Oh yes, seriously. I wrote to my Representative in Congress, Mr. Paul Hodes about the new law that has already gone into effect, and will basically shut my handmade dress business down unless amended. What did I get in return? Some junior staffer sending me a form letter. Whoever it was no doubt saw the initials CPSC, and pulled up the closest thing to it among their computer files for autoresponses. Here is the disgraceful letter I received...
December 11, 2008
Dear Ms. McKeagney,
Thank you for contacting me about consumer product safety. I truly appreciate hearing from you, and I am working hard to stand up for New Hampshire 's interests in Congress.
I share your concerns about the recent safety issues and recalls. I want to make sure that everything possible is being done to protect children in the Granite State and across the country from unsafe toys. Twenty million imported toys manufactured in China and elsewhere were recalled this summer. According to Mattel CEO Bob Eckert, some of these toys contained nearly 200 times the legal limit for lead. Currently, at the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC), there is only one inspector charged with testing toys to make sure they are safe for our children. Toys are now being sold in our stores that are untested and are unsafe. Even more troubling, the chairwoman of the CPSC, Nancy Nord, said recently that she was opposed to increasing the agency's funding or authority. This is unacceptable, especially when it involves protecting our children.
The CPSC is critical to protecting the safety of all Americans by reducing the unreasonable risk of injury associated with consumer products. The CPSC is responsible for developing uniform safety standards for consumer products, minimizing conflicting state and local regulations, and promoting research into prevention of product-related deaths, illnesses, and injuries. We must adequately fund the CPSC to ensure that only the safest products end up in our stores and in our homes.
I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act. This legislation would establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children's products. H.R. 4040 would also reauthorize and modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
On December 19, 2007, I voted for H.R. 4040, which passed the House by a vote of 407 to 0. On August 14, 2008, H.R. 4040 was signed into law.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. If you would like more information on this or any other issue, please visit my website at http://hodes.house.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future to express your views or if I can be of help on any matter.
Member of Congress
And here is the letter I shot back in return. He completely missed my point, because he clearly never read my initial letter.
While I appreciate the need to keep our children safe, this law has far reaching unintended consequences. I would appreciate a direct response, and not a form letter to this matter as you did not address a single concern of mine.
I am the owner/manufacturer of little girl Pearl, a girls clothing company, and make everything myself out of my home. I started my business over a year and a half ago, when I took a huge pay cut at my job with the airlines. My little company helps us pay the bills, and makes us feel a little more comfortable at the end of the month. Many of my items are one of a kind, which makes third party testing unfeasible, not to mention the fact that my items are inherently lead free in the first place. I do not use any kind of paint or surface coating, and use mainly quality cotton fabrics for the bulk of my line.
Unfortunately, at this time, component testing is not allowed. Say for example I use 10 different fabrics (for me it's in the hundreds), and 15 different kinds of buttons, and 2 different zippers, and 1 kind of snap. I couldn't just take one of each and have each tested on its own. No, I would have to take hours of my time, sew each product as I do now, and submit it for testing. Well folks, there goes half my inventory right there, not to mention my time. The testing is destructive, so I wouldn't even get the original dress back. It just isn't feasible for us as micro-producers to do the testing in this way, or any manufacturer for that matter. The way the law is written it isn't possible to spread the cost of the testing out among several different styles because you have to test by unit, or each style.
In addition, while the government has ruled that phthalate content testing will not be retroactive from February 10th, 2009, lead testing will be. That means that my current stock becomes illegal to sell past February 10th, unless I submit my dresses to the necessary tests. Regarding the testing, it will cost anywhere between $100-200 at the current rate, and these rates are likely to go up as more manufacturers realize that they must get these tests performed by the deadline. There are only 14 labs that are certified in the U.S. to do this kind of testing. Maybe you know folks who can afford a $200 jumper, but I know I don't. Especially in the current economic state of our country.
It has taken me so much blood, sweat, and tears to build up my company, and the thought of not being able to do what I love is simply heartbreaking. Of course the impetus for the new regulations stemmed from the fiasco of the imported toys from China last year and all of the ensuing recalls. Of course I want to protect our children from unsafe products, but unfortunately this law has gone way too far in its scope. The handmade movement was one of the results from parents wanting to purchase items produced in the U.S. by people who could be their neighbors and friends. Now our government has seen fit to take one more choice away from U.S. consumers and forced them back to products manufactured abroad, and large manufacturers who will have an easier time spreading the costs of testing over a larger product line.
But even the large manufacturers are not without their dilemmas. In a letter dated November 14th, 2008 to Ms. Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel to the CPSC, Mr. Richard Woldenberg, chairman of an educational toy company, stated that Walmart had informed its suppliers of children's products that it intends to return all merchandise regardless of age, that cannot be proven to comply with the new standards. Two other major retailers are rumored to have taken a similar position. If this is the case, you will absolutely see widespread corporate bankruptcies and even more defaults on loans as manufacturers are unprepared to see unprecedented returns of their inventories.
I realize that it is not politically expedient to say that one is against children's safety regulations. But the fact remains that this is going to hurt the economy at a time when we can ill afford one more major sector meltdown. I urge you to take a look at this law and help us Americans try to change it.
And, no surprise not a word back yet. I'll keep plugging away, and it's off to the media outlets for me.