Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let's Keep Handmade In Business

Save Handmade Toys

JessTrev's thinking about independent crafters and one-of-a-kind treasures today...

Many of you may have heard about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). It was written to stem the tide of recalls we've had over ridonculous toy safety issues like lead and phthalates, tiny chokable magnets...you name it, we've seen it in the last few years. So, first up, thanks a bunch, Congress! I appreciate that you don't want our kids nibbling on toxins. Seriously! I could not be more heartened by your attention to this pressing matter. The thing is, one of the unintended consequences of this bill could be to put small, independent craftspeople -- those who handmake items like toys, soap, clothing, textiles, and jewelry -- out of business. Tough economic climate for that ice bath, lawmakers.

I really do love the independent crafters. Don't we all? I mean, even if it weren't for the fact that most mass toy companies source and manufacure their products in places that have horrible trade records and little regard for child health, you have to give it up for the beauty and originality of handmade stuff.

I'm not a gift guide writer, but I will tell you that my toddler sleeps with a monny (monster) and a leech in his crib, courtesy of the Crafty Bastards sale here in DC last fall. His sister has some pretty smokin' shirts, and our friends' babies like to gnaw on beautiful wooden keys instead of lead-tainted brass realia. My favorite teacher gift is none other than a set of button flowers, and could there be a better way to welcome a child to the world than with a personalized birdie banner? I could go on, but I think you get my drift: a lot of the decorative touches in our lives could go missing if this bill's not altered.

That's why it's good news that you can register your opinon. Head over to change.org and vote to have their article on the CPSIA sent on over to Obama so he takes notice of the undesirable consequences to this bill. Also check out the posts by ZRecs (phone #s), CoolMomPicks (great roundup of links) and The Smart Mama (as usual, excellent detail + background...with a plug for her XRF testing biz) to brief yourself on the issue, and join the Handmade Toy Alliance on Facebook.

I have to go on record saying I am nervous about altering the bill. I appreciate what one Etsy artist said: “I'd be more than happy to have each of my toys tested, if it wasn't so cost prohibitive. It is the COST involved in testing that will shut us down, it isn't that anyone refuses to have their work tested." That's important to me. I don't want a watered-down bill with loopholes some manufacturer of plastic dolls is going to be able to leap through. At all. What I want is a cost-effective way for responsible crafters to show their safety measures. Heck, I know lots of Etsy businesses use non-toxic materials. But any eco-conscious person who's walked into a craft store is pretty clear on the fact that there are plenty of homemade items that won't be shaped from "sustainably harvested woods, non-toxic paints and beeswax." Not to mention those items being upcycled (again, good in theory) or not used for their intended purpose. So, what do I want? I want our legislators to earn their generous health packages. Figure out a way (XRF guns, in the hands of properly trained testers, seem to already be an option; testing materials rather than finished product, another) for small crafters to certify their use of safe materials, and keep the big boys (those who have truly been stocking our shelves with phthalates and lead) on the straight and narrow.

Hey, the Consumer Product Safety Commish is requesting comments, so do your knicker-knitting neighbor a favor and check out ZRecs' recs about stating your opinion on the matter. Tell our gov'ment we want both safe toys and a thriving industry made up partially of an underground mom economy.

14 comments:

Electronic Goose said...

Thanks for these links--I signed it and share your concern about loopholes for the mean guy.

Green Bean said...

I'm glad that you posted on this. I say some traffic about it on Twitter and Facebook but there only so many things one can focus on. The links make it easy so I hope folks sign and are heard on this important issue.

JessTrev said...

Electronic Goose - thanks for signing - now let's hope that there are no loopholes.

GB - Thanks for signing - much better to be working on a team, eh? There are so many important issues (thanks for covering sustainable ag).

Green Bean said...

Absolutely better to be part of a team. We can all highlight specific issues - ALL of which are important.

BTW, just emailed my congresswoman and senators plus signed the petition. It took less than 10 minutes.

Cheri said...

THANK YOU so much for posting this!! I have written letters to my congressman and senators, signed the petitions and have told everyone I can think of to help support getting this changed!
I am a WAHM and have a small on-line store with Organic and NON-Toxic wooden toys from some wonderful small companies and if this law goes through I don't think these companies will be able to afford to sell their great toys anymore in the U.S. Not to mention that these handcrafted toys are the type of toys I buy for my 3 year old son and give as gifts!

Thank you again!! Let's all do what we can to help keep these wonderful toys available for our children!!

Jennifer Taggart said...

Great post! I'm with you - I'm nervous about "fixing" the law because it is so important to have safe children's products free of lead, phthalates and more, but I also understand the costs. I love handmade products - but I've also seen safety hazards. Using reclaimed wood is great, but not so great if it was painted with lead based paint or had lead containing varnish on it. Repurposing old buttons is fabulous - unless they've got lead or pose a choking hazard.

I mean it is really the old question - how to you balance safety and cost? Regulation and free market?

I think solutions like XRF testing are good (disclaimer - self serving since I have one) since they are relatively inexpensive as compared to lab testing - I charge $5 per test. Also, certified materials that have been tested make more sense than component testing for some products. But I don't want to lose protections but "fixing" things.

Jennifer
www.thesmartmama.com

JessTrev said...

Cheri - thank *you* so much for making those wonderful little wooden toys we love for our kids. Hope that the legislators will figure out a way not to wipe our your vibrant industry.

Jennifer/The Smart Mama - great talking to you today! Thanks for weighing in. I so appreciate your extensive testing/scientific background and perspective. Hopefully we can find a way to have it all -- safety and cottage industry.

Green Me said...

I was in MI visiting the in-laws when this passed. I learned about it visiting the little seedling our favorite cloth diaper/natural toy store. The woman who runs it (I forget her name) has worked so, so hard to be successful and this law would bankrupt her! Not only is the testing part of it set-up improperly, but also the fact that as of Feb. 09 non-tested merchandise is no good. What were they thinking? Not only is this wasteful, but it is very poorly thought out...

Colleen/FoodieTots said...

Great synopsis of all the issues here. I like the thought of testing materials, shifting more of the burden to those manufacturers ... I get nervous shakes anytime I step into a big box (aka Made in China) craft store. Kinda like the grocery... ;-).

JessTrev said...

@Alison/GreenMe -- fine point about the waste of all that warehoused merchandise come Feb. 09. I have been so focused on *not* wanting lead and phthalate ridden stuff (you know, like brightly painted lead trains or hormone-disrupting rubber duckies) to get passed off on us consumers until the stream of already-made toxic product rolls through that I have to say, it trumped that angle for me.

@Colleen you're killin me! you should do a podcast of your inner thoughts as you troll big box stores looking for slow food and wooden toys. ;)

kathleen said...

Thanks for publicizing this! May I also suggest visiting the War Room for up to the minute updates and focused activism? http://tinyurl.com/5fhzbd. My site is focusing on education and activism for producers of sewn products. There’s tons of solid information there from attorneys and scientists. I also heartily endorse Jennifer Taggert as an authority on this issue. What she doesn't tell anyone is that she's an attorney AND an environmental engineer.

Expatriate Chef said...

The path to reform is never easy, similar issues have come up in the food world that threaten small, sustainable farms as well. Quality input on legislation is needed from those who think about another business model besides mass production. Thanks.

Going Crunchy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Going Crunchy said...

One thing we are heavily debating in my neck of the woods is how this will apply to books and library collections. From the way it is being read and reviewed this legislation would (may, and I hestitate to make assumptions as I am still learning) apply to books and libraries. Would we have to close access? What is the criteria and methodology of testing? What is the timeline? What are the specs?

It doesn't have enough reasonable measures built into the legislation yet (that I know of) for me to justify closing off collections which may be critical for education and growth unless there is a clear and present danger.

However as a Greenie I have been an advocate within my circle to NOT buck this, but yet demand greater clarification and a timeline. I do not want to go on record as one that would block the passage as I think it is absolutely critical for all the reasons you mentioned in the post.

I am anxious to see how this plays out. I'll probably post too when I know more about it.

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin