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    CPSIA, or How to Lose Your Small Business and the Shirt Off Your Back

    January 22, 2009

    Baby Brewing


    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. The CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed significantly to the decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.

    The emphasis was added by me.  I’m sitting here at my computer trying to think of something thoughtful and coherent to write about this new law known as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) which goes into effect on February 10, 2009.  I’m at a loss.  No, wait.  Losing is what is about to happen to me.  Julie from Mother Goose Mouse tagged me on this and when Julie asks you to do anything, you just do it. 

    Maybe you have heard about it, maybe you haven’t.  A result of that horrible fiasco with Mattel a year ago when they provided China with the lead-free paint and the manufacturers sold the lead-free paint and slapped on lead-FILLED paint on toys, Congress rushed this lead testing legislation right on through.  In fact, it received one”nay” in the House on the first pass (Thank you very much, Ron Paul).  The Senate?  Nearly as pathetic. 

    “We must protect the children.”  I find it fascinating after having read the legislation that those who passed it may not have even given it a glance.  Rather than target items that have in the past been found harmful for children (such as toys), the legislation takes a fabulously broad CYA approach.  If we require everyone to repeatedly test everything for lead, we will ensure that children will not be exposed to it.  Sounds great in theory, right?  Except now everything that could go in the mouth of a child 12 and under has to be tested for lead.  Even things that have never harmed children before.  Even things that have never had lead in them.  We are required to repeatedly test these lead-free items:  first the manufacturer and then anyone else down the line who alters the item in any way.  My shirts that are made by American Apparel?  Even though American Apparel has tested them and found no lead, I have to test them again because I alter them by screen printing.  My ink that I use?  Lead-free.  Already tested.  I still have to test the finished product.  I find this overwhelming since I’m not exactly sure how I would get lead into these lead-free tees with lead-free ink.  I guess it’s time to take the tin foil hat off my head. 

    I cannot find one case of lead poisoning as a result of lead in 100% cotton tees.  If you know of one, let me know.  How exactly is this law making kids safer if in some cases they were already safe?  The legislation is filled, however, with promises of millions of dollars to do research to determine the effects of lead on all of these things if they were to ever have lead in them.  Um, okay? Do I think toys should be tested?  Of course.  My kids put everything in their mouth when they were little.  That seems logical to me.  Raise the fines and consequences for people who break the law and expose kids to unsafe conditions?  Absolutely.  Throw out this tremendous net thinking it will keep those who need to be watched on track?  Insanity. 

    The trouble is, children’s apparel is included in this lead testing legislation.  No one trusts China anymore but because of our trade agreements, our rules have to be the same.  I have to have all of my kids clothing tested for lead which has never been in the dye in my clothing and isn’t now.  This law doesn’t make children any safer because they were never at risk from my clothing.  


    And wait ’til you hear about the testing.  I have to send completed items to be tested.  So if my “I’m better than a puppy” comes in pink, blue, organic cotton and white with brown ink, I have to send in four completed tees in each size.  They will charge me for each component (tee and ink) for all four.  They are going to charge me $75 four times to test the same ink on four different shirts.  Did I mention that my ink company has already tested the ink and that the lead contained it in was so incredibly small that it didn’t even register?  That American Apparel has to do these same tests before they send their cotton tees to me?  They will send me certifications that the shirts comply but the law says I have to retest.  So now I have to send full shirts out that will or will not be destroyed as a result of testing, at a cost of $150 per shirt.  To put it in perspective, I will have to pay $1,800 just to test the “I’m better than a puppy” tee (that doesn’t include the onesies and the long sleeve tees).  Maybe I shouldn’t have offered all those colors in all those different styles.  Maybe I shouldn’t have given my customers so many options.  The law is retroactive so everything I have sitting around has to be tested.  I find myself with a couple of this color in this size and a couple of this color in this size.  When I say a couple, I mean that over six sizes, 16 styles and different colors, I am sitting on around 500 tees.  Let’s not get into the fact that $900 of that testing on those four shirts for just ONE STYLE of the “I’m better than a puppy” is for ink that has already been fully tested once and DOESN’T EVEN REGISTER THE LEAD, LET ALONE GET ANYWHERE NEAR THE LEAD LIMIT. 

    As a student of the law, I can tell you that there is no shortage of legislation regarding consumer protection.  I’m a firm believer that toys and other items that are or could be harmful to children should be banned.  Rails of cribs that kids can chew on?  Shouldn’t have lead.  But passing legislation that basically says anything that can ever go in the mouth of a child 12 and under must be tested for lead is ridiculous.  Requiring people to re-test after a manufacturer has already tested is ridiculous and a waste of money.  Requiring people to be tested by a previously approved testing facility mandated by the government makes you wonder if you are in the wrong business.

    In this economy, Congress has successfully pissed off a wide range of people.  Wait until all the Green people realize that old toys will have to be thrown into a landfill rather than be recycled because any sale of them will violate this law.  How about those of us who loved to scour consignment stores because it is better suited for our budget and we don’t NEED new every single time?  Love yourself some Etsy?  Every single one of those people making stuff for kids will most likely be shut down by the cost prohibitive testing (which most likely will already have been done by manufacturers anyway). 

    But, Internet, while excessive and unnecessary government intervention is screwing me, there is a rainbow for you.  That rainbow is the HUGE sale at Baby Brewing.  All of the kid and baby tees, regularly $16, are now $6.  I figure it is better to cut my losses now rather than either wait for Congress to have their heads removed from their, well, okay, who are we kidding?  If you could hook a sister up and pass the word along to your friends, I would really appreciate it.  Come on.  Everyone you know is having a baby.  It can’t hurt to stick a tee in a closet for a baby shower or a preschooler party you forgot you were getting stuck attending. 

    If you want to read more about this travesty with the CPSIA (and all of the industries that will effectively be shut down), others have done a much better job of explaining it in a way that does not ramble or seem like a rant.  I’m off to cry myself to sleep. 

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    1. jbritely says:

      I think the big problem is not enough punishment in China for the violators. I mean execution is not enough. Need some good old drawn and quartered action. Can we impose the same punishment for writing bad legislation? This is just another example of passing more law rather than enforcing the laws already on the books.

      Now take off your lead foil hat and print some shirts.

      I really am so sad Ron Paul is not our President.

      January 22nd, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    2. Trena says:

      I’m pretty sure you already know how I feel about this (especially since I was struck this morning with about 5 ideas for cute new onesie/t-shirt designs, but really, what’s the point in making the transition from paper drawing to cloth), but I just wanted to re-iterate how sorry I am that you (and so many others as well as myself) are going to needlessly get screwed by this. Totally looking forward to a bigger gov’t presence in the next four years. I mean really, how much better can it get w/Big Brother peering right over our shoulders?

      Hope your sale goes well at least!!!

      January 22nd, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    3. Anna says:

      Uhhhh… maybe we should all text President Obama until he orders Congress to reverse the legislation?????

      January 23rd, 2009 at 2:46 am

    4. girl says:

      I 2nd what Anna has to offer, ha.

      It really is well, crappy. I am not the most up to date on it but the more I read the more freaked out I am. I make toys, out of felt… that’s recycled from plastic.. to have each felt piece tested I’d have to charge something like 23,000 a SET of food. Better be made out of gold for that.

      It’s a real shame for everyone’s children and for lotsa people’s livelihood. The little bits of money I made from my sewing got us through parts of Christmas when my DH was laid off. I’m not sure what we’ll do now.

      January 23rd, 2009 at 5:57 am

    5. Lesha says:

      It’s heartbreaking, silly, destructive, and just down-right stupid legislation. I totally agree with you. It just cripples all the hand-made toy makers and clothing makers…all the Etsy vendors targetting children. Sad. Sad. Sad. I do hope that with all the uproar the new administration hears and stops this stupid piece of legislation.

      January 23rd, 2009 at 6:49 am

    6. Manic Mommy says:

      Are you effing kidding me? Wow. We can’t even get the TV signal converted to digital with out screwing it up. Do you really think they’ll go forward with this? And do you think you should postpone the sale for at least another couple of weeks? I’m so sorry! Are you able to keep the maternity/mommywear going?

      January 23rd, 2009 at 6:50 am

    7. deichmans says:

      If “con” is the opposite of “pro”, then the opposite of “progress” must be “Congress”.

      It’s always a dangerous thing when politicians try to do science. Do they believe that the process of silk screening lead-free ink onto lead-free cotton tees will somehow transsubstantiate into Pb? Sort of like an inverted Philosopher’s Stone? Or a Catholic priest with an attitude?

      Does CPSIA mandate specific testing facilities? Because I’d be willing to bet that any reasonable court would deem a *process verification* coupled with your certified-lead-free materials sufficient adherence to the law.

      Then again, I’m not in the Lead Testing Lobby’s pocket…. 🙂

      Good luck, K!

      January 23rd, 2009 at 7:48 am

    8. Nice Mommy~Evil Editor » Blog Archive » Friday Confessional 1-23-09 says:

      […] you. Mommy Needs a Cocktail has the best post on this that I’ve read so far. Go read it here, and you might also find yourself on the receiving end of a bonus (she’s put her products on […]

      January 23rd, 2009 at 8:31 am

    9. Nice Mommy~Evil Editor » Blog Archive » Friday Confessional 1-23-09 says:

      […] you. Mommy Needs a Cocktail has the best post on this that I’ve read so far. Go read it here, and you might also find yourself on the receiving end of a bonus (she’s put her products on […]

      January 23rd, 2009 at 8:31 am

    10. Raychel Celeste says:

      This is absolutely ridiculous. I completely understand your frustration. It makes no sense that an item (or several items of the same material) should have to be tested so many times for the same thing, getting the same results each time. Can’t we do something about this though? Start a petition. Contact our Congressmen? I know too many people who will be affected by this outrageous law.

      January 23rd, 2009 at 8:56 am

    11. Jess says:

      Oh come on. You were just telling me the other day about how you were secretly putting lead in the shirts.

      Its not that we dont want our children to be safe…we arent opposed to the IDEA behind the legislation…its the way its written every person who even has a legal mind reads it differently and those of us who are not legal minded dont understand it at all. This affects grandma Sally selling her quilts at the craft show. And Uncle Bob who carves wooden toys and seals them with beeswax. It affects everyone.

      Childhood in hazmat suits…should be fun!

      January 23rd, 2009 at 10:07 am

    12. mothergoosemouse says:

      Thanks K. The Forbes piece is great, and there’s a sequel too, dated yesterday.

      I simply don’t understand the blase reactions of Congress (except Ron Paul – whoo!) and the CPSC to compliance concerns. It can’t be that all of us are misinterpreting the law.

      Likewise, I don’t understand how lawmakers can’t see the far-reaching implications of the CPSIA, along with the literal impossibility of enforcement.

      As the Forbes article said, it’s self-congratulation – look what we did to protect children! – with a side of CYA.

      January 23rd, 2009 at 10:21 am

    13. Kristi says:

      This just makes me CRAZY!!! I have bought so much WAHM stuff since baby has been born because I KNOW IT IS SAFER than the large manufacturers.

      January 23rd, 2009 at 10:48 am

    14. Meg says:

      Wow, dude. That sucks.

      Will do my best to provide bloggy and facebook linkage to you this weekend.

      Should we be writing our representatives about this?

      January 23rd, 2009 at 11:24 am

    15. The Pile I’m Standing In » Blog Archive » Friday Link Love says:

      […] CPSIA, or How to Lose Your Small Business and the Shirt Off Your Back – Mommy Needs a Cocktail I hate to belabor the lead testing point any further – particularly since I first mentioned it right down there, below this post, the one I wrote seven whole days ago – but the whole thing is just so ridiculous I think it deserves another rant. I’ve appointed Kristin to Secretary of Legal Interpretation because she knows what all this means and (more importantly) can break it down to it’s logical conclusion. Also, she’s selling all her kids and baby tee’s at a greatly reduced price to unload her lead-free shirts because she can’t afford to have them tested for lead. […]

      January 23rd, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    16. Thecakelady says:

      Mother Fuckers. Nough said.

      January 23rd, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    17. Dena says:

      I feel so bad for you and all the other small businesses that this effects, it’s so ridiculous. I like the idea of charging fees and consequences to those-CHINA-that violate the lead free bans. Big business and the government letting all the manufacturing of products go to foriegn countries is the reason we Americans are now being poisoned and our econemy is in such dire straights. I hope letting people know it will help by getting them to get the government to change this law. Thanks for the info and I hope your sale goes really well. take care.

      January 24th, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    18. Mar says:

      I doubt that most of the members of Congress who voted for this legislation read more than the summary (if that). They continually come back with comments like “I didn’t have time to read it” or “We passed this too fast and didn’t realize all of the implications” or “Well, yes, I voted for the bailout, but I thought they were going to do this with the money. We didn’t require that in the law, of course, but that’s what we thouht”. Worse? These same idiots are voted into office election after election! I mean, seriously, how does Barney Frank get re-elected every two years???? Fannie Mae, a lover running a prostitution ring out of his basement, etc., etc. How does Murtha in Pennsylvania get re-elected when he calls his own constituents bigots and says Marines are guilty of murder before any legal investigation is done???? Robert Byrd???? He’s 91 and isn’t even intelligible when he speaks! Seriously, it is time to vote these idiots out! Except for Ron Paul and a few – very few – others…

      Not that I have an opinion, of course…

      January 25th, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    19. Elisabeth says:

      Never let it be said that Government is a solution. My dad has always said that if Government is the answer, it was a stupid question. There’s almost no problem they can’t make worse.

      This is, indeed, appalling. I hope our government isn’t past the point of listening to us, but I suspect they are. You rightly note that Ron Paul was a lone sane voice, just as he has been for the past however many years. We need to listen to him — this is just the tip of the iceberg on government control. I intend to tell my congressmen just what I think of their antics. I hope others do the same.

      January 26th, 2009 at 11:35 am

    20. Melanie says:

      Keep spreading the word! Unfortunately, this insanity is actually a law, and it appears that it will go into effect on February 10th…So do all of your shopping in January, and buy your children some books…because they won’t be able to read any after 2/10…and the items remaining in the stores, will dramatically increase in cost…that is for the few things you find…I suspect the selection available will go down dramatically…and yet, those toys from China will still be on the shelves, while everything else is gone…including homemade, handcrafted items…There were 3 NO votes in the Senate…but too many that voted for this did NOT actually read it…nor understand what they were really doing…Tell everyone you know…and then tell them to get informed…and call their congressmen to tell them it must be changed!

      January 26th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    21. Tina says:

      Thanks for this post and the link to articles. I’ve posted on my blog and added a link to contact legislators and the President.

      If everybody takes the 20 minutes required to e-mail their legislators and the President about this maybe something can be done. Here’s the link.

      January 31st, 2009 at 10:09 am

    22. Jen says:

      CPSC Grants One Year Stay of Testing and Certification Requirements for Certain Products

      Hey Kristin,
      It’s Jen from The Patchwork Bear. When I first found out about this, I went nuts! It’s like the Berger-meister, Meister-berger banning toys in toyland when he slipped on a skate. Testing my bears & blankets would be unreasonable.

      Thankfully, they have realized their inability to comprehend the impact of the laws they pass.

      We the people, have been granted a one year stay of extinction while they get their act together and read what they signed back in November when this thing was passed.

      Does that mean the tees and onesies aren’t on sale anymore?

      February 3rd, 2009 at 11:46 am

    23. Grateful for Grace says:

      I’m so proud of my man, Ron Paul. That’s why I wanted him for president. He pays attention to things… like the Constitution and stuff. Crazy.

      February 5th, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    24. Heather Idoni says:

      Dr. Seuss Meets the CPSIA —

      “In the town of Bedubble, far out on the Moor,
      there lived a small tot, who was not more than four.

      Little Annabelle Ruth (her close friends would recall)
      had swallowed the string from a dilly-dunk ball.”

      Read the rest of the story here!

      February 25th, 2009 at 12:51 am

    25. Tara P-L. says:

      no. fricking. way. we live in a world gone mad.

      March 8th, 2009 at 6:50 am

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