CPSIA Law: Newspaper Column

I had a column in the newspaper yesterday. I also now have permission to put my columns up here after they appear in the paper, so here it is.

Have you heard of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)? It’s changing the toys you can buy your children and grandchildren. It was put in place by Congress last year to make toys and children’s products safer, in the wake of several recalls of Chinese-made toys.

This law is a good thing, no doubt about it. For the first time, lead levels in children’s products are regulated. This should reduce the numbers of children exposed to lead and lead poisoning, and its lifelong, life-threatening side effects.

However, the law has had several unintended side effects. Some unscrupulous manufacturers have turned to cadmium instead of lead. Cadmium is just as nasty as lead, in terms of its effects on the human body. Congress is trying to work out a way of coming down on these manufacturers.

Second, there is a large market in secondhand toys. Many low-income parents rely on thrift stores to buy toys for their children. Now, thrift and charity stores are still allowed to resell used toys, but they must be certain they have not been recalled. While this can be easily done at the CPSC’s website, it does take time and effort and some stores simply won’t take used toys. So lots of perfectly good, safe toys are going to the landfills. (This is not true of local thrift stores, they still take good condition used toys.)

Third, small crafters are impacted. I make and sell crafts. My products are not CPSIA compliant. I cannot easily buy compliant materials (compliant items cannot be advertised as such), I cannot afford testing for my products, and some vintage materials are simply not compliant. I choose not to make children’s products and say so in my online store. However, “whether the product is commonly recognized by consumers as being intended for use by a child 12 years of age or younger” (from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s small business guide) is a factor that will be taken into account when deciding if a product should be in compliance.

Lots of crafters making children’s products are choosing not to do so anymore, because it is so difficult to comply. The Handmade Toy Alliance (www.handmadetoyalliance.org) is working to amend the CPSIA to make it easier for small crafters to be compliant while making safe toys.

I want to see the CPSIA amended so compliant materials sellers and manufacturers can easily advertise. I also think a database of compliant materials would make it easy to find safe materials.

Do we really want the only toys for our children to be from large factories? Or would we rather be able to buy quality, safe toys made by small USA manufacturers?

First published in the (Idaho Falls) Post Register on February 16, 2010.

Leave a comment


  1. With all the doggone snow we have gotten recently I am stuck indoors, fortunately there is the internet, thanks for giving me something to do. :)

  2. Sharilyn Aschim

     /  March 9, 2010

    Great site, I actually discovered it to be fascinating. I am looking forward to returning once again to find out what is recent.

  3. There will eventually be revisions to CPSIA, but what those revisions entail are yet to be seen. However, for the hand made crafter, it looks good, as long as your annual sales are less than $200,000. That is the dollar figure suggested for testing exemption my Congressman Waxman and the house energy & comerce committee. However, don’t assume that what you have in inventory doesn’t comply with the provisions in CPSIA. You dont have to prove anything other than the lead in paint limit, but you have to comply with the total lead in substrate (metal, plastic) and phthalates limits.

    Testing can be expensive, but it can be affordable as well. If you buy 10 gallons of paint, which is enough to make 500 widgets, you can test that paint one time and that report be valid for all 500 widgets. As a matter of fact, you can now test up to three colors of paint together and use that report. So, if you use a total of 12 paint colors that combined can produce 2,000 widgets, you will only need 4 test reports for all of that paint.

    Testing; seems really crazy, but its not as bad as many think. There are labs in Hong Kong that offer lead testing, both paint and substrates for $19, so that would bring your grand total to $76, plus the cost of shipping the paint. You would get an emailed copy of your report. Once testing for substrates is mandatory, the same would apply to them; $19 a test, except you can not composite materials together, like paint. If you dont use plasticized materials, like PVC, rubber and other soft plastics, you are not required to test for phthalates. If you dont produce any toys or child care articles (intended for children to aid in sleeping, eating, sucking or teething), you do not need to test for phthalates.

    There are ways to make the testing requirements more affordable, especially for small producers. If you would like more information or guidance, send me a message! Also, check out my blog at http://www.supersafetydad.com

    • Thanks for the info. My main issue with my products is the beads on the tassels. As I understand it, every different type of bead would have to be tested. Since I use a unique mixture of beads for almost every tassel, I think testing would be prohibitive, both for time & money.

  4. I was looking for information on this subject and found your blog, it hit the spot! Thanks for taking the time to do this I really appreciated it. I’ll be back to check for new posts! Have a good one.

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