March 17, 2009
Dear Congressman Dingell,
I want to express my gratitude for the letter you sent to Nancy Nord and Thomas Moore, and the important questions you ask regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. As owner of a micro-business serving the children’s industry, I do not have the means to hire lobbyists, and having the support of lawmakers means so much. I have been working on the CPSIA issue for many months, and it encourages me to keep going when I read letters like yours. I would like to share with you, answers to some of the questions you pose, particularly those that affect my business specifically.
A little bit of background on my company: I started Craftsbury Kids in 2004 in order to offer children alternatives to the mass produced throw-away toys and other items, so ubiquitous in the marketplace. My purpose is to offer difficult to find handmade items that are made in the USA and Europe, and tend to last for generations. I am part of a niche market and my income is modest, however my family of six relies solely on this income to survive. I do this because it’s important to me that children have access to items that will help them to grow artistically and intellectually. I see my offerings as a respite from the flashy characters and electronic toys and gadgets that have shortened childhoods and limited imaginations. I have always chosen Craftsbury Kids items with quality and safety in mind. Most of the items I offer are made from natural materials.
You ask about quantitative data concerning any negative impact of the Act on small manufacturers of children’s products. I work with about 100 artists, and most produce one of kind items. If component testing is not allowed, the majority of my artists will go out of business, with the exception of three larger manufacturers. The permanent marking requirement will also pose difficulties for these small producers (in the event of a recall, small producers can easily trace the items sold and get in touch with consumers).
As far as mitigating economic impact on small manufacturers I would suggest the following:
1. Focus on items that pose a risk such as paint and cheap jewelry, and exempt all other items.
2. Allow for use of certain finishes that do not pose a risk (for example milk paint, beeswax, tung oil, vegetable oils etc.)
3. Allow certification of materials to suffice for proof of compliance (component testing), and remove the requirement that finished products be tested.
4. Exempt small producers from batch labeling or make it voluntary.
I am alarmed by the fact that books printed prior to 1985 are now illegal to sell to children. I do not know of one case in which a child has been lead poisoned by a book. Do you know any children who are capable of chewing up and digesting books? It is my understanding that this would be necessary for a child to be adversely affected by lead in ink. I can not stress enough how important books, especially old books are for children. These books contain a rich history that will never again be available, as many are out of print. A great many books printed prior to 1985 are valued at no more than a few dollars. These will not be sold to adult collectors as the law allows. I fear that millions of these books will be thrown away as trash. I have already discovered a box of old children’s books placed on the curb for garbage pickup, by a Vermont thrift store in my area. Books must be exempted altogether from this law, if the legacy we pass on to our children is important to us.
I would suggest that thrift stores be allowed to sell items (including all books) that to the best of their knowledge are safe, and not be held liable. Because they risk being severely penalized under CPSIA, many stores have chosen to stop selling children’s products altogether. This is an absolute tragedy for the needy, not to mention an environmental nightmare when all of these things end up in our landfills. Has a zipper on a pair of jeans ever given a child lead poisoning? It is really shameful that this law is causing thrift stores to close, or eliminate their children’s departments.
I believe the age limit in the Act’s definition of children’s products is highly inappropriate. Children above the age of 2 or 3 do not put toys or other non-food items in their mouths. I know this to be true, because I am a mother of four, and have observed my own, and the children of others.
It is my ardent hope that commonsense changes will be made to this law, in order to ensure safety for our children, while allowing the entrepreneurs of our country to continue to offer our children great value. Small businesses are disappearing in droves. During this time of economic crisis, it is more important than ever that our Citizens be allowed to remain in business. If changes to the law are not made, my business will be left with very little to offer. I don’t know if I will be able to remain in business, my specialty being the innovative, the handmade, the one of a kind, all of which are currently at risk of being wiped out by CPSIA.