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Crafting community could be hurt by toy safety law

Anne Evans Anne Evans
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The past few years have seen a huge surge in handmade crafts and toys, especially here in Columbus. The rise in people crafting has lead to the birth of shows like Tiny Canary and Craftin’ Outlaws. Tiny Canary was created to support the spirit of the handmade community and to give consumers a chance to purchase a locally made and safe toy instead of mass-marketed toys which have been facing frequent recalls.

All of the recent recalls on toys brought strong action from Congress. On August 14, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act. This toy safety act was put into place to protect our children younger than twelve against lead and phthalates in toys. It also put into effect things such as: mandating third-party lead testing and certification for all toys and requiring toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number. The law is written so broadly that it also includes the people crafting handmade toys who were originally providing safe alternatives to unsafe toys. 

Local artisans Amy Turn Sharp and husband Joseph began making handmade wood toys in the winter of 2007. Their desire to make safe toys led them to start their business Little Alouette. The past holiday season was very successful for them and their sales have been rising steadily. But the problems with unsafe toys will cause them problems as well if the legislation isn’t amended. “We were sick of unsafe toys,” says Turn Sharp. “And here we are, and we’re going to go out of business because of unsafe toys.”

Under the new legislation, every unique toy would need to be tested for lead by an accredited third-party tester, and that testing is very expensive. Does it make sense for a company who manufactures their toys from Ohio maple and other wood and finishes them with organic seed oil to test for lead? “It will put us out of business as we cannot afford to test our entire line,” says Turn Sharp. Companies found in violation of the law can face fines from $5,000 to $100,000 per individual violation, and from $1.85 million to $15 million for aggregate violations.

The Handmade Toy Alliance has developed a petition that “calls for rational exclusions from lead testing of materials including wood, paper, cotton, and other materials known by science to not contain lead.” It also seeks to put the burden of testing on the manufacturers of supplies instead of finished products, “which would allow [their] members to rely on certifications from their materials suppliers instead of repeating tests multiple times for each product made from those materials.” They’d also like the law to differentiate the concept of batch labeling between large companies and small businesses.

This law takes effect on February 10, 2009.

How can you help? We need to write to our legislators to address these implementation problems with the CPSIA. Not sure what to write? Please view this page for ideas and also this page to find letters you can endorse and modify.

All Ohio Senators and Representatives voted yea on the bill, except for Dennis Kucinich and Stephanie Jones who did not vote on it.

Use this form to contact your Representative.

Use this website to get your Senator’s contact information.

Send an email directly to the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) or contact chairperson Nancy Nord at 301-504-7923

Sign this petition to Save Small Businesses from the CPSIA.

Show support on facebook by joining the group to save handmade toys.

I’m sure we can all agree that toy safety should be a very high priority, but the way this legislation was written has the potential to put many people out of work and could not be at a worse time. Please help save handmade crafters with your support to have the legislation amended!

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