In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public's trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small part, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China. (We knew this already)
The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number. (Sounds good, right?)
All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and update their molds to include batch labels.
For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers, however, the costs of mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business.
For all that we hear in politics about trying to protect small business owners, I'm surprised there hasn't been more talk about this. While very well-intended, this new set of regulations will put thousands if not millions of small toy-makers (many of them home-based, like the many etsy shops that sell handmade children's toys. And, ironically, toymakers based in the US, Canada, and Europe, who already comply with strict standards like the EU's regulations, and who have not caused any problems with toxic toys, will be hit hard, while the companies that will be left are all big enough so they make their toys in CHINA, you know, the one place that's been putting poison in our childrens toys this whole time. We all know how well regulations over there have been working...
To learn more about the CPSIA, what it means for toy makers (and for the selection of toys available for you to buy your children), and how to help, visit The Handmade Toy Alliance. They've crafted a letter template you can use to write to your senator or state representative, or to send directly to the CPSC. You can also sign their online petition. We of course want to still ensure that handmade toys remain safe and reliable, so the Handmade Toy Alliance has put together a proposal for how to do so, without putting independent toy makers out of business.
Many other websites are getting involved, such as Cool Mom Picks which has made up a section of their site to be an information center on the CPSIA and made up a cute little button you can add to your blog to help bring more attention to this issue. An activist website called National Backruptcy Day has a page where you can automatically send a letter to all of your legislators, just type in your address and make any changes you wish to the editable section of the letter.
The CPSIA will go into effect on Feb 10, 2009. Unless changes are made, that will be the day that all but the largest toy makers selling in the US will go out of business. Some European toy makers have already declared that they will stop selling their toys in the US after the new year, not being able to afford the extra cost.
Quite frankly, I think this is HUGE. Please help spread the word, and use the links above to contact your legislators.