Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Let's see how powerful the people really are

Thus far in our preparation for baby, Dave and I have saved a huge amount of money by purchasing gently used goods through consignment, yard sales and craigslist. The idea of being forced to pay retail for these items strikes me as absurd and essentially throwing money away. That is why I am so concerned about some new legislation scheduled to take effect February 10 called the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act.

CPSIA is an ill-conceived law created in response to the increased amount of items arriving to the US from China that contain lead and other harmful materials. In a nutshell, the law states that items for children under the age of 12 must be submitted for lead and phthalate testing in order to be lawfully sold. This testing is expensive though, running between $100-$300 per item and in effect destroys the item being tested in the process. Any items that are not tested by the February 10 deadline will be considered hazardous and will be destroyed. Any manufacturer caught selling an item without a certificate of testing will face hefty fines.

Now let me talk about how this law will effect me personally. It will become more difficult to purchase secondhand items. That is if any secondhand sellers are even prepared to take the risk involved in the first place. Purchasing hand crafted items for my child will become a quaint memory from the past. We will be forced to purchase our child's durable goods from the large retailers that can afford the cost of the testing. Moreover, I predict higher prices on those items. After all, someone has to pay the fees for all that testing and I bet it will be the consumer that will get the shaft. 

Of course, I realize I am overreacting to this law to an extent. It will obviously be a logistical nightmare for the government to regulate such a law, especially on a local garage sale level. I mean, will the police really start cruising suburbia on the lookout for rogue sellers pushing black market baby clothes to eager buyers?

Furthermore, I fully understand that this law was passed in an attempt to protect our children from poisonous materials. Had it been written in a sensible manner, I would applaud the effort. But the fact of the matter is, this law will make it more difficult and taboo for a new mother like myself to have easy access to secondhand clothing. American consignment shops specializing in baby clothes and other items will be forced to shut their doors. American sellers of children's items on ebay and craigslist will be forced to cease and desist that activity. American handmade sites and stores will be forced to close because even if they could afford the testing, all of their items are considered one-of-a-kind and therefore would all need to undergo the same testing process that would destroy the item. Large companies will be forced into bankruptcy because they cannot afford to test thousands of items and thus cannot get rid of their existing inventory. Meanwhile, there will be NO regulation in effect for sellers from other countries selling to the American public. This law will force us to buy from retailers and from non-regulated foreign sellers of secondhand goods---thereby continuing the import of poisonous materials. The very activity the law is attempting to prevent! Seriously, are fools running the government or what?

If you are interested in making an attempt to stop this law from taking effect until it can be constructed in a more well-thought out and applicable manner:

Please sign this petition.

Or better yet, click any of the links below to:

Write to your member of Congress!

Write to your local Representative!

Write to your local Senator!

Ask the Consumer Product Safety Commission a question about this new law!

*Edited later to add*
The CPSC released a clarification on their website that states resellers of children's products "are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards."  Whew!  That's a big load of my mind!  Thanks to Michele for the head's up.  

Now I just hope they readdress the small business owners that will be effected by this law.  Apparently, when the law was initially written, they were also exempt. But Congress shot that exemption down and the law was later passed with no exemption for small business or handmade artisans.  Let's keep our fingers crossed that they come to their senses soon.


Michele said...

hey Sonya.... your post freaked me out a bit, so I clicked one of the links and then found a new update (Breaking News)just posted today on the their website
While it doesn't address all of your concerns, it at least reduces the burdens on re-sellers. Check it out!

Sonya said...

Thanks for the update Michele, that makes me feel a ton better! Now I just hope they consider all of the small business making children's items out of natural materials (cotton, wood, etc) that will be effected by this testing and clarify that portion too. I can't imagine not being to buy cute stuff on etsy anymore!