Tuesday, February 10, 2009

CPSIA Impact

Anybody want to meet me out in the back alley? I've got some contraband onesies you might be interested in!

Thought I'd give you all another look at some of my now "illegal" merchandise! Just can't trust those zippers, grommets and snaps!! Oh, and that paint must have somehow changed it's chemical makeup once I used it. It passed all the safety standards when the manufacturer put it in the bottle but once I added it to an outfit, it needs to be tested again. Sorry, can't afford that even if I could find a lab willing to do those tests!

So, I ventured out into the world today to see just what impact the CPSIA had on local businesses when it kicked in last night at midnight. Oh yeah, I also needed groceries so I sort of had to go to the store anyway. In short, it appears the new law had almost no impact on the local large retailers. Surprised? I am.

I anticipated near empty shelves at Dollar Tree, limited selections in the children's departments at Walmart and Sears, and definitely fewer toys in the kids' aisle at CVS. Nothing appeared any different. They appeared to have the exact same products as they did yesterday, last week, last month and even last year. I don't believe manufacturers have already rushed to create, test and deliver new merchandise that meets today's standards. Until a few days ago, they believed they'd be allowed to sell off stock made prior to today that did not meet the new standards.

Manufacturers and retailers believed they would be allowed to sell existing inventory even if they did not meet the new phthalate standards. They had been operating on that premise right up until last week when, with four days before the new standards kicked in, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that, like the new lead standards, the new phthalate standards would also be retroactive. Anything sold or distributed for use by children beginning today, February 10, 2009, MUST meet the new toughter standards.

The stay everyone has been discussing does not change that. The stay merely says you don't need to test to prove that. If you are confident, based on materials and component certifications and information, that your product satisfies the limits, you are able to continue business as usual, at least until this time next year.

Also within the past week, the CPSC issued an easy to read Guide to the new law. They clearly itemized a list of materials that are considered to be "safe" and will not require certification or testing. Most textiles, yarns and fabrics are included in that list. (You can view that guide at

However, zippers, snaps, grommets, metal eyelets, rhinestones, metal closures, most buttons, vinyl and some screen printing inks can, and often do, contain lead. You may need to test such components. There doesn't seem to be anything definitive out there concerning velcro and I personally wonder about the glue or fixative used in Stitch Witchery type products that are often used with appliques. The manufacturers of those goods have not been forthcoming with appropriate product information. Paints and other surface finishes and any metallic trims must be tested as of today.

The big retailers appear to be ignoring the new law today. The little shops have paniced. Many crafters have either eliminated all children's products or closed down completely. Several consignment shops in the neighborhood actually closed at the end of January as the bulk of their sales were associated with children's merchandise and they knew they could not afford the required testing. Another of those shops intends to close within 90 days as her lease required three months notice. In the meantime, she has eliminated all children's products and expects to operate in the red for the remainder of her lease. A popular local craft fair has been canceled as a number of participants have now withdrawn. Two churches have canceled their annual rummage sales and one is closing its thrift shop.

I have not closed my business - yet. By the same token, I have not sold anything today. My merchandise does need to be tested as I use fabric paint. I paint onesies, jeans and other garments featuring snaps and zippers. I have spent approximately 30 hours online and on the phone attempting to locate a 3rd party tester who will test only a few individual items from time to time. I need to know exactly what the price for such testing will be. So far, I have been unable to find any such lab.

As I make a lot of one-of-a-kind items, I anticipate the cost of testing to be totally prohibitive as it would need to be added to the products price. I can't imagine selling a onesie for $500 or more! I have added a few adult items to my product line. I don't enjoy making them as much as I do the children's designs. I am busy praying the revisions proposed in a current bill before the Commerce Committee will pass, complete with its component testing provisions, but I'm not holding my breath. I think Congress will quickly try to wipe their hands of this issue and leave it in the laps of the CPSC who I also believe will interpret the current law very conservatively. At this point in time, I don't know what I'll do personally. The law seems to be "clarified" almost daily by the CPSC. It's sort of like the old adage about the weather, "If you don't like it now, just hang around a while. It will change."

For the first time since starting my business, I'm hoping I don't sell anything today as I am just so totally confused!!

1 comment:

BundlesofBlossoms said...

I am furious, as well. My main business, www.bundlesofblossoms.com has been hit, as well. I have to turn away new and oh so talented vendors, as well, as not being able to run Bundles of Blossoms as an exclusive designer in childrens wears and fashions. I am sick sick sick. I am in devastation of all of the thrift store shut downs, craft show cancellations and true crafting artisans that are paying the price while the huge corporate stores aren't even flinching. I am one angry lady-just like you!!!