Saturday, January 31, 2009

CPSIA Cracks of Light and Glimmers of Hope

So much has happened in the last 24 hours that it is hard for me to get my head around it all and write something cohesive. There have been two big breaks for businesses of all sizes in the fight against the CPSIA. First came from the Commission itself in the form of a "stay of enforcement". It seems as though we have definitely made ourselves heard. A staff of 15 has been taking literally thousands of calls regarding the testing and other requirements of the CPSIA and have been tsunami'd by cases requesting exemptions. This has forced the commission to take a year to review the data, set forth better guidelines for compliance, and try to deal with issues of enforcement.

The second, even more important development is a piece of legislation that will be introduced by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) amending the current legislation to include four important changes.

1. Allow small manufacturers to use the testing and certification that their component suppliers have done to certify that the components do not contain an impermissible amount of lead.

2. Exempt thrift stores, yard sales, consignments shops and other re-sellers from the prohibitions in the act.

3. Prevent retro-active enforcement of the act.

4. Provide a Good-Faith Exemption. A one-time exemption from penalty if your product is found to be in non-compliance, but you were acting in good faith.

While this doesn't go all the way to fixing what is wrong with the law, it certainly will be a marked improvement from what is currently written.

Now here comes the important stuff: Mr. DeMint is in the minority party in the Senate. He is going to need bi-partisan support to get this through, and you can bet the consumer groups that brought this law to bear are going to be plenty vocal about why this law shouldn't be changed. I know I am going to call my representatives in Washington and tell them to support this amendment!

In another development more personal to me, I spoke with Ms. Lauren Oppenheimer, the Legislative Director for Rep. Hodes (D-NH) yesterday. She couldn't have been more understanding of how this law is going to impact businesses throughout New Hampshire (and indeed the country). She also apologized profusely about the misinformation that came out of Mr. Hodes' office, and was deeply troubled that they had added to the confusion in any way. She assured me that our voices are being heard loud and clear (go team!) and in fact Rep. Hodes along with all of the Northern New England House Delegation had sent a letter to Commissioner Nord in an effort to clarify these rules as they apply to business.

Whew! Thanks to so many who have made these improvements possible, but let's not back down. I appreciate the stay of enforcement (although I've already tested my products with an XRF gun) but let's not lose sight of the fact that the fight isn't over. Moreover, just because there is a stay of enforcement doesn't allow anyone the right to sell products that may be over the limit for lead. The stay does nothing for the threshold limits set forth in the law and better to be safe than sorry.

Now off to call my reps...or better yet, as I'm headed to Fort Lauderdale for my day job, I think I'll take the day off...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CPSIA Blogathon

In an effort to flood the "blog waves" with information about the CPSIA, Chichiboulie thought it would be a great idea to pick a day and have as many people writing about this as possible. As readers of my blog you are probably already aware of what this will mean for my business. Right now I am CPSIA compliant through August 14th. After that date I will have to close my doors if the law isn't amended or repealed. I simply cannot afford to pass the huge costs of testing onto my customers.

That being said, I've already written a great deal about this law. So today I thought I would write about my experiences in dealing with Congress, and trying to persuade them that this law is devastating to many small businesses around the country. My senators are Jeanne Shaheen and Judd Gregg, and my representative in the House is Paul Hodes. I started a letter writing campaign back in November, and did not find too much satisfaction in the written word.

Mr. Hodes' office wrote back a form letter relating only to his support of the law, and my concerns were totally ignored. No doubt my letter did not make it past a junior staffer. I decided to call his office, and those of my Senators last week, and finally I was able to speak to the legislative aides. They stated that they had received many calls and letters about it, so that is definitely a good thing.

I then received a letter dated January 22 from Paul Hodes office that at least addressed my concerns a little more. Unfortunately this communication contained statements that are totally wrong:

"The lead requirements do not apply to already manufactured goods."

Unfortunately this has been the most challenging aspect of this whole mess. If our own leaders who voted for this debacle don't understand the actual verbiage and subsequent decisions rendered by the General Counsel for the CPSC, Cheryl Falvey, then how do they expect us to comply with the law?

In fact, in a letter written to Michael Brown dated November 14th, 2008, Ms. Falvey reiterated a previous decision on the lead ruling as it relates to current inventory, and stated that everything that wasn't tested as of February 10th would become a "banned hazardous substance." How can our congressional representatives not know these basic facts?

In my opinion Nancy Nord, who is the head of the CPSC, is interpreting this law as broadly as possible not only because she is compelled to do so, but is also creating confusion so that we all force Congress to change it. She knows, given her budgetary constraints, that it is impossible to enforce it. Her only chance is to have enough people make a stink about it to Congress to force an amendment. Let's hope it works.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Value Added...

For my collection this spring, I have thought long and hard about how to add value to my line. How to turn this whole CPSIA mess on its head, and really make my collection stand out from the crowd. If I have to test my units, and ultimately pass that on to my customer, how can I make it worth it to them (you?) to pay a little higher price? Reversible styles have been popular for a long time, and with good reason. They are practical, stylish, and economical. You get two for the price of one, and maybe even more. How you ask? Read on...

My new reversible "pink floating flowers" jumper is the answer (or at least one of them). Believe it or not, this dress is a size 2T. My daughter now wears a size 5! So, let's say your daughter is in a size 2 right now. Perfect! She can wear this dress (remember, it's reversible) for the entire spring and summer, and even through the fall with a turtleneck underneath. Then, next year when she's a little taller, she can use it as a top with some cute capris or shorts! I detailed this dress with a sweetheart neckline and a little bit of piping at the neck for detail. The back features a keyhole opening for easy on and off, and the underarm is elasticized. Not only will there not be any gaping at the armhole, but it also allows for growing room. I also set off the hemline with some pink rickrack.

The capris are also part of my collection and coordinate with a ton of new designs. I've yet to produce everything, but they are all sketched out just waiting for a day of sewing (I swear I need 24 more hours in each day just to accomplish everything).

The reverse of the dress is sweetness personified. I LOVE bold color, but sometimes a bit softer is nice too. This print is modern but not too flashy. Oh, and in case you hadn't already guessed? Yes, my deliberate child decided that she needed "bangs" again!! We were SO close to having her tresses all one length, but as she rarely keeps ties in her hair, her longer bangs were in her face much of the time. Solution? When Mommy is down ironing a skirt to wear, I will take my new snub-noses and cut off 7 or so inches of hair around my face. I know, I know, it's a rite of passage, but it did nearly bring me to tears...but I digress.

This is only one of several reversible styles I'll be adding, so keep checking. I don't think I'll have everything in my shop February 10th, but it should all be there by March (fingers crossed).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Comments Deadline is Looming...

I am re-posting the final paragraph from the CPSC website regarding the RFC (request for comments) for component versus unit testing. This will make it even easier for everyone to copy and paste right into email format.

To find my answers to all of the comments, just scroll down my blog, they are listed one by one. I have just finished editing all of the comments, but again feel free to use mine as a basis for yours. The more responses they receive, the better we will be.

Comments must be received by the Office of the Secretary no later than January 30, 2009. Comments may be filed by email to Comments may also be filed by facsimile to (301) 504-0127 or by mail or delivery to the Office of the Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Room 502, 4330 East-West Highway, Bethesda, Maryland, 20814. Comments should be captioned “Section 102 Mandatory Third- Party Testing of Component Parts.” Interested persons will also have additional opportunities to comment following publication of any notices of rulemaking proceedings in the Federal Register which are commenced under this section.

I will also be including the NAM Petition as part of my comments. This organization has detailed a very rational approach to the testing requirement, including a number of component exemptions based on level of risk for lead and phathalates. I urge you all to read it and send it along. It can only help!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Update on Buttons, There is Still Hope!

I just had a most interesting communication from my button supplier. It seems as though I may have been hasty in my assessment of the lead content in their plastic buttons, which seemed dubious from my standpoint anyway. Looking at the buttons in question it just seems improbable that they contained any lead.

So, they basically told me that any button that is shiny or glittery, and is tested with an XRF gun may give a false positive. I don't understand why this is, but they said that the reflection may cause a lead reading. Most of the buttons I purchase are made in Europe, and they have even stricter standards than the CPSIA. Now granted, the buttons are not intended for children, but I'm pretty sure that the European standards don't allow leeway for any product. Even though it isn't allowed as part of a "reasonable testing program" I will soon be getting the certifications from my supplier regarding their plastic buttons. They stated, unequivocally, that the buttons contained neither lead nor phthalates. Yeah!

Now we just have to get Congress to amend their silly law to allow for manufacturer/supplier certs...back to the drawing board...

Inauguration Day!!

Well, technically it was yesterday, but who cares! It has finally come. When Mr. Bush was voted into office for a second time, I was still pregnant with my daughter. I looked to my husband and said, "Do you realize that our child will be nearly 4 when this guy is out of office?!"

The day has finally come, and our daughter will turn 4 next month. We don't have cable, or an antenna, so for all intents and purposes, we don't have TV. It was the first time in a l-o-n-g time that I missed it. Of course I listened on NPR, and as always their coverage was wonderful. Mostly I loved the "man on the street" interviews. Everyone there had an interesting story to tell. Although they didn't interview them, for me one of the most poignant moments came when they were talking about the Tuskeegee Airmen. One of the commentators noted that although they loved their country and served it with distinction, they didn't always feel that it loved them back. Yesterday, they did. It literally brought tears to my eyes.

So, I guess it is with renewed hope that I plug away at my calls to Congress, my letters to the media, and my written comments to the CPSC. I know that Congress did not intend for this law to cast as wide a net as it has. But unfortunately that is where we are, and if our government is truly "of the people, by the people, and for the people", then I have to trust that this unreasonable law known as the CPSIA will be amended or outright repealed. Let's keep the pressure on!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Cross Post from Fashion Incubator

I wanted to cross post this blog entry from Kathleen Fasanella,, because I think it important enough to be widely read. There has been much discussion about a small business exemption, and while I can appreciate the sentiment, I do not share the view. I DO NOT want a small business exemption from the CPSIA. Why? Because I want my products to be as safe as they can be. Because eventually I want to play with the big boys. Because it serves no purpose other than to splinter the fight against this law. What I DO want are clear guidelines, reasonable testing procedures, inclusion of component testing and supplier provided certifications which are not acceptable under the current law. I want the ability to test with XRF technology, which is quite effective at ascertaining lead. So without further ado, excerpts from Kathleen's post:

Don’t throw yourself under the (CPSIA) bus

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Jan 19, 2009

By now, those of you following on twitter or here in the forum may have read the letter that the most strident legislative backers of CPSIA namely Waxman, Rush, Rockefeller and Pryor, sent to Nancy Nord of the CPSC. Many have taken this letter as a good sign because it’d mean that the law’s primary proponents have publicly acknowledged there are grave issues with the law. Within our own community, the letter is seen positively because it specifically requests a “small company” exemption. Other than that they faked you with a classic bait and switch -a bone they’re thrown to get you to shut up- hinging all your hopes on a possible exemption would be a grave strategic error. Unknowingly, you will be throwing yourself under the bus. Many of us suspect that the idea of a small company exemption is a strategy to placate the masses. They are hoping you will rest easy and stop annoying congressmen and senators with phone calls and letters or continuing to lobby the press for attention. Fewer of you will be going to the media with your concerns and the negative news stories will dry up if you think there’s a fix in the works. This is the last thing that should happen. Do not rest easy.

For starters, have you given any thought to how “small company” will be defined? According to the SBA -the Small Business Administration- small (in the needle trades, SIC 315) means a firm with fewer than 500 employees. Using the governmental standard would mean that nearly everyone who makes children’s products would be exempt from the law but this implies that retailer’s more stringent interpretations of CPSIA don’t matter (more later). Small would include firms like Hanna Anderson and Gerber as well as all of you. In fact, there are probably fewer than 10 firms in existence that have more than 500 employees because children’s wear is dominated by small companies (68% have fewer than 20 employees). Now, because a “small” business exemption would include nearly all producers, it is not likely that this is the definition that would be used under any proposed CPSIA amendments.

The reason is, it’s no secret that there is a direct correlation between safety and company size. Contrary to what many think, it is tiny companies that have more products failing than large firms as Jennifer Taggert -who’s tested thousands of products- can tell you. In other words, special interest groups know that giving the tiniest companies an exemption would actually increase the proportion of dangerous products on the market, so why would it pass? It won’t. As such, the consensus seems to be that the mention of a small company exemption is for politically expedient reasons. Do not be misled, it’s a bone thrown to you to keep you quiet. A small company exemption is likely to fail and in the mean time, having relaxed, the movement loses traction.

In summary, even if you qualify for an exemption to come, retailers will have gone under or you’ll grow out of the exemption very quickly. What everyone is forgetting here is the affect of this law on retail. Everyone is so busy licking their own wounds that they don’t realize that even if small companies skate by, retail stores -who buy most of their stock from companies larger than you- will go under so they won’t be around to take on your line. If retail goes under, tiny companies will either fail themselves or at best, stagnate. This why a small company exemption will not work and throwing larger firms under the bus in an effort to save your own hide will backfire.

Due to liability concerns, retail is demanding much stricter standards than what the CPSIA requires. Wal-mart put all their vendors on notice to supply lab results -not just GCCs- for anything shipped over the last three seasons. Fail to comply and they’ll ship it back. Burlington Coat Factory is demanding GCCs for everything shipped since January 1, 2006. Failure to comply means being assessed a chargeback that presumably feeds into an escrow pool in the event they’re sued by consumers. I received an email from someone who sells to Macy’s last week; they are demanding vendors produce a GCC within 24 hours of request. Or else. And yeah, I get it that most of you don’t sell to Macy’s, Wal-Mart or BCF but it affects you because if the apparel companies that do sell to them go under and they also sell to smaller stores you want to sell to and constitute the majority of their stock, those stores will go out of business too meaning you have lost a customer or at least a potential customer. Just as all boats float in a rising tide, they all flounder with the lack of one. In this case, decreased competition in the market place is destroying your chances rather than increasing your opportunities. Don’t you see that?

You don’t have to take my word for it, here’s some choice testimony from independent store owners. This is why their standards are stricter than what the CPSIA requires:

Many small stores like myself don’t have the power to send anything back…but regardless if you can or can’t send back, we will still be empty come Feb 10. In fact, most spring lines that are shipping right now are testing using XRF rather than 3rd party to save some time and expenses I presume, and since it’s not required of them until then. But that means come August, retailers like myself will be in the same predicament and will have to empty their shelves yet again and throw away their inventory come August! So I’ve made the decision not to accept any new inventory without 3rd party tests from now on. Sadly that looks like I’ll have a pretty empty store since we focus on handmade and smaller boutique labels for kids.

Another store owner said:

I have only received one Certificate of Compliance from a single manufacturer that applies to 2 of my 4000+ products. Several of my smaller manufacturers have told me that there is no way that they can afford the testing and they will probably go out of business. Some of the larger ones are “looking into it” but it will be several months before they will have anything and then it will only be for their new shipments, not for anything I have in my inventory now. Many of my suppliers are small custom crafters who are stunned to hear about this and of course will not be able to provide certificates. Other manufacturers are simply refusing my calls .

The only thing the most recent letter sent to the CPSC proves is that Congress does know there’s a problem with CPSIA but rather than rest easy, we must step up the pressure now more than ever. Everyone has targeted CPSC for outrage but the hold up is Congress; there will be no change of CPSIA! Are you aware there was a meeting held for congressional staffers last week? Here’s a report from sources who attended the meeting.

Even more outrageous, unnamed staffers are reported to have stated that no hearing would occur until an additional CPSC Commissioner was appointed, and that CPSC would be “unable” to appear at any earlier hearing. In other words, they have no intention of holding hearings in advance of the February 10 implementation date, despite the reams of data they possess on the many serious problems their law is causing. Actually, it is my understanding that the CPSC has requested such a hearing, but that request apparently fell on deaf ears. Spin, spin, spin - and then tell everyone that all discordant views are misinformation or the confusion of [fill-in-the-blank] people. Finally, to cap it off, we understand that House staffers are simply “too busy” to attend meetings with industry and the CPSC to discuss the details of the real life impact of the law.

In other words, CPSC has availed themselves to deal with the problem but it is Congress -in spite of their politically self serving letters- that is gumming up the works. So Waxman, Rush, Pryor and Rockerfeller write a letter that’s released to the public, and everybody thinks the ball’s back in CPSC’s court. It’s not. CPSC’s request for a meeting has been refused. So while you think CPSC is the bad guy and the heat is off Congress, this can only amount to grandstanding to get you all to shut up. By the time you realize Congress is not going to move on it, it’ll be too late. Actually, word has it it’s not even Congress per se but a few key congressional staffers with the power to do this. I can’t mention names but it brings to mind the immense power that eunuchs held behind the thrones of Imperial China.

So what can you do?

You can email but avoid putting the word “CPSIA” in the subject line so they can’t create an email filter to dispose of them easily. Also, be smart with your subject line, do not write “HELP” or whatever in all caps. Even I delete those thinking those are spam. Write a professional subject line.

In addition to emailing your legislators, send an email to all these congressional aides who decide what your Congressman sees.
If you’ve posted an Etsy protest page listing the costs of your product with testing, it is requested that you email that. Do not email a link to your page, they won’t go. Paste in your photo and the text.
Email your testing price quotes.
Fill out the Economic Impact Survey
Continue calls, letters and emails to the media. Of everything you are doing, this has the greatest impact. Do not be persuaded that Congress is acting on this; they are not.
Feel free to use this text file to create a hyperlink that will automatically open an email window much as I did above and post it everywhere.

If you want to read the original post go to Thanks for your support.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Letter for Media Outlets

Here is a letter that I drafted to send to media outlets. I thought I would post it here for those of you who don't have the time or inclination to write one yourself. Please feel free to copy, paste, and send away.


Here is an idea for a story that will be affecting many businesses throughout the United States. The CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008) imposes a third-party testing requirement on all consumer products that are intended primarily for children 12 years of age and younger. Every manufacturer, including importers and private labelers must have its product tested by an accredited independent testing lab, and based on the test results must issue a GCC (general conformity certificate) that the product meets the requirements. The lead limit starts at 600 parts per million, but then over the course of the next several months, that limit drops to 300 ppm. The civil and criminal penalties for either not having a certificate or furnishing a false certificate are huge, including jail time and steep fines.

Right now, the law states that the testing can only be accomplished by unit or sku, not component testing. What this means for me is that even if I use several fabrics over three different products, and the same button, testing this fabric only once does not meet the requirement. I must test each unit, as it would be sold, even if the components are the same. This alone is wasteful, and doesn't necessarily make that product any safer. Say for example I only use one button on a garment, but that button is over the compliant limit. In the total weight of the garment, it would probably not make that unit non-compliant. However, if that button were tested alone, and found to be non-compliant, I would be forced to find a suitable alternative.

From now until August 9th, XRF technology (x-ray fluorescence) is allowed under a "reasonable testing program" to issue the GCC. An XRF gun can detect levels of lead as low as 2 ppm, and is non-destructive. The wet chemistry test that is mandated in August by a third party accredited lab is not only destructive to the product, but uses noxious chemicals that will subsequently be released into the environment. It is also extremely expensive. Richard Woldenberg, Chairman of Learning Resources, Inc. received an estimate for testing his company's telescopes at $26,000. This particular product has an annual sales number of about $32,000. Clearly there would be no economic incentive for his company to continue to produce that product.

A small point right now, but there are only 16 accredited labs in the U.S., and 70 worldwide. This has vast implications for pricing, estimating costs of testing, and also turnaround times. There simply are not enough accredited labs that do this kind of testing for all of the kid’s products out there.

Many of the business owners I have spoken with are extremely concerned with the materials and supplies that go into their products. The handmade movement was in part born out of a desire for non-toxic children's products. But unfortunately, the CPSC considers us all guilty until proven innocent. The fabric manufacturer has already tested my own fabrics, but I cannot use their certification as part of my own testing program. I must retest myself. There are already international standards for fibers that exceed the requirements of the CPSIA, (oeko-tex is one example) yet I cannot use this internationally recognized standard as part of my GCC.

The problems with the law are pretty clear for small businesses, but even large businesses are not without their problems. JC Penney, Walmart, Target, and other large retailers have already informed their vendors that if they can't produce a GCC as of February 10th, they will be returning their products. Many large producers have loans out on existing "saleable" inventory, but when that inventory isn't saleable anymore, there might be large defaults on loans and more corporate bankruptcies.

There is a whole other angle to this law as well. Resale and thrift stores are not exempt from compliance. The CPSC regards everything that hasn't been tested as a "banned hazardous substance." I haven't been able to confirm this, but there have been reports of some thrift stores not accepting any more children's products. To think of what damage this might do to the average lower income family who relies on these stores to clothe their children is unfathomable. Resale shops can simply not afford to test each item they have in their current inventory. Nor can they afford to throw it all away, not to mention the environmental cost of these items winding up in landfills. The CPSC issued a "supposed" clarification for resale shops, and they basically reiterated the law. A shop does not have to test, but they cannot sell anything over the lead limit after February 10th. So, it is a circular argument. How are the owners supposed to know what the lead content is unless they test.

So costs for children's items will most definitely rise, not to mention that ultimately the consumer will be paying for less choice in the marketplace. The small producers won't be able to pay for the testing, which leaves only the large producers to be left with product in the marketplace. I am a consumer too, and I want safe, non-toxic products for my own child. But this law will not accomplish what it sets out to do as it is currently written.

Here are some useful links for you. The NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) has the best petition out there, as it encompasses all of our concerns and is applicable to every manufacturing situation. Richard Woldenberg has some excellent videos on, just search for Richard Woldenberg, and you'll find them. Kathleen Fasanella is an apparel industry veteran, and she has opened the CPSIA section of the member forum to the public. Her blog is Rob Wilson is the leader of Jennifer Taggart is an environmental lawyer and blogger, and can be contacted through

A copy of the actual law as it stands today:
The general CPSIA website :
The NAM Petition:
Rick Woldenberg:

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this important story.

Melissa McKeagney
little girl Pearl

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Button Styles...RIP

As soon as I got back from testing my supplies with the XRF gun, I pulled the non-compliant buttons out of my inventory, and sighed at the uncertainty that now faces me everytime I try to get a new style.

Believe it or not, these are the styles that didn't make it. Some of these are vintage, so it is somewhat more understandable, but most are new. Here are the style numbers that failed the test for 300 ppm for others of you who want to avoid lead in buttons.

JHB Lagoon-all colors
JHB Fantasy pink #39956
JHB Red Dorothea #32650
JHB Monet #12529 (only failed for 300ppm, not 600ppm)
JHB Marseille #35040 (orange color only)
The others are La Mode, and unfortunately I don't have the style numbers. The pink 2-hole fish-eye was a real surprise, as was the rosy 4-hole button.

From now on, I will have every single new button I order tested before I design anything specific. But I definitely got a better sense of what to watch out for (shimmer/metallic effect) when choosing new styles. Hope this helps everyone else before a costly mistake is made.

By the way, if you are wondering what I'm going to do with all those buttons? Most I will use on my daughter's own clothing. My rationale is that there are two pathways to lead exposure: inhalation and ingestion. Luckily I'm not sanding down the buttons so they might produce lead dust, and my daughter is old enough to know not to eat her clothing. That being said, I do not in any way mean to minimize the dangers of this noxious metal, and I will be talking to my button distributors to see what they can do to help me avoid ordering problematic buttons in the first place.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Got XRF'd Yesterday...the good, bad, and truly hideous

Rob Wilson, of Challenge & Fun, and, rented an XRF gun, and since his company is relatively close by, I took advantage. After a challenging 2 hour drive with my toddler in tow, I understand even more how truly challenging it is going to be to stay afloat after this law goes into effect. At any rate, I thought I would talk about the whole process of XRF testing.

I had both my current inventory with me, and lots of swatches of the fabrics that I have been using throughout the past year. I also had each and every trim, piping, rick rack, and embellishment that goes into and onto my clothing. Believe it or not, I had all of my buttons as well, and there is the rub. But more about that later...

Here is how it works. XRF, or x-ray fluorescence, is able to detect the type of material being tested, and also the heavy metal composition. Depending on how the user sets the parameters, one can tell how many parts per million (ppm) are in any given substance. You put the gun flat on the object, or use a small stand with a cover for smaller items like buttons, and pull the trigger. After about 30 seconds, it records the readings, and voila, pass or fail. It also gives the amounts, all the way down to less than 5 ppm.

All of my textiles and trims passed with flying colors, as expected. The manufacturer of my materials has told me as much, but it's good to know for sure. The buttons on the other hand were a different story.

The vintage buttons, understandably in some cases, failed in a big way. What was more surprising however was that none of the buttons I use are metal. They are all plastic, nylon, or acrylic. The problem seemed to stem from buttons that had any kind of shimmer, or a pearl-ized look. It seems the manufacturers of these buttons must be specifically adding lead to get a metallic look. The other interesting finding was that if one color in a style failed, then the other ones would too. The color of the button proved to be of no consequence, it was merely the presence of a metallic look that gave any prior indication of a failing grade.

The thing that was challenging to me was that not all the metallic ones failed, only a certain few. These are new buttons though, not vintage, and on first glance it is nearly impossible to tell which one might contain lead. So, my recommendation to others would be to make sure you are testing your buttons, and also to avoid shimmery styles. I obtain my buttons from a reputable distributor, but I did notice a disclaimer on their website for the first time last week. Yes, you guessed it, "not intended for use by children under 12". Big surprise...

So the good: all textiles passed, even vintage fabrics. The bad: A 5 hour round trip drive with a toddler, and 3 1/2 hours of testing...what drudgery! The truly hideous: I'm losing some styles of buttons I love. Alas, not worth the risk. Eventually, I'll post all the style numbers and manufacturers of the buttons that failed, so that you too can avoid these styles. If they end up sitting on the shelves long enough, maybe the button manufacturers will change their practices. Just maybe...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

U.S. House Small Business Committee Hearing Re: CPSIA

Goodness, I sound like a broken record! But honestly, I am living, breathing, and sleeping this law these days, and will continue to do so until it's amended. So, to that aim, there will be a hearing in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. The hearing is open to the public, and anyone can attend. I understand that the people who will be testifying are already in place, but anyone can send an email to prior to the meeting, and also up to 7 days after. So the following is the letter I am about to send, and I'd like you all to feel free to copy and paste as you see fit.

Dear Ms. Gutierrez:

I would like this letter to be included as part of the public record for the Small Business Committee open forum regarding the CPSIA and its impact on small businesses.

My name is Melissa McKeagney, and I am the owner of little girl Pearl. I manufacture children’s clothing out of my home, and have had my business for nearly 2 years. The income I make is crucial to the comfort of my family and our ability to pay our bills. If the CPSIA stands un-amended, I will most certainly have to close my business, as I will not be able to afford the testing required for the Certificate of General Conformity in August 2009.

I understand that the intent of this law is to keep unsafe products out of the hands of our children. Unfortunately, the way it is written, the law will simply not accomplish that aim. Unit testing is not only inefficient and expensive, but will not produce the desired result. For example, a manufacturer produces a ball and track style wooden toy without any coatings. They include a metal ball that has 620 ppm of lead. When tested as an overall unit however, this is not enough to make that toy non-compliant. However, if this toy had been component tested, that component would have to be changed, thus making that toy safer.

Additionally, there are inexpensive, non-destructive methods such as XRF technology that accomplish the same goal, yet will not be allowed after August 9th, 2009. These technologies are very reliable to detect lead in substrates, and are easily managed costs for small businesses like mine. The law also ignores supplier certifications and internationally recognized materials standards that meet and exceed the scope of the CPSIA. These supplier certifications and standards should be allowed as part of a “reasonable testing program.”

If this law remains “as is”, a vast number of small U.S. based businesses will have to close, putting even more of a strain on our weakened economy. I understand that the intent of the law is to make products safer for children. As a mother, I am very concerned about my child’s exposure to noxious substances. But as a business owner, there are more reasonable, common senses approaches to this onerous law. Please amend this law so that small crafters, manufacturers, and artisans can continue to offer wonderful, non-toxic, and safe alternatives to our children.

Melissa McKeagney

The hearing starts from 10am in the Hearing Room at 2360 Rayburn House Office at telephone (202) 225-4038 and fax: (202) 226-5276. So, if you're in the DC area, feel free to attend and make yourselves heard!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I'm taking part in a promotion to save handmade from the CPSIA. Many other businesses are also offering discounts, so be sure to check out everyone's shops. This is being run by the Etsybaby and EtsyKids teams. Thanks to Jen from for the graphic!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

sneak peek spring/summer '09 collection

Ever since I posted my new shop announcement about how I'm going to handle the new regulations regarding the CPSIA and lead testing, I've been asked by many just what changes I'll be making, and how I'm going to comply with the law. So, I thought I'd let you all in on my design process!

Up until now I have let the creative mind of my brain take me in any direction it cared to go. That meant a lot of one-of-a-kind items, fabrics that might or might not coordinate with other things in my line, and basically create items on a whim! I like working this way because when I see a fabric I love, I would just go ahead and order, without giving any thought to whether it "went" with other things that I was doing. While this method is fun for me, it didn't always allow my items to mix and match. So...

What the CPSIA has forced me to do is take a really hard look at my clothing. Can the items work on their own? Yes. Without a doubt. Can they mix and match? Not so much. How many fabrics am I using? Hundreds. Even though component testing isn't allowed right now, I expect this to change in the future. So, for my Spring/Summer '09 collection, I am working very hard to make my line work differently. I am drastically paring down fabric and button selections in order to keep the cost of testing down, and of course, pass that savings on to my customers. I know this sounds very fundamental to many of you, but it just isn't how I have operated.

In the past I was reluctant to buy bolts of fabric, because I never needed that much of any one thing. Having limited fabrics for a whole line will allow me to purchase in bulk, again, keeping costs low. I will also be concentrating on more reversible styles which will allow for greater versatility for my customers.

I am really, really excited about my upcoming designs. They are practical, stylish, and of course, CUTE! There will be tons to mix and match, and I will be concentrating on two colorways, namely pink and blue. These are bestsellers for obvious reasons, and they also look great together.

I am also committed to following the law, and to that end will have all of my styles tested for lead. I am pretty sure there isn't any there to begin with, but if the big guys can prove it, then I guess so can I.

Of course, in August, we face another big hurdle. XRF testing will not be allowed, and everything must be done by a third party lab. If that doesn't change, I am not sure how I can stay in business as the cost of wet chemical destructive testing is just too great for it to make any sense for a small business like mine. So keep working to change the law, and stay tuned for my Spring/Summer collection in February!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My New Shop Announcement

Just thought I'd post this here as well, in case you missed it.

Dear Customers,

There is a new law that was enacted by Congress in November that will go into effect on February 10th, 2009. This law, called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, states that all children’s products, even handmade and one of a kind items, must be certified by a qualified lab for a maximum level of lead, regardless of whether the components used pose any kind of risk.

For now there is an interim provision in the law that allows for XRF technology, or x-ray detection of lead, to be used for compliance. However, this testing, while not as costly as destructive testing mandated in August, will still be a challenge to implement. In order to keep my business, I will be complying with this law to the best of my ability, but there will be some changes in my product offerings.

Many of the businesses on Etsy that offer products for children have been lobbying for changes in the law that will allow for a more rational approach to the lead requirements. For more information, you can read my blog, support the petition from the National Association of Manufacturers, and contact your congressmen to express your opinion on the untenable nature of this law in the current state of the U.S. economy.

Feel free to contact me with any questions you have. Thank you for your continued support and patronage.

Monday, January 5, 2009

CPSIA Business ICU-The Clever Kitty

I thought that it might be a good idea to feature some sellers of children’s products that are going to be directly affected by the new regulations that go into affect on February 10th, 2009. Shannon of The Clever Kitty has been making and selling fabulous children’s products on Etsy for several years. She started her crafty endeavors as a young child, and decided her creative mind couldn’t be ignored. She got her degree in Fiber Arts at Kansas City Art Institute. Not only does she make and sell her wonderful baby products, but she’s a part time florist as well, and I’m not surprised. Her use of color is one of her strengths, and her gorgeous baby booties and accessories reflect that love.

One of my favorite items she makes are her florajanes. These come in a large array of colors, and can be custom made for your baby. They are felted booties that have a tiny little felted flower attached at the buckle, and snap for easy on and off. Inspired by Chuck Taylor’s, Shannon’s felted high-top booties are too cute for words, and are perfect for that sporty baby in your life.

If the CPSIA stands as written, Shannon will be forced to stop selling these gorgeous, SAFE, baby products. Please help by contacting your congressmen and tell them you don’t support this law un-amended.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


“Whether consideration of third-party testing of component parts should be given for any particular industry groups or particular component parts and materials. Explain what it is about these industries, component parts, and/or materials that make them uniquely suited to this approach.”

The Apparel Industry: The aim of the CPSIA is to keep dangerous products out of the hands of children. If manufacturers are able to use component and supplier provided testing of fabrics and other inputs, and spread the cost of testing over a larger product range (ie. the same zipper on 5 different garments, the same snaps on an entire product line) then the business can afford to be compliant. Also consumers would benefit from lower prices. If the apparel manufacturer must test each unit, costs will skyrocket, and many companies will fail.

There should also be a subset of exemptions for materials used in any industry that are inherently lead free, and do not pose a health risk to children. For the textiles, apparel and footwear sectors, fabrics, thread and other materials should be excluded because they are known to contain no or very low amounts of lead. Paper, printing inks, laminates, adhesives, bindings and cardboard used in books and other paper-based printed materials and toys should also be excluded.

There are already international standards in place for fabrics. Oeko-tex and GOTS certified fabric already exceed the standards set forth in the CPSIA. Apparel manufacturers should be able to choose these inputs without having to incur any additional testing at all, as they are already inherently safe. Many suppliers already test their products, and companies should be allowed to use these certificates as part of their “reasonable testing programs.”

Also, an exemption should be given for components that are inaccessible. The CPSIA establishes one clear example of an inaccessible component part: a part which is not physically exposed by reason of a sealed covering or casing that can withstand appropriate use and abuse testing. There is sufficient evidence for the Commission to immediately conclude that certain components of children’s products do not present hazards based on their inaccessibility to children when contained in the product, to include circuit boards that are in a sealed covering, innersprings in upholstered furniture, and other products that are inaccessible when considering normal use and abuse.

Toys that are component tested v. unit tested would also be inherently safer. If only one small component on an entire toy tests for higher levels of lead, then that component may not be enough to put that toy in the non-compliant category. But if it were component tested, and that component were to test at or higher than the threshold level, then that component would have to be replaced with a suitable substitute, thus making the unit inherently safer.

Feel free to comment! I am going to work on some rewrites this week, and will be sending mine to the CPSC as soon as those are complete. Feel free to copy any portion of my comments, and change to suit your own needs. The more people that comment on component v. unit testing, the better. Also, please review the NAM Petition. I am going to submit a copy of this petition along with my comments, as I wholeheartedly support it. All comments are due by January 30, 2009.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Please Take This Survey (Economic Impact of CPSIA)

Only one more question to go, but Kathleen Fasanella of is trying to get a handle on how this is going to affect all of our businesses. She has put together a survey that will become part of a larger "economic impact statement" because clearly the government is a bit clueless. It doesn't take very long to complete, but if we can show in a systematic way how this will affect everyone, it may help the cause.

CPSIA Comments, Question 7

"How a manufacturer would manage lot-to-lot variation of component parts, in a third-party testing of component parts regime, to ensure finished consumer products are compliant."

In this instance, supplier provided testing is an advantage over unit testing. For example, if a manufacturer only tests one unit, yet that production run consists of 3 lots of components, then presumably only one of those lots will be tested per sku. But if the supplier of that component has an on-going testing regime, then those results would be superior to unit testing. If a supplier consistently chooses the same materials to produce their products, then that lot-to-lot variation will be insignificant. The same would apply to the manufacturer.

CPSIA Comments, Question 6

Back to the task at hand: Question 6 is HARD! Again, please feel free to comment, and help me with these complex questions. Here goes:

"What changes in inventory control methods, if any, should be required if third-party testing of component parts were permitted. Address receipt, storage and quality control of incoming materials, management and control of work-in-process, non-conforming material control, control of rework, inventory rotation, and overall identification and control of materials."

A manufacturer would need to make sure that there is a system for labeling and tracking incoming components, and have that tracking linked to the test results and the final units.

The manufacturer must have an inventory system where untested components be kept separate from tested components. If a component is proven to be non-compliant, there must be a “quarantine” area to which workers on the floor do not have access. Then the manufacturer would need to make the determination whether to return that component to the initial manufacturer, scrap the component, or use it in a different manufacturing application.

There must be coordination between the inventory control and tracking system and the physical location in the facility. Once a component has been tested, logged, and stored that component must still be traceable to the final product by assigning batch ID#’s. For a micro-producer or artisan, this can be accomplished by supplier provided certifications, and not allowing non-compliant components into the workspace.