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.