It’s a snowy day here in Central Ohio. To the left you see the view from our checkout counter. Needless to say it is a slow day here, and so I finally have some time to write about an important issue. It just so happens that other bloggers around the country have designated today a day to blog about the CPSIA, good timing!
To establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children’s products and to reauthorize and modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Sounds good in theory, who doesn’t want better safety standards for our children? But of course it’s not that easy, lets start to unpack what this means, especially for Sprout Soup.
First, the safety standards. What Congress and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was responding to with this law is the large number of recalls that we experienced in 2007. The media was buzzing with reports of lead in toys, most (all?) of which were made in China. In 2007 SproutSoup.com noticed the increased interest in domestically produced and natural wood toys. Parents were definitely tuned into the safety issues with their kids toys.
Spring of 2008 the CPSC and Congress made their move and introduced the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). No one disagrees that safety measures aren’t needed. Increased regulations and standards can be a good thing when it comes to our children and their health. And this idea is probably what helped the CPSIA move through the house and senate and finally be signed into law in August of 2008. No one wants lead in their child’s toy, and a less talked about chemical pthalates, which are used to make plastics pliable but can easily leach into a child’s bloodstream when the item is mouthed.
What was a surprise, however, is the impact that this law is having on business. Small businesses particularly, but in these uncertain economic times the scope of this Act and the negative side effects are far-reaching. There are two reasons for this. First, the law calls for accelerated implementation. The first portion of the law went into effect in December. This part only required that toys be labeled if they have small parts. But in just a few days another portion of the law takes effect, and this one is not as easy as labeling.
February 10, 2009 is the day the first restriction on lead limits goes into effect. The restriction isn’t the problem. Proving that items are within the allowable limits is where the issue lies. Manufacturers must have each and every product line independently tested. And each lot (production run) must be tested. Every color, in clothing every size, and every new fabric and material must be tested. For companies that make small runs, the cost of testing is overwhelming. For small cottage industries that create one of a kind items, these testing laws are unmanageable.
For Sprout Soup, all of our products must comply. It does not matter if they were made by a local mama or if they were made by a multinational corporation. If they were made in the US or if they were made in Asia, everything must be tested. Some of our European manufacturers have decided to pull out of the US market altogether. This is not because they fear they cannot comply with the laws, it is because they cannot afford more testing to prove that they comply. Much of what we were purchasing from Europe complies with European standards, some have Oko-tex certification, a testing standard that tests for lead as well as other chemicals, but this certification is not currently recognized by the CPSC and the CPSIA.
We have begun collecting Certificates of Conformity for the products that we have. Many of our manufacturers are complying or are working toward complying. On the down-side, there will be marked increases in the price of our products to cover the costs of these tests. We are seeing price increases in the neighborhood of $10 and $20 on some items to cover the testing. We are, and always have been, dedicated to providing safe and natural items for families. While we are 100% confident that we have not sold products that contain lead or pthalates, this confidence is nothing when it comes to the law. We have to be able to prove that our products comply, products without certification are considered banned and hazardous after February 10.
We need changes in the form of amendments to CPSIA! While some might ask that the entire law be repealed, safety in childrens products is important. We just need to review this law to make safety attainable for everyone and keep all the small businesses in America that cater to children up and running.
CPSIA applies to every product made for children 12 and under. At Sprout Soup this means baby carriers, cloth diapers, clothing, accessories, shoes, toys, furniture, feeding supplies and blankets. A good percentage of what we have here in the store. The only items we do not need to certify are items for mom: our nursing clothing, nursing shawls, mom skincare, bags and our reusable water bottles in the larger (adult) sizes.
What Needs to Happen for CPSIA to be Manageable
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is not all bad. And it can be revised to make it manageable for small businesses and cottage industries to continue to operate. Many are calling for recognition of component testing. Some manufacturers of fabric, which would be considered a component in many items, have already begun to test their fabrics to comply with CPSIA. Recognizing that cutting and sewing fabric into clothing or a baby sling doesn’t alter it’s lead levels and allowing manufacturers to use this testing as part of their certification would go a long way. We can also reach out to our European counterparts and recognize some of their safety standards that equate to CPSIA and allow those standards to pass, allowing them to continue to export into the United States.
Items made in the USA, especially those that have components sourced in the USA, have a small likelihood of containing lead. Lead has been outlawed in paints for decades. Revisions to the CPSIA that recognize this and encourage domestic manufacturing could go a long way toward helping our American economy instead of hurting it.
We don’t want to see businesses close down because they cannot afford these new testing regulations. We don’t want to see prices increase dramatically because of the costs of testing. We don’t want to lose good quality brands, we want to be able to provide the same products that we have been providing for the past five years: safe, natural, well-researched and planet-friendly. At Sprout Soup we do the investigation so you don’t have to. We aim to make your choices easy, and we want to be able to continue, but this is something we cannot do without the manufacturers behind us, providing us with these quality products.