’s not following the part of the law that requires safety testing by a third party lab, what’s to stop them from not following the part of the law that says you can’t lie about compliance?
In the meantime, this is just another giant hurdle making it harder for smaller players like Wallypop. 😦 Another set of regulations slowly pushing our marketplace to one that is dominated by large businesses and that excludes in-home, mom-and-pop operations.