Friday, April 30, 2010

Handmade Toy Alliance House Testimony to the House Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection on CPSIA, April 29, 2010

Hello. My name is Dan Marshall. I am the Founder and Vice President of the Handmade Toy Alliance. The HTA represents 435 small businesses affected by the unintended consequences of the CPSIA. I would like to submit this statement, two letters, and our issue statement to the official record.
My wife Millie and I own Peapods Natural Toy Store in St. Paul, Minnesota. For the past 12 years, we've supported our family selling cloth diapers, baby carriers, and wood toys, many of which are handcrafted by artisans in the US and Europe. I am here today with fellow HTA Board members Jolie Fay of Skipping Hippos in Oregon and Randall Hertzler of euroSource in Pennsylvania.
When Congress first spoke of toy safety legislation, we all applauded your efforts. As we learned the details of the actual law, however, we realized that it applied not just to companies like Mattel that had betrayed the publics’ trust, but would apply broadly to all children's products and effectively outlaw many small family businesses--not because our products were unsafe, but because we simply could not afford the mandatory third party testing and labeling requirements, which disproportionately affect small batch manufacturers and specialty retailers.
The deadline for third party testing is February 10 of next year. After that point, our member businesses face extinction. Although many of us have already paid for XRF testing of our products, we simply cannot afford to pay for the services of a CPSC-certified lab.
For that reason, The HTA has endorsed the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act. The provisions of the bill which allow alternative testing methods for small batch manufacturers are imperative to the survival of our members. We hope that it can proceed through this committee, the House and the Senate as quickly as possible.
However, we have made clear that we have two primary concerns regarding the language of this bill. First, we desire clarity and simplicity in the definition of “alternative testing method.” We believe the standard for small batch manufacturers should be the same reasonable testing methods applicable to non-children’s' consumer products under the CPSIA. Leaving “alternative testing method” ambiguous places new rulemaking burdens on the CPSC and extends the uncertainty about compliance for HTA businesses.
We are willing and able to work with the CPSC through this additional rulemaking process, but feel that more flexible language would greatly simplify the standard. In particular, we would like committee report language or, preferably, the bill itself, to stipulate:
1. That small batch toymakers be exempted from third party testing for ASTM compliance. These destructive tests cost $200 - $350 per toy, which is a significant impediment to small batch toymakers.
2. That the CPSC allow the use of XRF testing as an alternative testing method for lead in paint, lead in substrate, and other mineral content standards.
3. That EN-71 testing certification qualify as an alternative testing method. This provision is critical for preserving access to quality European children's goods and removing the regulatory trade barrier created by the CPSIA.
4. That small batch manufacturers be fully exempted from labeling requirements.
Even with these stipulations, we fear that non-business hobbyists and crafters will lack the resources and understanding to fully comply with the law.
Our second primary concern with the bill pertains to its definition of small batch manufacturer. In particular, we are concerned about the $1 million company revenue cap. We feel that this limit should either be removed altogether or should be based only on income generated by the manufacture or importation of children's products without including other unrelated business income. If this limit is not changed or removed, we fear that this committee will continue to hear from constituents wondering why specialty products like adaptive toys for children with disabilities are no longer available.
Finally, we have long argued that meaningful reform of the CPSIA should grant the CPSC the authority to make adjustments to the law based on risk analysis. In particular, we would like the CPSC to be given the flexibility to adjust certification requirements based on the age of a product's intended user and the risk of injury the product poses.
In conclusion, on behalf of our members, I would like to thank this committee for addressing this important issue and urge you to quickly pass meaningful reform of the CPSIA. Thank you.
Photo: HTA Board members Jolie Fay, Dan Marshall, and Randall Hetzler.

Below is a clip from the Q&A portion of the hearing in which Representative Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) asks about EU Harmonization:

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