Sept 10, 2009
Confusing both consumers and toy makers alike, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently exempted toy giant Mattel from mandatory testing of its children’s products. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), passed in August 2008, was motivated by increasing public outrage over high levels of contaminates found in some children’s toys and other products, mostly those made in China. Designed to protect consumers from toxins such as lead and phthalates in toys, the law requires third-party testing and certification of all toys and other children’s products intended for those under the age of 12. 1
Seemingly targeted toward large toy makers under scrutiny for their lax safety requirements, CPSIA simultaneously pleased consumers and endangered small toy and children’s product makers that would now be required to meet the same stringent and expensive testing requirements as their larger cousins. With independent testing costing hundreds to thousands of dollars per product, the new requirements have been particularly concerning to many small businesses that face noncompliance with the new laws or going out of business due to increased costs. In an already difficult economy, this issue, which the CPSC has yet to address, weighs all that more heavily on small toy makers. In April of this year the Small Business Association’s independent office, Advocacy, “[urged the] CPSC to complete a regulatory analysis in order to assess the impacts any labeling regulation would have on small businesses and to tailor their regulations to minimize adverse effects on small businesses.”2 Months later, the CPSC denied that request.3
Now the CPSC, in a move that has many up in arms, is allowing the largest US toy maker, Mattel, to pass its toys on to consumers without meeting these requirements. Instead, it is permitting Mattel to use its own facilities for testing.4 Consumers who remember the millions of toys recalled by Fisher-Price, a Mattel subsidiary, after CPSIA passed last year are shaking their heads. “It’s really ironic that the company that was a principal source of the problem” now gets favorable government treatment, said Center for Environmental Health executive director Michael Green.”5 Green also points out that Mattel is set to save hundreds of thousands of dollars per product with the new exemption, a fact that can only give them an even greater competitive edge over small businesses in this tight market.6
The CSPC is calling the seven approved Mattel testing sites “firewalled third party laboratories,” a provision Mattel spent more than $1 million lobbying for in 2008. Only one of these labs is located in the US, where the rest exist oversees in various countries including China. “CPSC issued no press release about the 3-0 vote in Mattel's favor,“ reports The Associated Press, “and information on the vote was not posted on the commission's website section pertaining to the CPSIA law.” 7
While public concern continues to rise over the CPSC’s handling of CPSIA, there are some things consumers and small businesses can do to make their voices heard. The Handmade Toy Alliance has detailed information regarding CPSIA’s history and handling, and numerous suggested methods for speaking up. Visit the links below to find a suggested letter you can use to write to your congressman or -woman, as well as a petition you can sign and pass on to friends. The Handmade Toy Alliance’s full call-to-action page can be found here. Please also follow the additional links for an active Mothering Community discussion on the subject and more detailed information on the CPSC, CPSIA, and what others are working on to improve it.
What you can do:
* Join the discussion: MotheringDotCommunity Forums.
* Take Action: The Handmade Toy Alliance has detailed information on how CPSIA is affecting small toy makers and other small businesses.
-Send their recommended letter to your congressman or -woman.
-Find your Representative
-Find your Senator
-Sign their petition.
* Visit the Small Business Association’s Office of Advocacy for more information about what the SBA is doing to make a more responsible CPSIA.
* View Etsy’s CPSIA Action Kit for handmade products.
* Write your own letter or call the Consumer Product Safety Commission about this issue by visiting their contacts page.
1. The Handmade Toy Alliance, “The Issue,” http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org ; accessed Sept. 09, 2009; AND Kerr, Jennifer C., “Third-party Safety Tests Not Required for Mattel,” para. 3; The Associated Press, Aug. 27, 2009, accessed Sept. 09, 2009. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112288575
2. “RE: Notice of inquiry, Implementation of Section 103 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (“CPSIA”), Tracking Labels for Children’s Products,” Small Business Association, April 27, 2009; accessed Sept 09, 2009. http://www.sba.gov/advo/laws/comments/cpsc09_0427.html
3. Rittgers, Anna, “Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act Update,” The Small Business Advocate, Vol. 28, No. 6, July 2009. http://www.sba.gov/advo/july_09.pdf
4. Kerr, Jennifer C., “Third-Party Safety Tests Not Required for Mattel,” para. 2; The Associated Press, Aug. 27, 2009; accessed Sept. 09, 2009. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112288575
5. Kerr, Jennifer C., “Third-Party Safety Tests Not Required for Mattel,” para. 4; The Associated Press, Aug. 27, 2009; accessed Sept. 09, 2009. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112288575
6. “CPSC Exempts Mattel from Toy Testing Requirement,” para. 5; NewsInferno, Aug. 28, 2009; accessed Sept. 09, 2009. http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/12041
7. Kerr, Jennifer C., “Third-Party Safety Tests Not Required for Mattel,” para. 12-14; The Associated Press, Aug. 27, 2009; accessed Sept. 09, 2009. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112288575