Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our letter to the House Commerce Committee on CPSIA reform and the CPSEA bill

Yesterday, we sent the following letter to the leadership of the House Commerce Committee. Our primary purpose was to help the minority and majority as they move forward in finding common ground and common sense change to the CPSIA. We only hope that everyone can now come together and do the hardest work of all – putting together an amendment that can be embraced by both sides of the aisle, ensures safety, and meets the needs of the many stakeholders who are acting in good faith.

May 12, 2010


The Honorable Bobby Rush
Chairman, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection

The Honorable Ed Whitfield
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection

The Honorable Henry Waxman
Chairman, Committee on Energy & Commerce

The Honorable Joe Barton
Ranking Member, Committee on Energy & Commerce

Re: The Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act (CPSEA)

To the Leadership of the House Commerce Committee:

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify before your committee and for your continued attention to the needs of our small businesses. We would like to reiterate our position on the CPSEA and the relief we are seeking for our members.

We have previously endorsed the CPSEA because it is the only opportunity currently available to save small batch manufacturers from extinction after February 10, 2011, when the CPSC's stay of enforcement of third party testing requirements expires. Under the CPSIA as it currently stands, many of our members are substantially limiting the products that they offer--some foregoing children’s products altogether--while others are laying off employees or limiting their business growth.

We have stated clearly that the CPSEA can and should be improved to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on small businesses without compromising safety. The CPSEA as currently written will likely save some of our member businesses. With improvements, however, you can save almost all of them. For the record, we would like to review the improvements we would like you to consider.

First and foremost, we would like the CPSEA to clearly state that small batch manufacturers are exempt from third party testing requirements. While report language to that affect would be helpful, a more explicit exemption within the language of the bill itself would provide more immediate and substantial relief. You can accomplish this by allowing:
  • the use of XRF testing as an alternative testing method for lead in paint and lead in substrate
  • alternative testing methods for products intended for use in classrooms or for children ages 7-12
  • EN-71 testing as an alternative testing method
  • CPSC rulemaking to allow for alternative testing methods based on risk analysis
  • exemptions for small batch toymakers from ASTM F-963 testing
This language should be in the bill itself, not just in the report language. In the intervening days since our initial endorsement of the CPSEA, we have heard conflicting answers from several different CPSC commissioners as to the commission's willingness or ability to provide affordable alternative testing methods for small batch manufacturers. If this bill is truly meant to benefit small batch manufacturers, it must be more clear and explicit in the exemptions it provides.

Second, we wish to reiterate our belief that alternative testing methods should be available to all companies. The Small Business Administration defines toy and clothing manufacturers with less than 500 employees as small businesses, which is far in excess of the CPSEA's $1 million limit. If a revenue limit is used, it should be based only on income generated by the manufacture or importation of children's products without including other unrelated business income. A manufacturer's ability to pay for testing any given product is a function of the revenue it generates from that particular product, not the overall size of the company.

Third, we stated publicly during the April 29 hearing that the functional purpose exemption for products exceeding 300ppm/100ppm lead will not benefit our members because of the narrow scope of the exemption and the cost required to obtain it. The CPSC should instead be given authority to make exemptions to specific materials or product categories based on risk analysis. For example, the commission should have the power to exempt brass as a material and children's saddles or microscopes as a product category. This is the only way in which small businesses would be able to take advantage of the functional purpose exemption.

Fourth, we believe that small batch manufacturers should be entirely exempted from mandatory labeling requirements.

Finally, we hope to settle any confusion regarding our intent in endorsing the CPSEA. We endorsed it as our only available alternative. We truly believe that many of our members will be forced out of business after February 10, 2011 without meaningful, clear reform provided by your committee. We believe that the CPSEA can and should be improved to better target risk and provide more comprehensive relief for our members, who were never the source of unsafe products in the first place.

We remain hopeful that the democratic process can prevail and that a meaningful and bipartisan reform of the CPSIA can be enacted. We urge members of the committee to mark up the CPSEA and allow open discussion within the product safety subcommittee. The CPSIA was a bipartisan bill—its reform should be, too.

You hold the livelihoods of hundreds of small businesses in your hands. Please, make this work.

On behalf of the 435 small business members of the Handmade Toy Alliance, we thank you again for your attention to this important issue.


The Handmade Toy Alliance

Board members:

Cecilia Leibovitz, Craftsbury Kids, VT
Dan Marshall, Peapods Natural Toys, MN
Jill Chuckas, Crafty Baby, CT
Mary Newell, Terrapin Toys, OR
Jolie Fay, Skipping Hippos, OR
Marianne Mullen, Polkadotpatch, VT
Rob Wilson, Challenge & Fun, MA
Randall Hertzler, euroSource, PA
Kate Glynn, A Child's Garden, MA


  1. Thank you very much for posting this for all to read! We are trying to start a very new business that is based on handmade and heritage based products, many of which would be handled by children. It is truly encouraging to know that there are others who understand the whys and wherefores of this bill and potential amendment who are speaking up for every day Americans (who, thanks to the economy, are finding themselves utterly dependant upon the small handmade industry) rather than just the 'bigwigs' of the major corporations. Keep up the good work, and know that there are many backing you up!!!

  2. Has anyone included pictures of the toys that will be outlawed by this law come February. It might make it more "real" and emotional for lawmakers. It's absolutely heartbreaking to think that the wonderful things parents make for their own children could be outlawed as something not to be sold to other parents: soft organic 100% cotton dolls, with felt eyes and woolen hair, hand-sanded wooden cars, hand-embroidered cotton bibs. These are the things that our parents grew up with. Can you imagine - all that will be available to us for our children after February will be cheap plastic junk, made in China, by companies that can afford this testing. Sure, there may not be lead in it, but that doesn't make it well made, good for the environment, or something I want to give my little girl. I hope what you're doing works!!!