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

Monday, May 10, 2010

Beloved Minnesota toy store The Essence of Nonsense Closed by the CPSIA

The following is a cross-post by permission from

CPSIA Casualty of the Week for May 10, 2010:

Beloved Minnesota toy store The Essence of Nonsense Closed by the CPSIA

Tom Fletcher and his business partner Barbara Anderson-Sannes opened The Essence of Nonsense toy store 14 years ago dedicated to selling unique, high-quality toys out of their St, Paul, Minnesota shop. Offering an array of the best handmade toys from small domestic toymakers and traditional European manufacturers, The Essence of Nonsense became an important retail destination in the local community.

After the CPSIA imposed new restrictions on the toy industry, Tom and Barbara found that their suppliers greatly reduced the range of products available. Even more disturbing, they also noticed that the quality of products was rapidly deteriorating. Rather than sell inferior quality products, they decided to close the store. This was no “victory” for safety – their store had never experienced a recall of any of its specialized products.

“CPSIA cut our choices in half,” says Tom Fletcher. “Some small companies stopped selling or disappeared and the bigger companies, realizing they were the only options, started to reduce quality to save money for themselves. So, we decided to close in large part because the quality of our product offering was changing and the choices were becoming so limited.”

“It’s not that we’re against the [CPSIA-imposed] testing,” Fletcher continued. “It’s just that we need a fair application across the board. Small businesses can’t afford to hire the necessary testers which puts them at a significant disadvantage and can even put them out of business.”

Tragically, the closing of The Essence of Nonsense is a cautionary tale about how the overly-restrictive burdens of the new product safety regime can destroy small businesses and imperil their unique products. On the back of a precautionary law, a wave of destruction is carrying away the life’s work of many small businesspeople.

“When you pick up a handmade toy,” Fletcher says, “you can feel the dedication and effort that went into making it. Someone really loved making that toy. If something isn’t done to protect small businesses, handmade toys will be gone soon. People will look back and say, ‘we had this when I was a kid and we don’t have it anymore.’”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Call to Action! Contact Congress to urge reform of the CPSIA

Will small batch makers and specialty retailers of children’s products survive the CPSIA? This has always been the question, as from the beginning, this law has left us suddenly on the verge of extinction. Eighteen months of hard work has resulted at least in recognition of the fact that our preservation was not considered when this law was passed. However, we are still very much endangered, and action is needed now more than ever.

Thanks to the collective voices of American small businesses and citizens, we were heard by the media and our representatives, and could not be ignored. Once again, we must raise our voices, to prevent handmade children’s products from becoming a casualty of Washington’s inner partisan disagreements.

Recently a bill was introduced by the House Energy and Commerce committee to amend the CPSIA, offering important relief to thousands of small batch business owners. Called the CPSEA, this relief would prevent many from closing their doors. However, Democrats and Republicans in Washington can not see eye to eye on the provisions of the proposed agreement.

We need to tell our representatives today that it is time to take a stand, and show their commitment to keeping our businesses alive. We at the Handmade Toy Alliance urge you to call your representative in the House Commerce Committee and ask for the CPSIA draft bill to go to mark up and become open for discussion. We have been told time and time again, that we must call, call, and call if we are to be heard. The combined power of our voices is what it will take to keep small batch children’s products from becoming a distant memory in America. Please help!

First, call your local representative's office. Then, contact the Commerce Committee Minority side at 202-225-3641, and Majority side at 202-225-2927. You are likely to get an answering machine. Leave your name, city, state, House Representative's name and share that they must work together openly in committee to bring about an amendment to the CPSIA now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

HTA Press Release: "We strongly urge both sides to work through their differences and move forward on this important reform of the CPSIA"

The Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) testified on April 29th at the House Energy and Commerce Sub-Committee hearing regarding the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act (CPSEA). HTA Founder and Vice President, Dan Marshall (Peapods Natural Toys -MN), Board member Jolie Fay (Skipping Hippos – OR) and Board member Randall Hertzler (euroSource – PA) traveled to DC to participate in this very important process.

“The HTA has endorsed the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act”, Marshall stated during his testimony before the Sub-Committee. “The provisions of the bill which allow alternative testing methods for small batch manufacturers are imperative to the survival of our members.” Marshall went on to share various aspects of report language that would further serve to clarify Congress’ intentions with the amendment.

In the few days since the hearing, however, Democrats and Republicans on the committee have signaled that they might not be willing to negotiate a bipartisan bill. “We strongly urge both sides to work through their differences and move forward on this important reform of the CPSIA,” said Jill Chuckas (Crafty Baby -CT), HTA Secretary. “The livelihoods of thousands of families hang in the balance.”
In addition to testimony from the HTA, the Sub-Committee heard from representatives from Goodwill Industries, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), American Apparel and Footwear (AAFA), Motorcycle Industries, Consumers Federation of America (CFA) and Rick Woldenberg (Chairman, Learning Resources).
Following opening statements, there was a question and answer period which focused around the difficulties of small batch manufacturers and specialty retailers to understand and comply with the CPSIA. “We were pleased to hear a series of questions surrounding harmonization with EN-71 which is of special concern to those in our membership who import product directly from the European Union,” stated Hertzler. “Dan (Marshall) had the opportunity to discuss this issue in depth.”

HTA Board members also had the opportunity to visit with many of the House Committee members, as well as a number of members of the Senate Commerce Committee. “It was an incredibly busy few days, squeezing in as many legislative visits as possible,” Fay shared. Marshall added “Our focus was to share the HTA story and collective concerns with a large number of Congressional members, furthering our efforts to provide relief to small batch manufacturers, crafters and specialty retailers. It has been clear from the beginning that we were not the intended targets of this legislation, but unfortunately, our members have the most to lose. It is time to remedy these unintended consequences of the CPSIA.”
The House Sub-committee will now decide whether or not to move forward with mark up and presentation of the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act (CPSEA), as the bill has been named, to the House floor. “Our focus now is to help this process proceed quickly,” Marshall continued. “It has been a very long road to common sense changes to the CPSIA. The Subcommittee members now need to openly discuss this bill, come to an agreement and move forward. The time for waiting is over. Congress needs to move swiftly to fix the issues with the CPSIA.”