Friday, January 30, 2009

CPSIA Affects Canadians

On February 10th yet another phase of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) will go into effect in the United States. Born out of the well intended principal that all children's products be free on lead, this new regulation is likely to harm the children's industry in
North America more than help - at least in it's current form.

Already brands like Europe's renowned Selecta have pulled out of the north American market rather than suffer the cost of testing every component of every product - soon most if not all of the hand made toy creators in the States will fall prey to the cost of having their material components tested or be criminally responsible.

Sure the idea is good - test everything - make it safe - hold someone - anyone? -responsible. But it is flawed. Large companies - the ones who's toys have been recalled for example - can afford the testing - while a maker of cotton knit soft toys may neither be able to afford it nor logically need the testing (there is very little likelihood of cotton fibers, dyed or not, retaining any appreciable lead). Store owners will be responsible for the products they sell. Sounds good in principal, but liable if something contains lead? - with out without their knowing about it? Does a small shopkeeper need to have their own lab at their disposal? In one breath a clarification on this particular subject states that a shopkeeper will 'not be responsible for testing their inventory... however, cannot sell products that exceed the lead limit...Those resellers that do sell products in violation...could face civil and/or criminal penalties.' Seems like a very fine line to tread as a retailer.

The regulation covers everything intended for use by children 12 and under. Toys, clothes, beds, furniture, towels, cloth diapers, boardgames, books....

Not to mention, I have yet to understand how singular testing on a product sample can confirm continued safety - one of the toys in our house had been recalled for lead - just not our toys lot number - different batch of yellow paint apparently (yeah, we don't play with that anymore and yeah, it's a mass produced plastic thing). Testing the end product is not the same as testing the material component.

So, small business making safe toys will go down because they can't afford the cost, about $70 to $350 US per material component plus on if it is a lead test or bpa, and we here in Canada loose out too - no longer able to get the products like Selecta, all the wonderful Etsy crafters who make hand made goodies, the small American craftsmen - who can't risk the lawsuits even though they make natural wood toys with no finishes, and even our own Canadian manufacturers who are at risk of loosing the US market - inherently safe products or not. All because another countries material manufactures with questionable business practices made things on the cheap and cut corners for crazy cheap prices.

Who'd'a thought that cheap could mean quality concerns?

What can we do
As Canadians we have to decide if we want to continue to lavish our children with mountains of plastic toys, reasonably cheap to buy and super cheap to make, or be more selective about what we introduce into our playtime and buy feewer quality small run products whose price might be a bit higher but who's profit ratio is smaller, supporting small and medium sized business and ethical manufacturing.

Buy Canadian, American & European made

Buy Fairly Traded and Responsibly Made - just look at the packinging most will tell you if they are.

We can have our voice heard as their neighbours, go to The Handmade Toy Alliance to find out more.

Buying less of the over-blinged stuff that got in trouble in the 1st place is a way to speak with our wallet and speaks as to our concerns and choices as parents.

To find out more about the new regulations in the States go here.

**and just a note: the cash register shown is from Selecta, my daughter has it and loves it. So do I, it makes the most pleasant 'bing!' and does not require batteries. She had a plastic one that lasted about 2 years before it broke, when she saw this one she thought it was the 'coolest ever!' and has been playing, adding and writing ever since. Shame that thanks to a poorly thought out law I won't be able to get more of these, and so much more like it, in the shop!

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