Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The HANDMADE/CRAFTING WORLD - The New Law - CPSIA - Affecting My Corner Of It

Ruth Sandra Sperling
RSS Designs In Fiber - Internet Shop of Handmade Items
RSS Designs Wearable - Internet Shop of Wearable Items


Not being an attorney or someone professionally involved in law-making or writing, I am generally careful of what to say about some things.

But this new law on Children's Products, the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) is going to have an affect on my little corner of the Handmade Crafting World - as well as all kinds of Children's Products all over the United States. YES - my little corner!!

I am seriously worried - not so much for me personally, as I am not professionally involved in a career requiring the selling or buying of Children's Products - nor do I have any children 12 years of age or younger.

BUT IN GENERAL, I SUPPORT LIMITS OF LEAD IN CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS - ESPECIALLY ITEMS A BABY OR CHILD MIGHT UNKNOWINGLY SWALLOW OR CHEW ON. ACTUALLY I SUPPORT A NON-TOXIC OR LOW-TOXIC ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL OF US HUMANS, WHICH IS GOING TO REQUIRE EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE AND, YES, SOME TESTING, SO WE KNOW WHAT CONTAINS LEAD AND DOESN'T.

It will affect the few crocheted and knitted items that I have made for children in that age range - my Baby Hats in my ETSY shop, RSS Designs Wearables, have been selling over the months and under the new rules of testing for lead in All Children's Products, their price would at the very least double (or maybe even more).

Possibly un-realistic in the market I am selling them in - after all, I am trying to make and sell Affordable Baby Hats as Baby Hats are good for the health of the babies and recommended!!

I am afraid that with the CPSIA as it is currently written, the word "Affordable" "goes out the window", so to say!!

So, unless there are some regulations regarding using yarn to make things - and some exemptions for testing, that small part of my ETSY shop will be empty on the effective date of Feb. 10, 2009 - or maybe a couple of days earlier. I am not taking any legal risks - and the regulations I am hoping for at some time will not be ready and effective by then.

When I am affected or interested in something from the Federal government, I have found it advisable to get the actual data and documents from the government. In the area of environmental laws and regualtions including Public Land Management (i.e. the Giant Sequoia National Monument where I went to a lot of US Forest Service Meetings on it), I read the actual documents from the US Forest Service, and though I check some professional's opinions, I rely on most facts from the US Forest Service documents themselves.

So, that is what I am doing on the CPSIA. I have this page (http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html) bookmarked and check it for new documents, General Counsel opinions, new items published in the Federal Register, etc. If you haven't looked at it, you might want to check it out and get informed.

As I crochet and knit some wearable children's items - or maybe a pillow or toy or bag for them - with either yarn or thread, what I am keeping an eye on and developing opinions on is:

-- component testing and using supplier certifications of lead content (not approved yet)
-- the apparel industry
-- the yarn/textile industry
-- how to get exemptions from testing for materials that I would use that I have already gotten data on and apparently have little or no lead in them and are within the limits of the CPSIA. (not approved yet).

Not being an attorney and not fully understanding how to inerpret some portions of this law, I am not sure if the CPSC can just write rules/regulations on the implementation of the CPSIA for me to get what I want - or if the CPSIA needs to be amended - or if we need some new laws from Congress.

Here are some of my opinions, but they are just that - opinions and personal ones at that!

1. The basic intent of the law (the CPSIA) is good -- I don't want dangerous level of leads in Children's Products that could dangerously affect kids.

2. The way the CPSIA is written for All Children's Products is a little general and will either require a huge amount of un-affordable testing or a large amount of legal clarifications and legal rule-making -- or it could end up in the courts with precedents from judges that could affect the implementation and enforcement of the law.

3. If rules are not made allowing exemptions from testing final products/units made with materials that have no known lead content (or just natural trace levels of it), those who cannot afford the testing will just stop making things, so there will be a lot of things, that are available for children now, that won't be after the effective date or enforcement of the CPSIA.

Some rules in progress at these links in the Federal Register:

http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/frnotices/fr09/leadlimits.pdf (aka natural materials exemptions)


http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/frnotices/fr09/leadprocedures.pdf (aka Notice of Proposed Procedures and Requirements for a Commission Determination or Exclusion)

http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/frnotices/fr09/leadinaccessibility.pdf (aka Inaccessible Component Parts)

http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/frnotices/fr09/leadelectronic.pdf (aka Exemptions for Certain Electronic Devices)

If you look at each of these documents, where to send comments by mail, fax or email is in the documents including the Date by which comments must be made. This is public commenting, in the Federal Register, so any public may send in comments!! I believe the deadline on all of these is Feb. 17, 2009 (notice this is the comment period and it ends after the effective date for the CPSIA of Feb. 10, 2009.).

There is also a PDF document regarding a request from the CPSC on comments regarding
"Mandatory Third-Party Testing for Certain Children’s Products Section 102 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (“CPSIA”)" - http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/ComponentPartsComments.pdf -- and this has a deadline of Jan. 30, 2009.

4. I am not sure what exactly is going on in the retail markets of Children's Products, but with the General Counsel's opinions on existing inventory, retailers large and small may have a huge problem if they can't get certification of CPSIA compliance by Feb. 10, 2009 - or if a large part of their inventory fails testing (has too much lead in it) and cannot be legally sold. There are some dire predictions (businesses shutting down, bankrupcies, etc.) on the affect on the economy - we shall see what happens.

5. I think some things got left out when they wrote the original bill - I am of the opinion that the biggest matter left out was that suppliers to manufacturers at all levels, but particularly at the bottom level, must test and state the lead content of their supplies. I think that they must be required to put the actual lead content per some measure (ounce, yard, meter, etc.) on the labels/information for the products they are selling to assemblers/manufacturers. AFTER ALL, FOLKS, THE WHOLE POINT IS TO HAVE LEAD-FREE OR LOW-LEAD PRODUCTS FOR THE CHILDREN-IF YOU WANT TO BUY THINGS TO MAKE THINGS WITH NO OR LITTLE LEAD, YOU NEED TO KNOW THE LEAD CONTENT OF WHAT YOU ARE BUYING.

For me, this is a major issue, because all I am really doing with my crocheting and knitting of Children's Products is re-arranging the yarn or thread into something. I want it on the label if there is no lead content or how much lead per yard or per package, etc.

6. Also, though they are addressing this issue to some degree with the proposed rules I list in section #3 of this article above, there may be unnecessary testing required (duplicate testing of the same materials). If the materials that are being used to make something, even if dyed and treated, have no lead or just very low traces of lead (within the limits of the CPSIA) - and it is known and stated from the manufacturer of the materials - then the finished product should not have to be tested. As the law currently stands, the finished product has to be tested even if the components have been tested.

See this presentation to the CPSC on Jan. 22, 2009 from the The Craft Yarn Council Association and The National Needlearts Association regarding lead and phthalates in yarn: http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/crafts.pdf. This, in particular is siginificant to me with my crocheting and knitting.

In that document is information from testing of yarn and dyes in it. Apparently I don't have to worry that the yarns I have purchased - and probably the crochet threads, too - have too much lead in them to be used to make the Children's Products per the CPSIA limits for lead content, but I can't afford the testing of the finished product/unit and am waiting for Final Rules on these matters from the CPSC.

Hopefully there will be a way for even the dyed yarns and threads to be exempted from testing as long as I can get the information on lead content from the sellers of the yarn. (The natural materials exemption will cover the undyed cotton yarns I have.) But this will depend on supplier certifications being allowed and third-party testing being waived.

7. Also, I am of the opinion that XRF testing with GCC's - not necessarily third-party mandatory testing in accredited labs, which goes into effect in August 2009 - is enough for some Children's Products. But I don't feel qualified to legally state this. I am thinking of mostly smaller items and clothing/textile items. Larger items - especially items made with metals, etc. - should be professionally tested in a third-party accredited lab. Also, I am of the opinion that All Imported Items should require third-party testing in an accredited lab. I am not sure if allowing XRF gun testing without third-party accredited labs for some products would require an amendment of the CPSIA in Congress or if the CPSC can issue some ruling on this.

8. I think there is the possibility that a whole new separate law for the Children's Apparel Products would be a good idea. I think this law should include provisions for natural materials, materials that have no known lead content -- and should specifically ban items and attachments that have known lead content and can be swallowed or chewed on, like rhinestones, swarovski crystals, faux pearl buttons, some metals. Will all metals required for clothing, such as snaps and zippers, need to be made of surgical steel, which apparently does not contain lead -- or can they make some metals for these items that have no or very low lead? I have seen XRF gun testing results stating that some snap components are failing - having too much lead in one snap piece. It would need to be written so as to keep available in the market affordable clothing for children -- including in the Handmade market.

As someone in the Handmade market, which I support (www.buyhandmade.org), I want to continue to make Handmade Children's Products - and I want others to, too.

As an environmentalist and a supporter of a non-toxic environment for all, I want controls and limits on toxic, dangerous substances in products available for sale.

I recommend the following sites for information and data:

The Smart Mama (Jennifer Taggart) http://www.thesmartmama.com/bg/ - or Follow Her on Twitter (http://twitter.com/thesmartmama) - for a lot of information about the CPSIA and what fails and passes in XRF testing for lead.

As a member of ETSY, I have been following this on ETSY and in ETSY chats. Here is their latest action kit, which has a lot of good info, including contact info: http://www.etsy.com/storque/media/bunker/2009/01/CPSIA-Etsy-Resources.pdf


I recommend that individuals should do what they feel is right.

You can write and call your own Congressional representatives - but I believe that in addition to calling, it is effective to fax or mail substansive comments/opinions to their offices.

The Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives is the Congressional Committee responsible for deciding on re-visiting/amending the CPSIA. Currently, the Chairman is Congressman Henry Waxman, who I have found very good on environmental issues. Their phone number is (202) 225-2927 (I have called them) and their fax number (for faxing written comments/letters) is (202) 225-2525. I recommend calling and faxing written letters.

I would like to bring up one more point, which is something we all must face on this issue. Getting lead out of Children's Products is a good idea. I support this in general for the safety and health of children -- as an environmentalist and humanist. But this is going to require changes in manufacturing and selling of Children's Products - and it may result in some higher prices to consumers. In economics, there is discussion of "external costs to consumers", which the costs of dealing with health problems from lead exposure/poisoning would fall under. Getting the lead out of the products and so making the health risk of exposure to lead in dangerous levels much lower is called in economics "correcting for external costs". But this "correcting " will initally result in higher prices to the consumers for Children's Products -- but in the long run, with fewer external health costs because of lead exposure/poisoning because the risk is lowered significantly, the overall cost in the community may even out - when you consider the high cost of medical care.

But for this to work out in the economy, I think some changes are in order - waste of time and effort with duplicate testing of materials for lead content is going to cost us dearly.

I am hoping that in the long run, with some common-sense rulings, this will all work out --maybe even be cheaper - and healthier - in long run!!

But my biggest "beef" on this is that supplies to manufacturers in all sizes of business must have stated in their labeling what their lead content is per measure so everyone knows what they are dealing with in terms of what things have lead in them - like vinyl and faux pearl buttons, to name a few items than unexpectedly have huge amounts of lead in them way over CPSIA limits (read http://twitter.com/thesmartmama)!!

TO A HEALTHIER WORLD!!

Ruth

2 comments :

Winklepots said...

Thank you so much for helping to spread the word about this poorly written law. It affects us all. Here's hoping it's amended soon to minimize the damage being done.

curlymonkeyandco said...

Such a great post!