It's no secret that we're big fans of small toymakers. What with the various toy-related scares that have plagued the marketplace in recent times, Etsy and similar sources have often been our go-to destinations for safe, ethically manufactured playthings. This is why we were concerned to learn about new legislation, set to take effect in February 2009, that could very well put many of our favorite independent toymakers out of business. And we're not surprised that many of you, our readers, are equally concerned, judging by the flood of email we've received from you.
This is a busy time of year for many of us, but we encourage you to take a few minutes to read the rest of this post, check out the information links provided, and take action if this is an issue that concerns you, too.
The Handmade Toy Alliance website, which is the vanguard of the protest, explains the fallout from the massive toy recalls of 2007:
The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.
All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and update their molds to include batch labels.
For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers -- including everyone from work-at-home moms to small importers of European toys (whose workmanship, ironically, has always been ruled by more stringent safety standards than any other country) -- the costs of mandatory toy testing (up to a whopping $4,000 per toy) could drive them out of business.
Or, as the Handmade Toy Alliance puts it: "If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered."
The Alliance has a counter-proposal to modify the new legislation. It proposes, among other things, that small-batch toymakers be exempted from the auspices of the CPSIA, while still remaining accountable through other avenues:
By exempting from third party testing and batch labeling requirements toys made entirely within the United States and other trusted countries with strong product safety regimes such as Canada and the European Union. In either case, safety will be assured for exempted toys through mandatory registration with the CPSC and random auditing backed by meaningful penalties. This is similar to the approach taken by the European Union.
:: US Consumer Product Safety Commission: About the CPSIA
:: Etsy Open Letter: Handmade Children's Items & Unintended Consequences: Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
:: Handmade Toy Alliance: Proposal to Improve the CPSIA
:: Handmade Toy Alliance: How You Can Help
:: Change.org: Vote to Save Handmade Toys from the CPSIA
:: Facebook: Help Save Handmade Toys from the CPSIA
:: Cool Mom Picks: Help Us Save Handmade