Have you been following the saga of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and its effect on those who make and sell children’s goods? If not, here’s my original post and first update. And if so, here’s some big news:
Earlier today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission granted a 1-year stay of enforcement of the CPSIA’s testing requirements. New limits on lead and phthalates in children’s goods will still take effect on February 10. However, makers of children’s items won’t be required to supply independent testing certifications until February 2010. (See CPSC Press Release.)
What does this mean in practice? As with secondhand sellers, small businesses that make children’s items won’t have to test their items for lead and phthalates but will remain legally liable if they sell products whose lead and phthalate levels exceed the CPSIA limits. Luckily this isn’t quite as scary as it sounds because most small manufacturers are comfortable that their products fall within the legal limits — they simply can’t afford the testing to prove it.
In the longer term, something will have to change before 2010 to ensure that devastating effects on small makers haven’t merely been pushed back to a later date. Though the current CPSIA language requires testing by the manufacturer of each finished product, a statement by CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore suggests that smaller businesses may be able to rely on testing by suppliers showing that all component raw materials (fabric, zippers, dyes, decorations, and whatnot) meet the legal limits.**
Some of the problems with the CPSIA stem from the way the law was written by Congress. However, a lack of clear guidance from the CPSC has contributed to the confusion and panic that spread in certain quarters over the last several months. In another of today’s developments, several consumer groups wrote to President Obama to request that he appoint more competent leadership at the top levels of the CPSC.
Between the added time and (hopefully) a new approach by regulators, I have every hope that our children can be protected while our favorite Etsy sellers and secondhand shops remain in business…. Many thanks to everyone who wrote your congressional representatives or otherwise helped spread the word — looks like sometimes the little guys can make a difference. I’ll see you all on Etsy!
** Commissioner Moore’s statement provides useful guidance for small businesses worried about how to proceed under the CPSIA. Though I personally found the tone a bit condescending, I highly recommend his statement as required reading for anyone affected by the new laws. The other CPSC Commissioner, Acting Chairman Nancy Nord, also provided a statement with additional detail.