The blogosphere, particularly Walter Olson’s Overlawyered.com, has been alive with stories of how the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is wiping out used book sellers, motorbike manufacturers and the like, but maybe the New York Times finally taking notice of the issue and profiling this small handmade toy maker being snuffed out will convince our politicians to be reasonable. So far, both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Congress act exactly as our own Franklin Bloomer does when confronted with an absurd and punishing result of Greenwich’s FAR regulations: “so what?”
[M] akers of small toys and owners of toy resale shops and boutique stores — say their livelihood is being threatened by federal legislation enacted in the last year to protect children from toxic toys through more extensive testing. Big toymakers, including those whose tainted imports from China led to the recall of 45 million toys and spurred Congress to take action, have more resources and are able to comply with the new law’s requirements.
“This is absurd,” said Mr. Woods, whose toys are made of maple, walnut and cherry and finished with walnut oil and beeswax from a local apiary. He estimates it would cost him $30,000 — a figure he calculated from having to pay $400 in required tests for each of the 80 or so different items he produces — to show that they are not toxic.
“I use beeswax,” Mr. Woods said. “The law was targeted at large toymakers using lead. There was no exclusion for benign products.”
These homegrown toymakers are banding together to portray themselves as victims of bureaucrats and consumer advocates, and have started letter-writing campaigns to Congress.
The Handmade Toy Alliance, which has a section of its Web site titled “Countdown to Extinction,” sponsored a march on Washington last April and continues to buttonhole members of Congress. Still others have hired the Washington lobbying firm of Rudy Giuliani.
“The law is flawed,” said Rob Wilson, a director of the Handmade Toy Alliance, which wants Congress to reopen the 2008 legislation to new amendments. “It reflects decision-making that in a sane world makes no sense.”
“The law isn’t making toys more safe, but is making everything more convoluted,” added Mr. Wilson, owner of Challenge and Fun, an Ashland, Mass., company that sells organic toys from Europe. “We’re all losers, including the consumer.”
The law, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, was overwhelmingly passed by Congress in August 2008. For the first time, it set out mandatory safety standards for products used by children under the age of 12 and required toy manufacturers to test their products to prove that they were safe.
New regulations will not go into effect until February, but many of the big toy companies are not waiting — they are already testing toys in their labs, which have been certified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or through third parties.
The government estimates that $22 billion worth of toys are imported each year, mainly from big toymakers with plants overseas.
Before this law was passed, testing of toys was not required, and compliance with safety standards was voluntary. But the furor over the sale and importation of toys containing lead and other toxic materials, which led to widespread toy recalls in 2007 and 2008, assured its passage.
Some major companies lobbied to shape it, including toy manufacturers, like Mattel, andExxon Mobil, a maker of phthalates, substances used in many toys that are largely banned by the law.
The issue has put small toymakers at odds with consumer groups, which oppose any efforts to have Congress tinker with the new law out of fear that larger companies will try to gut its core provisions.
The nut jobs, too are unrelenting:
“This is landmark legislation,” said Nancy A. Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a nonprofit that focused on safety in children’s products that supported the measure.
“These groups are not above using the small crafters to reopen the legislation and get the changes they want.”
Ms. Cowles also said parents needed to be assured that their children’s toys were safe, regardless of who made or sold them.
“From a product safety standpoint, it doesn’t make a difference whether the toy comes from a local store or a national chain,” said Ms. Cowles. “A child doesn’t know the difference and parents have the right to expect a safe product.”
The fact that an hysteric like Nanny Cowles, who can’t distinguish beeswax from petroleum, is head of a lobbying group says all I need to know about lobbying groups. We’re being regulated by morons.