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New Toy Safety Rule Has Collateral Damage: Handmade Toy Manufacturers

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Jon Irenicus Posted: Sat, Jan 3 2009 8:32 AM

Thanks to big companies like Mattel, this may be the last Christmas season for a lot of handmade or custom toys from small businesses.

Here's the problem summed up in an Etsy FAQ from a woman who makes and sells puppets:

Q: So with this new law going into effect for children's toys, does this mean your toys will no longer be suitable for children?

A: BINGO! After February 10th, 09, none of my toys will be suitable for children under the age of 12. Apparently that's the date they all get poisoned. Research the CPSIA and write to your senator & congressman telling them that they'll totally put me out of the business of selling children's toys. (Dude, I just can't afford the $3,000 to test my toys.)

So what happened? Well, after last year's spate of killer lead toys and their subsequent recalls, the government stepped in with new legislation. Unfortunately, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that they passed says that "manufacturers must now test for lead paint, and by Feb. 10 they must test for lead and certain chemicals anywhere in products made for children 12 and under." This means even small companies who, say, don't even use paint (much less import products from Chinese factories), will be required to shell out large sums of money to certify their toys are safe. The Los Angeles Times has a story out today that describes the grim future some of these small companies face:

"If they don't change the law, we'd have to close our doors," said Nick Christensen, owner of Little Sapling Toys in Eureka, Calif. "We won't be able to afford the testing."

His wooden rattles and building blocks, which retail for $20 to $40, would cost at least $1,500 per model to test, he said. Because he makes 20 models, his testing bill would be at least $30,000.

Christensen, who makes everything by hand, says the only things his products contain are wood and beeswax, and he's bitter about being forced to test them for lead.

Other manufacturers say they've been quoted testing prices of $24,000 for a telescope, $1,100 for a wooden wagon and $400 for cloth diapers, according to the toy alliance.

The Handmade Toy Alliance says that the law could be improved by exempting small businesses and by recognizing that certain manufacturing processes shouldn't require lead paint testing. (For instance, if your toys aren't painted or don't use plastic.) If the law stays unchanged, however (and if the fees for testing don't suddenly drop dramatically), then come this February you can expect either empty shelves in toy stores that specialize in handmade goods, or an explosion in toy "collectibles" that are labeled "not made for children."

"For some toy makers, rules to protect kids may be toxic" [LA Times]


Objective law, you see.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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I wonder if they can get around the language of the law. Can they repackage or remarket in some clever way?

"The best way to bail out the economy is with liberty, not with federal reserve notes." - pairunoyd

"The vision of the Austrian must be greater than the blindness of the sheeple." - pairunoyd

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Legislation is never used to kill competition. Oh never. Always to promote growth and enhance competition.

*wonders how many of the masses actually believe that*

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Juan replied on Sat, Jan 3 2009 4:07 PM
you libertarians want to kill children for profit.

February 17 - 1600 - Giordano Bruno is burnt alive by the catholic church.
Aquinas : "much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death."

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solos replied on Sun, Jan 4 2009 11:02 AM

Just the stupid ones who put toys in their mouths.

you libertarians want to kill children for profit.

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Floyd replied on Sun, Jan 4 2009 11:54 PM

I'd just like to be able to raise my children the way I see fit. I have a large investment in toys and clothes for my young kids- and now I won't be able to sell them back after my kids use them! Not only that, but I won't be able to buy used clothes and toys for my kids. Which companies had toys with lead in them? The big ones (Mattel, etc). Which companies can afford to get their toys tested? The big ones!!!

In the midst of an economic depression, is this really the smartest move?

Since I'm planning to go back to school and will need to be saving money..... thanks Uncle Sam! Screwed me again.

The greenies should be pissed, since all that merchandise will have to be tossed into a landfill.

Barring a reprieve, regulations set to take effect next month could force thousands of clothing retailers and thrift stores to throw away trunkloads of children's clothing.

The law, aimed at keeping lead-filled merchandise away from children, mandates that all products sold for those age 12 and younger -- including clothing -- be tested for lead and phthalates, which are chemicals used to make plastics more pliable. Those that haven't been tested will be considered hazardous, regardless of whether they actually contain lead.

"They'll all have to go to the landfill," said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Assn. of Resale and Thrift Shops.


"We will have to lock our doors and file for bankruptcy," said Shauna Sloan, founder of Salt Lake City-based franchise Kid to Kid, which sells used children's clothing in 75 stores across the country and had planned to open a store in Santa Clara, Calif., this year.


Clothing and thrift trade groups say the law is flawed because it went through Congress too quickly. By deeming that any product not tested for lead content by Feb. 10 be considered hazardous waste, they contend, stores will have to tell customers that clothing they were allowed to sell Feb. 9 became banned overnight.

The problem isn't that the law is flawed because it went through Congress too quickly. The problem is that it went through Congress.

The regulations also apply to new clothing. That won't be a problem for large manufacturers and retailers, industry experts say, but it will be a headache for small operators such as Molly Orr, owner of Molly O Designs in Las Vegas.

Orr has already produced her spring line of children's clothes. She says she can't afford the $50,000 it would cost to have a private lab test her clothing line, so she's trying to sell her inventory at a steep discount before Feb. 10. After that, she is preparing to close her business.

"We have a son with autism, so we are all about cleaning up the toxins that our children are exposed to," she said. "But I think the law needs to be looked at more closely to see how it is affecting the economy in general."

Thrift store owners say the law stings because children's garments often come in new or nearly new, because children typically outgrow clothing quickly.

Carol Vaporis, owner of Duck Duck Goose Consignment in New Port Richey, Fla., said her store stocks barely used brand-name clothing from places such as Limited Too and Gymboree.

"We really provide a service to the community to help people get clothes for their children they otherwise couldn't afford," she said.

Families have been bringing more clothes to consignment stores, where they get a chunk of the proceeds, to earn a little cash this winter, she said. She plans to contact her congressional representatives and senators to ask them to amend the law but says there's not enough awareness about the repercussions of the law to force anything to change.

But the corporations using the government to gain a competitive advantage don't want families to have clothes for their children they otherwise couldn't afford. They want you to go to their overpriced mall stores and buy their crap on credit! And forget about those who would like to be able to actually afford clothes for their kids as they grow. Nope. No selling the old clothes, now. Better to throw them in the trash so that everyone can buy more new clothes on credit!


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Bowlcut replied on Sat, Jan 10 2009 2:27 PM

Decisions made in haste seldom bode well for anyone.

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