Thursday, January 29, 2009

The CPSIA and How it Affects Dreamscapes Baby Boutique

I haven't blogged about this yet, because I wanted to gather all the facts before I made a statement. However, I think it's time.

If you haven't yet seen all the mom blogs, Etsy, and other handmade craft forums you may not yet understand what the CPSIA is and how it affects small businesses. Or, you may be hearing conflicting opinions and miscommunications. Either way, here is how the current legislation is going to affect not only Dreamscapes Baby Boutique and Two Crowns Bedding, but also other small businesses.

First of all, you may think the law only applies to large scale manufacturers. In fact, it applies to every manufacturer of items intended for use by children under 12. Well, of course it needs to apply to the manufacturer, but what IS a manufacturer? Under the currently defined term, manufacturer is anyone who creates a new item from other materials. This means that while you are aware that Mattel is a manufacturer, you may not realize that your neighbor down the street who makes baby blankets is also a manufacturer. Someone can buy a onesie from Target and add a fabric applique and they become a manufacturer. Which means they are required to abide by testing statutes like everyone else.

Is this a bad thing? No. Anyone and everyone that makes an item should be under the law and abide by the law. The problem lies with how the testing procedures work. If a onesie has already been tested by the manufacturer, and the fabric and thread being used to apply the applique has been tested for lead, and everything is negative for would think the item would be in compliance. That isn't how this law is written though. As it stands, the finished item would have to be tested again to prove it's negative for lead. Testing costs hundreds of dollars for one item and that item can be destroyed in the process. Now what has started out as onesie being sold for $20, is now going to cost $1,000. Unless the item is being made in bulk, each different onesie with each different applique will have to be tested. Considering the profit margins are slim for a boutique onesie without testing, no small business will able to afford the testing and still make a profit.

The same can be said for a baby cap made from yarn. If the yarn was tested negative for lead, (which yarn doesn't contain lead, the average person can figure that out) if you make a hat and a baby blanket from the same yarn both items will have to be tested by themselves. The redundancy is astounding and ridiculous!

Now you can see why companies are up in arms. On top of the cost for testing and having to test the finished product after each piece has already been tested, the testing labs are backlogged and testing itself is expensive.

The problem with lead in toys really came to a head in 2008. Dubbed the Year of the Recall, many toys manufactured in China and other Asian countries were imported to the US. These items contained harmful levels of lead and in at least one case, a child died from ingesting a lead coated item. Congress decided to act swiftly to protect Americans and passed the CPSIA with only opposition from Ron Paul. (Thanks Ron Paul btw!) Here is where the madness starts. First of all, the act was passed without thought. Many consumer advocates were pushing this as "feel good legislation" and had the public backing it. It wasn't until businesses looked into the actual law that things got messy.

What else is the problem with the law? To start, there are already laws in place and standards for lead levels but manufacturers haven't reinforced them. That's how items are able to come into the US that contain unsafe lead levels. But, instead of enforcing the laws already in place, making manufacturers accountable, and putting more strict import laws into place, they came up with a law that threatens to put all small businesses out of business and puts the consumers back into the hands of the people that caused the mess to begin with! Whew!

You know all those wonderful WAHMs on Etsy, eBay, and own small online boutiques? A lot of them are closing because of this law. Quotes for testing are so high, these companies can't afford it. Items that are one of a kind (OOAK) will be impossible to make. No more handmade movement. No more supporting small American businesses. No more quality, unique toys for children. Just more mass manufactured items by Mattel sold in big box stores.

Great isn't it?

So how does this affect Dreamscapes Baby Boutique? In several ways! First, many of the brands we carry are from great moms and dads that saw a need in the market and created a product. They may be WAHMs. They may have their business just to make a little extra income. They may rely on it. Either way, they are not a large enough business to absord the testing costs. Which means fewer products for you to choose from. Less unique and individual items for your baby! Second, we at Dreamscapes Baby Boutique offer custom nursery bedding and baby items that are unique to you. All items are 100% custom made to order. Our custom nursery bedding is OOAK. Every design is made for the individual person based on their wants and nothing is duplicated in any way. Because of testing costs and redundant testing procedures, we will no longer be able to offer these services. Custom bedding is why I chose to go into this business. If you've read the About Us page, you know that not finding what I want is the reason I made it a mission to create the best for others so they CAN have what they want, what they dream. I also try to make everything affordable. We like to think we create top notch luxury items at Wal Mart prices!

So, less to choose from. No custom OOAK items. We had planned on creating a line of clothing also but that will have to wait. We simply cannot afford the testing costs.

Just, don't think this only applies to us that sell baby products. It applies to EVERYTHING made for children 12 and under. There are no exemptions. Thrift stores and consignment shops will be held liable if they sell anything that ends up containing lead. Fines are exorbitant and there can even be jail time. Books are included in this and the American Library Association has been sending out press releases on how this affects the resale of books and our libraries in general. Those beautiful Swarovski crystal encrusted tees and pacifiers will be gone unless exempt because they are made from lead. Lead that cannot be leached into the human body even if ingested but still lead.

So should small business be exempt? No. I don't believe it's in the best interest to have small businesses be exempt. Attempting to determine exactly what a small business is wouldn't be easy and gets us nowhere. However, there needs to be changes to exempt materials. It's my opinion that textiles should be exempt. It is also my belief that textiles contain miniscule amounts of lead or none at all. The latest recall involving children's pjs were recalled due to the screenprinting inks and were also made in Vietnam. Import laws would have kept these items from ever being sold and then recalled again.

What should happen? The requirements for testing need to be amended. Testing finished products when the materials used to make the products should not have to be tested again. Materials that are not known to contain lead should not be included in the testing. There are many other things could change, and need to be changed, but this is all I am addressing at the moment.

Thanks for your support of my business and if you love what we do, make sure to contact your Congressman and let your voice be heard. We are not involved in a small interest lobbying campaign against safer laws for children. We are simply small business owners intent at staying in business while being legal at the same time. Congress needs to own up to their mistake and listen to our voices.

1 comment:

MarieLynn Boutique said...

I just tagged you on my blog!