December 14, 2008 03:30 PM

I learned this week that Congress passed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act,a law which goes into effect in February 2009 and willabsolutely decimate small businesses. How?  In an effort to protect consumers against the dangers of toys and other items made with unacceptable lead levels in China, they are requiring all manufacturers to have every single type of product tested by third-party labs. In their rush to pass this legislation, they forgot all about the small toy manufacturers, independent artisans,and crafters who cannot afford these fees of $4,000 per item type. Ironically, it is the products made by these  small companies that are least likely to contain these nasty toxins in the first place!

This will affect all of thecool mompreneurs we’ve written about and come to know and love overthe last five years of CBB, and anyone who dreams of making somethingfrom home. It’s not just the hair clipmakers, it also affects the successful companies who have achieved somesuccess but not enough that thousands of dollars per new product won’tdestroy their bottom line and put them out of business.

Together with your help, all of us who love handmade toys, clothing and other cool products can try to stop this law from going into effect. Click More to learn more about this and how you can help!

— Danielle

Since the actual Act is too bogged down with legalese for laypeople, here’s are some tangible examples (borrowed from the Handmade Toy Alliance):

  • A toymaker who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testinglabs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
  • A work at home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craftfairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
  • A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe,which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay fortesting on every toy they import.
  • And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers inthe United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, eventhough American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safetyproblems of 2007.

The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earnedand kept the public’s trust: Toys made in the US, Canada, and Europe.The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade toys will nolonger be legal in the US. If this law had been applied to the foodindustry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to closewhile Kraft and Dole prospered.

It’s not just the manufacturers who will be affected- think of where you buy these cool products. Your local toy store who stocks the toys you can’t find at Toys R Us, the people they employ, etc.

The Handmade Toy Alliance has specific suggestions on how to amend the Act and they’re quite reasonable.

Here’s an easy way to show your support. Visit and log your support- if it gets enough votes, it will be shown to President Obama in January.

Then let’s urge the folks in Washington who passed this law to amend it and save small businesses! Read my letter below and send similar ones to your Representatives, Senators and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission

For more info:

Dear Senator/Representative…

I’m all for strengthening the safety standards of mass-produced toys,clothes, and accessories made in China, and banning toxins likephthalates and lead from my daughter’s toys but the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act isgoing to destroy small businesses and work at home mom and popbusinesses around the United States. They cannot afford the testing andso will be put out of business.

I am mother to a three year old girl. While she loves toys and clothingfrom big box retailers like Toys R Us and the Gap, she also loves thehandmade items I buy for her online and from small retailers like Scriveners in Maplewood, NJ and Sparkhouse Kids in South Orange, NJ. With thepassage of this act in February, these businesses will be forced to close and we will have no choice but to shoponly at big box retailers.

This act is anti-entrepreneurial, anti-commerce and anti-consumer. Ironically, these small businessesare probably the ones least likely to be the offenders anyway. I’mtalking about moms who sew beautiful handmade Waldorf dolls from home,artists who have spent decades hand-carving trucks and cars out ofnatural woods, that guy at the craft show sells cute handmadepuzzle — even larger US companies who employ local workers and have notonce had any sort of safety issue will no longer be able to sell theirgoods. Not without investing tens of thousands of dollars intothird-party testing and labeling, just to prove that toys that neverhad a single toxic chemical in them still don’t have a single toxicchemical in them.

Please do not let this Act go into effect in February 2009. If itpasses, it will completely decimate the entrepreneurs and smallbusinesses that most need our help. Forget about bailout. These folksdon’t want or need a handout- they need an exemption from this Act.Just like President-Elect Obama promised small businesses won’t be affectedby tax increases (because he knows how important they are), please write anexemption into this act before it goes into effect.

Small businesses are the long tail of this economy- destroy them likethis and you further destroy the economy. In this economic crisis,that’s the last thing we need! I know that this is important to you andI know that you care what your constituency thinks.

Danielle Friedland

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