CPSIA update

Received this today from the Real Diaper Industry Association:

When you are setting your priorities, sometimes to you need to ask, “What is the one thing without which nothing else matters?” For many in the cloth diaper industry right now, that one thing is CPSIA. If there is no amendment passed to CPSIA, many of our manufacturers will not be able to afford compliance despite the fact that they can prove that their products are lead-free. Without this amendment, many of our members will go out of business. Without this change, getting funding or networking with colleagues just doesn’t matter.

RDIA Associate Member Handmade Toy Alliance has been pouring volunteer time into lobbying legislators to get the changes to CPSIA that small-batch manufacturers need. Right now, an amendment is in markup in the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the House of Representatives. Right now, we do not have bipartisan support for the amendment. Please read the full story below, and please contact your Congressional Representative to let them know why this amendment is important to save small businesses.

 

And then this is quoting from the Handmade Toy Alliance:

The Handmade Toy Alliance has worked three long years to get to this point. Namely, getting a change to the Consumer Product Safety Improvment Act (CPSIA) that will stem the tide of tainted toys, almost all of which are imported, without imposing a regulatory environment on small, ethical manufacturers and crafters that will literally drive them out of business with red tape.
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How can you help?
A CPSIA amendment is currently in mark up in the Committee of Energy and Commerce in the House of Representatives. This amendment should be presented for a vote in this committee soon but surprisingly, despite all the rhetoric about supporting Main Street, not a single Democrat has voiced support. (emphasis mine) If this does not change, thousands of small businesses stand to be sacrificed at the alter of partisan politics.

 

Is your congressman on the Committee that’s considering this amendment? Here’s the full article from the HTA, which includes a list of who is on the Committee.

 

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Letters to my Congressmen

This is going out tomorrow to Harkin, Grassley, and Boswell. The contest is on: whose letter will have the least to do with the issue at hand? My guess is Boswell; he rarely disappoints in this regard.

 

Dear (whomever),

My name is Sarah Reid, I live in Des Moines and am a constituent. I own Wallypop: Supporting a Natural Lifestyle, which is a microbusiness operated from my home. I make cloth diapers, baby carriers, and reusable household and personal items and sell them all over the state, the country, and the world.

I have written to you in the past about CPSIA, and my grave concerns over its implementation. This subject is my top priority as a business owner - it is a tremendous burden on my small business.  Enacted into law in 2008 to improve toy safety, the law's complexity and over-reaching regulatory provisions are causing significant economic damage that may result in driving my company and other small businesses in this industry out of business while doing little to improve product safety.  Congress is currently considering amendments to improve the CPSIA and I urge you to support these changes designed to bring common sense back to our product safety laws and to keep American small businesses in business.

I’m also concerned about the CPSC’s stance on babywearing.  Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) members are moms and dads as well as leaders in their industry, whose top priority is the healthy development and safety of babies and toddlers. Millions of Americans have embraced babywearing as safe, practical, comfortable and convenient.  While our members support CPSC efforts to educate consumers about proper safe babywearing techniques,   CPSC's communication with our members over the past year make us fear that the agency will undertake unwarranted unilateral action against our products.  The agency's public statements regarding babywearing (using a soft carrier) are overly broad, which may unnecessarily confuse consumers and damage the thousands of small businesses that make up the babywearing industry.

I seek your support in urging CPSC to work with the babywearing industry to educate consumers about proper babywearing techniques. BCIA is currently developing a babywearing safety education program with Health Canada and we hope to do the same with CPSC.  Please encourage CPSC Chairman Inez Tennenbaum to work with BCIA on a similar program in the US.

For the past 3 years US baby sling manufacturers have been working with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International) to initiate the nation’s first voluntary safety standard for sling-style carriers. The standard, which will be finalized in early 2011, will join standards for cribs, strollers, hand-held infant carriers (car seats), bouncer seats, play yards and
other nursery products as an effective way to protect the public from unsafe products.

Baby slings are the optimal place for babies to spend time safely developing and bonding with parents in a nurturing environment. Research shows that this close caregiver attachment and stimulating, safe environment form a critical part of early childhood development. If you would like more information on this issue, I would be happy to provide details.

I look forward to working with you.

Draft proposal to extend CPSIA testing requirement stay to Sept 14

Checking my blog reader this morning, and had a nice surprise from yesterday. The CPSC released a draft proposal to extend the stay of enforcement on the lead testing and certification requirements to September. In the past, they’ve extended for a full year, so this briefer extension suggests they might be planning to take some sort of action (oh, please let it be component testing) in September.

It’s just a draft, and has not been approved, so is not official, but I can’t imagine it not being approved. This is good news, at least in the short term!

Bad Math

So, today, instead of processing orders, instead of sewing the 4 dozen fitteds that are awaiting some attention, instead of playing with my kids… I’m doing math. Bad math.

Part of CPSIA includes a provision requiring product registration cards to be attached to each and every baby carrier that is sold, because they are now labeled “durable nursery products.” Baby carriers are the only fabric item to be labeled as such, and the sudden change in categorization of baby carriers was, in fact, the first sign the industry had that bad, bad things were coming.

So the product registration rules go into effect in December. I have to label each carrier with the model name and number (so, yes, each carrier will have a No Duh label on it, saying “Ring Sling” or “Wrap”). This brings the total number of labels on each carrier, required by law, to 4. Give it a few months and I’ll be up to 5. Soon, your carriers will be more label than carrier. You’ll look like an Indy driver, barely able to see the carrier under all the labels.

I also have to include Postage Paid registration cards. Did you know that I can pull up the names and contact information of everyone who’s bought a baby carrier from me since I opened? So the product registration cards seem like a waste of money and paper.

The math is figuring out exactly HOW much money. There’s the additional cost of the label. This label isn’t so bad, but the label that’s coming will be a doozy, requiring me to hire an artist and find someone to custom screenprint large labels with pictures, which is MUCH more expensive than the plain-Jane labels I currently use. (And why do I use such boring labels? It’s CHEAP! I don’t want to charge you more for your products just so I can have a pretty label. That’s ridiculous.)

And then there’s the cost of printing the tear-off postcards, and paying for the postage. The problem comes when I figure in that probably only a very few customers will bother to return them. A permit to send business reply mail is $185. Then there’s the postage for each card that comes in.

The bad math, and I hate to say this, but I don’t think I can absorb the cost of this regulation. I’ve already been absorbing higher materials costs as I have switched to suppliers who can guarantee compliance with the lead testing parts of CPSIA. I just don’t think I can absorb these. Bad, bad math.

Being a downer

“you’re such a downer.” I’ve been accused of it before. And again today. I’m a downer on the CPSIA thing. For about two weeks, I’ve noticed many, many new businesses – mostly local – making small items for children. I’m guessing at least 75% either don’t know about CPSIA or don’t think it applies to them. And so I have to go ruining everything by being a big downer and telling them.

Why does it even matter to me? This question was asked of me recently. I’ll tell you.

I guess I could just live and let live. Maybe they’ll never get caught, and maybe their products will never hurt anybody. Maybe. I mean, if I saw a house burning and saw a person inside, unaware of the fire, I could just walk by – they’ll probably notice and get out on time, right?

But, then again. Maybe the State (in charge of enforcement of CPSIA) will see them as the low-hanging fruit that’s easy to bust. They are no doubt looking for smaller businesses who will be easy to make examples of – much like when the Feds busted a few college students for illegal downloads. Maybe they don’t realize that some of their items might actually contain banned substances, and testing would show that.

Actually, in some ways, the more businesses there are who are not even trying to comply, the less likely my own business will be the recipient of government scrutiny. Maybe I should even encourage them to be uncompliant?

But noncompliance, if caught, would be bad, beyond bad. Families could lose everything. They could face jail time. They could spend years and thousands of dollars fighting in court.

And there’s also the basic issue that, if you’re going to have a business, you need to take a few basic steps first, and among those steps is figuring out what laws affect you and how you can comply. (I wrote an article on this very topic over at boulevard designs.)