Friday, December 3, 2010

Full Text of the Handmade Toy Alliance Testimony for The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee

Watch the entire hearing on C-SPAN.
Jill's testimony begins at the 1:27:45 mark.


In our verbal testimony, we were limited to five minutes of speaking. Here is our full testimony, which was entered into the official record.


December 2, 2010

Hello. My name is Jill Chuckas and I own a small hand crafted children’s accessories business called Crafty Baby. For the last 12 years, I have been crafting children’s products from my home based studio in Stamford, CT. When Congress first spoke of toy safety legislation, I applauded your efforts. In December of 2008, though, I began to read the fine print. I became acutely aware that this law, meant to regulate large, multi billion dollar companies that had betrayed the countries trust, could effectively put me out of business. Not because my products are unsafe, but because I simply could not afford the mandatory third party testing and labeling requirements, which disproportionately affect small batch manufacturers and specialty retailers. I quickly joined a rising grass roots effort to amend the CPSIA and took on a leadership role within the newly formed Handmade Toy Alliance.

So today I come before you to speak, not just for myself, but as a Board member of the Handmade Toy Alliance, an organization that owes it very existence to the CPSIA. The HTA now represents 592 member businesses, including specialty retail stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers from across the United States. I am here today with fellow Board members Kate Glynn of A Child’s Garden and Impish in Massachusetts and Randy Hertzler of euroSource in Pennsylvania.

The deadline for third party testing is February 10 of next year – just ten weeks from now. 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. Throughout the last two years, we have slowly witnessed many of our members who manufacture products close their businesses, or change their business models as to not include children’s products. These equate to lost jobs, not because the company couldn’t make safe product, but because the companies couldn’t navigate the costly and burdensome regulations the CPSIA puts forth to prove that their products are safe. I have brought with me today a few examples of these businesses.

First, you see before you a wooden toy airplane. This toy, made by our member John Greco in New Jersey, sold for $110 and is made from Cedar, Oak, Poplar, Birch, and Maple. It is unfinished, so it doesn't need to be tested for lead, but quotes from labs to perform ASTM F963 Use & Abuse testing makes it too costly to continue making. Just one round of testing requires 12 toys to be sent to the lab for destructive testing, resulting in $1,320 in lost gross sales –and this does not include shipping and lab fees. Rather than continue to make children’s products, Mr. Greco decided to close that aspect of his business this past September. As he shared with me, “I was never looking to get rich making wooden toys- I did it because I enjoyed making toys that made kids happy.”

Second, you see before you an award winning custom designed fabric toy monster created by Stephanie and Michael Estrin, owners of Curly Q Cuties in Texas. Children and their parents can go on line and design their own personal monster. After much research, Curly Q Cuties found that they could never afford to test each unique design to ASTM standards and decided to close their business at the end of this year. Mrs. Estrin cites the reason for the company’s closing due to “a law that does not address our particular manufacturing scenario.” Put simply, the fact that this is a one of a kind item, makes it impossible to adhere to all the stipulations within the CPSIA.

Third, my fellow board member Randy Hertzler’s family business focuses on often hard to find toys, primarily imported from the European Union. These toys, that represented 44% of his sales in 2006-2007, have disappeared from the US market because of the CPSIA’s lack of alignment with European standards. Many quality European toy companies will no longer sell to American retailers like Randy. He fears that he will have to liquidate and close in 2011.

While the HTA has worked closely with the CPSC – submitting comments on pending rules, attending CPSC sponsored workshops, regular email and phone contact with CPSC staff – we feel strongly that the current legislation does not grant the CPSC the flexibility to address our members’ specific needs. This was most recently shown by the CPSC definition of a children’s product. The final rule was issued in 63 pages of text that we now understand to mean “if it can be construed as a children’s product, it is.” Our view was that the CPSC could have offered relief to countless small businesses, but the ambiguity of their definition, rather than exempting product categories and providing guidance, has only served to create additional market confusion.

We have offered a number of suggestions that we feel will ensure the safety of children's products, yet amend the CPSIA to be more workable for the businesses we represent. The majority of these ideas were outlined in our January 2010 letter to the CPSC. We are more than happy to further discuss these suggestions throughout this hearing.

Most importantly, Congress should grant the CPSC the authority to use risk analysis to allow flexibility of third party testing requirements and hazardous content limits. High risk items like paint or metal jewelry should be held to higher verification standards than low-risk products like bicycle valve stems and brass zippers on children's garments.

Second, the definition of what is a children’s product should be changed to items intended for children 6 years or younger, except where the CPSC identifies a product requiring a higher age limit based on risk analysis.

Third, educational products intended for use in a classroom environment should be excluded from the definition of a children's product.

Fourth, harmonize CPSIA standards with the European Union's EN-71 standards to remove the regulatory trade barrier which the CPSIA created between the US and the EU. This would include changing the lead content standard from an untenable total lead standard to an absorbable lead standard.

Fifth, exempt manufacturers who make less than 10,000 units per year from all third party testing requirements and allow them to comply instead with the 'reasonable testing program' requirements which apply to manufacturers of non-children's products under the CPSA. This would protect small batch manufacturers and specialty product manufacturers, including companies that make adaptive products for children with disabilities. These manufacturers would not be exempted from the standards themselves, only from the third party verification requirements.

Sixth, tracking labels should be voluntary except for durable nursery items and products which are most likely to be passed down to younger siblings or resold where the CPSC's risk analysis determines that tracking labels would be most likely to prevent harm. Manufacturers who choose to implement tracking labels would benefit from a lesser burden in the event of a recall.

Seventh, instruct the CPSC to not lower the lead content limit from 300 parts per million to 100 parts per million, a standard so low that it multiplies the difficulties of compliance.

Over the last two years, we have been told countless times that the CPSIA was never meant to adversely affect my business or the member businesses the HTA represents. We have worked tirelessly, along with many others, to enact common sense change within this legislation, always holding on to the fact that the products we create are safe. On behalf of our members, I thank this committee for addressing this important issue and urge you to quickly pass meaningful reform of the CPSIA, correcting these unintended consequences. Thank you.

A full list of our 592 member businesses can be found at http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Press Release: HTA's Jill Chuckas to Tesify in Seante Commerce Committee

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The Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) will testify on Thursday December 2nd at a Senate Commerce Sub-Committee oversight hearing regarding the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). HTA board member Jill Chuckas (Crafty Baby – CT), Board Member Randy Hertzler (euroSource – PA) and Board member Kate Glynn (A Child’s Garden and Impish – MA) will travel to DC to participate in this very important process. The HTA was formally invited to testify and looks forward to this opportunity to continue the discussion of the need to amend the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). As a new Congress begins, the HTA is hopeful that this will be a large step towards meaningful reform.

This past April, the HTA testified in a House Energy and Commerce Sub-Committee hearing. HTA Vice-President Dan Marshall (Peapods –MN) stated “Our focus now is to help this process proceed quickly. It has been a very long road to common sense changes to the CPSIA. The time for waiting is over. Congress needs to move swiftly to fix the issues with the CPSIA.”

”We now have an opportunity to address issues with the CPSIA in front of the Senate Commerce Sub-Committee. This is an important move to continue our fight to keep specialty retail stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers from having to close and go out of business due to the constraints of the CPSIA,” stated Board member, Jill Chuckas (Crafty Baby – CT).
Board member Mary Newell (Terrapin Toys –OR) shared “The CPSIA has caused me to step backwards in how I run my company. To comply with the CPSIA is confusing, changing and very costly. I am just trying to focus on tried and true products and feel very uncertain about trying anything new. I have tested to safety standards for the past 15 years at a reasonable cost to my business but with the new testing protocol, my testing costs have dramatically increased. Without some reform it will be a struggle to stay in business.”

Chuckas continues, “Over the last two years, we have been told countless times that the CPSIA was never meant to adversely affect small toy companies and the member businesses the HTA represents. Yet time and time again we have hit brick walls when trying to get meaningful reform passed to fix the CPSIA.” The HTA reports that this lack of reform has left their member’s business’ and countless other companies confused and unable to move forward, struggling to navigate the costly labeling and third party testing protocols, without adding to overall product safety.

Newell adds “We have worked tirelessly, along with many others, to enact common sense change within this legislation, always holding on to the fact that the products we create are and have been safe. We have also seen numerous member’s companies go out of business, change product lines or get out of the children’s market altogether. Not because they were unsafe or harmful products but because the CPSIA has made it impossible to continue what they love and enjoy doing - making and selling creative handmade toys.” The HTA remains hopeful about this opportunity to address the committee and looks forward to having meaningful reform of the CPSIA, thereby correcting these unintended consequences.