Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Julia Chen, left, works the counter along with her daughter Mariah, right, at the Play Store in
Palo Alto, California.

Some Say New Product Safety Law Could Sink Small Businesses

January 07, 2009 01:02 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
A new law requires businesses to ensure that child products they make or sell are tested and certified for safety.

Some Worried About Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

On Feb. 10, 2009, businesses around the country will be required to operate under a new set of safety regulations if they sell products meant for children under 12 years old.

Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) last August, and it stipulates that anything made for young kids must be tested for unsafe substances like lead and phthalates before it is sold, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The law is meant to put the main burden of safety testing on large toy manufacturers, according to However, as it is currently written, it also requires the same of smaller stores and home-based crafters who make children’s toys or clothes in their homes.

Testing on an item is rigorous. John Laherty, a corporate lawyer, explained to that an item like a coat must have each individual component—its lining, zipper and any buttons—tested for safety. Small store owners will need to pay to have “every component of every item” in their stores examined if they want to stay in business.

One store owner in Oregon stated that Congressional staffers acknowledged the law had “potentially unintended consequences, and lawmakers didn’t intend to put this burden on retailers and resellers.”

With complaints pouring in over the broader implications of the act, lawmakers have agreed to reconsider some of the rules of the CPSIA. However, the Los Angeles Times reported that changes likely won’t be approved until after the new law is already in effect.

Background: China’s toy scare

In late 2007, parents were overwhelmed and confused when many Chinese toys were found to contain substances hazardous to children’s health. With 80 percent of toys coming from China, people were faced with the prospect of either continuing on as normal and endangering their children, or making an extra effort to buy American.

Opinion: Business owners have their say

While some say the CPSIA is a much-needed step toward keeping kids’ toys safe, other businesses who sell children’s products and clothes are not so pleased. Testing and certifying their inventory for safety could cost between $500 and $4,000 an item, according to Digital Journal.

Because the law was broadly written, all products, even those sold on eBay or Craigslist, can’t be sold without a CPSIA certificate of compliance, or the sellers risk fines and jail time. The law is also retroactive, meaning current stock that businesses or home crafters sell must be tested as well.

The new requirements have caught several businesses off guard. According to The Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., many store owners don’t understand that the law not only impacts toys meant for children under 12. “It affects books, clothing, toys, crafts—everything,” Debbie Baillie of Rowdy Rascals Toy Store stated. “No one can even figure out what we need to do to be in compliance.”

Others seem to agree that the law is too extreme. “I mean, we’ve been passing kids clothing down for centuries. Now all of sudden you can’t do it because there might be too much lead in one item out of a thousand? I mean it’s ridiculous they’ve taken it to the extent they’ve taken it right now,” a consignment store owner said in an article by ABC News 10 in Sacramento, Calif.
Kiki Fluhr, a woman who makes handmade dresses in her home, told Digital Journal the law leaves home crafters with a tough decision. “This law affects every stay at home mom trying to help put food on the table and every grandmother knitting blankets for the local craft fair. It makes the thousands of us who have found a niche in the burgeoning handmade market have to make a tough decision—continue to produce items illegally and possible incur a $100,000 fine, or close up shop and maybe not be able to pay the mortgage this month.”

Reference: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008


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