New Rules Designed To Protect Kids Are Hurting Small Businesses

Have you heard about the new rules put out by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)? In response to the lead-tainted toy recalls in 2007, this legislation to require testing was to go into effect yesterday. Thankfully it did not.

How can I say that, you may ask? I’m a mother of a toddler so obviously I care greatly about the safety of her toys. stuffed_llama_lgandsmThe problem is this legislation went so far it has already caused some small, at-home crafters to shut down and some European toy makers (the kind that make amazing natural wooden and textile toys) to pull out of the US market altogether. The requirements for testing are so stringent that large mega-corporations like Mattel can afford the equipment involved while smaller shops and manufacturers can not.

Enforcement of the legislation has been delayed for a year thanks to the lobbying efforts of many small businesses, including a number here in Oregon.  The rules were simply over the top. They were to require testing on baby products like cloth diapers or all-cloth stuffed animals, like these knitted toys I carry at Bambootique, even though cloth has never been a problem when it comes to lead-poisoning of children. The rules were going to require consignment and second-hand stores to test their products for lead as well, which they would never be able to afford to do. The equipment to test for lead starts at $24,000, according to the Oregonian article on the topic a few days ago. Few and far between are the thrift shops with that kind of money laying around.

As a mother, I do want my daughter’s products to be safe. I also know that as a mother I have to use common sense when shopping for toys. When she was a teething infant of course I bought products that were certified lead-free. Even at two she still puts anything and everything into her mouth as she explores the world of tastes and textures. But I do not expect small toy companies, which I tend to prefer for Grace’s toys, to go to ridiculous lengths to test inputs like cotton or untreated wood that clearly have no or very little risk of lead. On the other hand I do expect the big guys like Mattel or Hasbro to test anything and everything, since it’s failures by companies like theirs that caused all this hub-bub in the first place.

Personally I’m continuing to go out of my way to choose toys for Grace from smaller companies like Plan toys or Melissa and Doug because I want to make sure they’re around for the long-haul. Keeping our kids safe is essential but protecting them to the point of eliminating unique, interesting playthings would be too much of a loss. I’m already afraid that the choices are dwindling.

What do you think? Does this legislation go too far? What do you think needs to be tested and what doesn’t? For more info or to advocate on this issue see National Bankruptcy Day’s website.

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