Saturday, February 7, 2009

CPSIA, Here we go again...

I'm up early, trying to assimilate the latest roller coaster that is known by all as the CPSIA legislation. Last week, a "stay of enforcement" was issued by the CPSC because they were swamped. I was hopeful that a rational approach to this law would ensue, but oh no. The stay really will not affect me at all at this point. The stay merely prolongs the agony of misinformation, lack of guidance, and flip-flopping regulations.

Case in point: phthalates. These are chemicals that soften plastic, and are found in things like vinyl and PVC. I have largely ignored this class of chemicals, because it doesn't really affect my business. My button supplier does not use these in their buttons, so I haven't worried about it too much. Besides, the third-party testing for phthalates is astronomical, way worse than lead. So if I did suspect that a component had them, I would be substituting it anyway.

Here's the problem: The NRDC brought a suit against the CPSC in its retroactivity ruling regarding inventory with these chemicals. And they won. Previously, lead needed to be tested and certified in existing inventory, but not phthalates. Well, now companies have 3 days, 3 DAYS, to get their inventory tested and certified. And I thought 3 MONTHS was ridiculous. So, now again, we have a situation that is going to be devastating to large and small businesses alike. If retailers have nothing to sell from the large companies, they WILL NOT be able to stay afloat. If retailers don't stay afloat, more people will be unemployed, and if more people are unemployed, they won't be able to spend money on all of those ETSY businesses like mine.


Sorry to yell, but it is so disheartening to work so hard on something, and see the special interest groups win again. I support safety in children's products wholeheartedly. I have a child, and I want her to grow up in a safe, healthy environment. But to be told you have 3 days to comply with a broad sweeping law is just insanity.

In some good news though, the CPSC put out a press release yesterday. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what they have said, so here is an exerpt:

In an effort to provide clear and reasonable guidance to those impacted by this important law, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing its enforcement policy on the lead limits established by the CPSIA.

Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers should also be aware that CPSC will:

*Not impose penalties against anyone for making, importing, distributing, or selling

**a children's product to the extent that it is made of certain natural materials, such as wood, cotton, wool, or certain metals and alloys which the Commission has recognized rarely, if ever, contain lead;

**an ordinary children's book printed after 1985; or

**dyed or undyed textiles (not including leather, vinyl or PVC) and non-metallic thread and trim used in children's apparel and other fabric products, such as baby blankets.

Because I add buttons and snaps to most of my products, I must still test and certify. Luckily I have done this, and am prepared to produce my GCC's. But again, we still need to push Congress to amend the law to allow for component testing and accepting supplier certifications. This is CRUCIAL to the health of the industry and my business specifically.

PLEASE CALL YOUR SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT/CO-SPONSOR JIM DEMINT'S LEGISLATION REGARDING THE CPSIA! I know they are busy with the stimulus package, but they haven't seen anything yet with corporate bankruptcies...more on that in a minute.

So who is in trouble here? Makers of bibs are really in for it, because if they use laminate or vinyl, they have to test for both lead AND phthalates. Guess I won't be introducing bibs into my line any time soon. Sellers of vintage books for children...Dr. Seuss anyone? And pacifier clippies may not be immune either, as they constitute a "child care" product. Retailers are in BIG trouble. They are going to have to dump their inventories in a hurry.

Here is an excerpt from the press release regarding phthalates:

CPSC Issues Guidance For Complying With Phthalates Requirements In New Child Safety Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Starting on February 10, 2009, children's toys and child care articles cannot contain more that 0.1% of six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOPA) regardless of when they were manufactured. The CPSC will abide by a court decision (pdf) issued yesterday ruling that the prohibition on phthalates in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 applies to products in inventory. Phthalates are a group of chemicals (oily, colorless liquids) that are used among other things to make vinyl and other plastics soft and flexible.

A "children's toy" is defined in the statute as a product intended for a child 12 years of age or younger for use when playing. The Commission has previously stated that it will follow the definition of toy in the mandatory toy standard which exempts such things as bikes, playground equipment, musical instruments, and sporting goods (except for their toy counterparts).

The statute also prohibits phthalates over the limit in "child care articles," which include products that a child 3 and younger would use for sleeping, feeding, sucking or teething. By way of example, a pacifier/teether would be an item that would help a child with sucking or teething; a sippy cup would facilitate feeding; and a crib mattress would facilitate sleeping.

Companies produce a product in full compliance with the law, and then Congress, Special Interest Groups, and the CPSC pull the rug out from under them and make that product a "banned hazardous substance." So the huge "elephant in the room" here is the issue of existing inventory. We already knew this was a problem with lead. But everyone has been scrambling to make sure they were compliant with the law, and most found a way to do just that. But phthalates were not even on the radar screen. Large companies take loans out on existing "saleable" inventory, and when that inventory isn't saleable, banks are going to have an even bigger problem on their hands. Defaults on more loans, and conflicts with accounting procedures being just two issues they will face.

I could go on, but again, the best thing we can do is to call our representatives in Washington, and alert the media. This is the only way to get this law changed. Please continue the fight, and thanks for your support!

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