Thursday, January 15, 2009

Today's Craft ~ Tomorrow's Contraband

As a crafter/artisan I'm worried about the future. I make purses, quilts, pillowcase dresses and other such little odds and ends. Come next month my quilts and any other items I create for those under the age of 12 will be considered contraband. WHAT? Yes, indeed. Come February new requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will be enforced. Beginning February 10, 2009, children’s products cannot be sold if they contain more than 600 parts per million (ppm) total lead. Certain children’s products manufactured on or after February 10, 2009 cannot be sold if they contain more than 0.1% of certain specific phthalates or if they fail to meet new mandatory standards for toys.

Okay, you'd think that as a stay-at-home mom the little things I make would be safe. My sewing machine doesn't inject the crafts with lead as I sew the seams. There are no harmful chemicals in the thread I use.

The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban. Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.

The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties. It makes sense then, if you knowingly sell something toxic you'll be fined. No problem BUT.. .

What if you sell something unknowingly? Products made for children are tested. . .what if someone makes a pair of gloves for an adult. The yard need not be tested BUT if the adult wants a pair for their child then the yard DOES need to be tested. What if the parent puts their gloves on the child? Then there's apparently no problem. Huh? Yes, it's situations like that going through my mind causing migraines.

Inadvertently, this law was written too broadly and affects not only imported children's toys, but also handmade items, electronics and CDs, clothing, and accessories, as well as children's books and school textbooks that are made in the USA.

As the law currently stands, the libraries and schools would need to test all current inventory of books in the library and all textbooks. How much would that cost? Probably enough to cause the libraries to close off their children's sections. How sad is that?

As for the handmade items, crafters and small business owners would be required to test their finished products, even though the products have been made with already tested and safe materials. Is this possible? For many - no. If you make one of a kind creations EACH ONE would have to be tested. Who can afford that? The cost of the testing would make it no longer feasible to even sell an item, as so few are made, many being one-of-a-kind items. I would no longer be able to legally sell my handmade products for children. My pillowcase dresses would become hazardous materials!

Thankfully, the CPSC has exempted resale and thrift shops from having to test their inventory for lead. However, the exemption is still ambiguous and still puts the resale shops liable if they even unknowingly sell an item that does not fall within the safe lead limit. Other retailers, though, would have to pull all of their current children's inventory as of February 10th if the item has not been previously tested, certified, and labeled. What if I give my sister-in-law or a friend some of my son's old clothing? Nope, can't do that . . . we'll have to start an underground black market for children's items.

It's a frightening thing. I can understand doing the most to protect our future/our children BUT sometimes laws and regulations do not make much sense. This one, while it means well, is going to cause more harm that good. Many crafters on Etsy and Ebay will go out of business. Smaller children's boutiques will close. No more selling children's items (for children under 12 years of age) at garage sales!

I may have a table at a show next month and have the opportunity to sell my items at a shop in New Hope! Now, much for children's items. The best part is that MANY people don't even know this is happening! If you're on a craft site it's all over the forums but the general public has no idea. Will there be a rash of arrests this summer when police do drive-by's at garage sales looking for illegal items?

If you're interested in knowing more about this check out the CPSC website.

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