CPSIA and how it will affect YOU, the consumer

If you read my blog chances are you also read other craft-related blogs out there and are probably sick of seeing the acronym CPSIA all over the web. I hope you don't turn away when you see the title of this post because you think this is some sort of industry-related stuff that does not pertain to you, the consumer, the buyer. Just give me a couple of minutes to explain how this law will also affect you, if it indeed goes into effect on February 10th, 2009.

If you think the internet is saturated with CPSIA rants that is because February 10th is right around the corner and people are finally starting to realize that it's too close for comfort.

Here are a few questions I'd like to ask you:
  • Have you purchased handmade, or "boutique," clothes or accessories for your kids in the past?
  • Have you ever gone into your local family-owned toy shop in search of unique toys for your children? Something perhaps you can't find at Walmart or Toys R Us?
  • Have you ever received a handmade quilt, baby blanket or pillow for your child?
  • Have you ever purchased anything for your child at a local arts & craft fair? or at your school? or at your church?
  • Have you ever commissioned a special piece of furniture (crib, rocking chair, high chair, doll house) from a local artisan?
  • Have you purchased anything on Etsy, and I mean anything (jewelry, shoes, toys, clothes, hairbows, bibs, burp cloths, blankets, booties, books) for your kids in the past?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then this law will affect you too. (But even if you prefer to buy from large toy & clothing manufacturers, this law will still affect you... read on.) As a little background, the CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and it was written after high levels of lead were found in toys and other children products manufactured in China. I'm sure most of you remember that mess a few months ago! Well, we are all in favor of protecting our children from dangerous substances, that is not the issue here. The issue is that the way this law is written the only items on the shelves that will be available for children will be coming from these large manufacturers that created the problem in the first place, because they are the only ones who will be able to afford the very costly third-party testing for lead and phthalates as mandated by this law.

And just to clarify, we are not asking for this law to be obliterated. We all care about the safety of our children. We are just asking for it to be amended to protect innocent small businesses across America which mostly started as a result of wanting to give parents and children a safer alternative to mass-produced toys & clothes.

What does this mean for our economy? If this law goes into effect, hundreds of thousands of indie designers, seamstresses & crafters will have to cease producing their adorable handmade goods because they won't be able to afford the cost of testing and certification (and if you're wondering just how costly these tests are, check out this comprehensive article written by Happy Panda. She has done extensive research on this matter!). It also means that hundreds of thousands of children's boutiques, indie bookstores and privately-owned toy stores across the nation will have to close their doors because their vendors will be gone and they won't be able to afford testing of their own. No wonder they are calling February 10th, 2009 "National Bankruptcy Day"!

And what does this mean for you, the consumer? It pretty much means that if this law goes into effect, you will no longer be able to buy gorgeous handmade clothes, shoes or accessories for your children. It also means that you will not find small-run, handmade, unique toys at your local privately-owned toy store and you will probably never see children's products sold a Craft Fairs across the country again. But if you do happen to see any of these products available after February 10th, they will now bear overinflated prices because their makers will have to add on the cost of testing and certification. Be prepared to pay $800 - $1000 for a custom boutique outfit that used to only cost $100 - $200. And speaking of over-inflated prices, you will see these on mass-produced children's items from large manufacturers too as these companies will incur the high costs of testing as well.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just as I was writing this post, I came across this article (via Boutique Cafe) that states that "[CPSC Spokesperson, Patti Davis] said hand-made, one-of-a-kind items likely will be exempt, which would allow small-time crafters and seamstresses of children’s products to continue making and selling original products.” This is a promising assertion, but unfortunately is not an official ruling at this point (note the use of the word "likely"). I hope we can make it official.

So, what can you do to help? There are several ways you can make your opinion be heard:
  • Sign this petition to repeal the CPSIA
  • Vote for this idea on Change.org to be presented to President Elect Obama on inauguration day
  • If you feel so inclined, contact your Senator and Congressman/woman regarding this issue
  • Spread the word! The more people that are aware of this the better.
Thanks for staying with me through this long and grueling post. I can't stress enough how important this issue is. If I find out any updates I will post them here.

P.S. I do want to add that because this law was so poorly written, it has been interpreted differently by just about everyone out there. I was just chatting today with some business owners that I have gotten to know well over the years and everyone seems to have a different opinion as to whether this law will affect them or not, and also whether the law is retroactive. If anything comes out of all this publicity, I will hope at least it will force the law-makers to take a closer look at how the law is written and make any necessary exemptions and clarifications before it is too late.

**Getting off my soap box now**


  1. Thanks for posting this...as a SAHM who makes and sells baby goods I've heard a lot of different things about this law but haven't had time to research it myself. Thanks for all the helpful links...I will be passing along this info. Save Handmade!!

  2. Anonymous1:35 PM

    I also read that the government legislators who passed the law said that the CPSA spokesperson had no authority to make that statement and that it was absolutely untrue at that point. This was late last week.

    It really is one step forward, two steps back.

    I am reeling with all the information and trying to make heads or tails of it and decide how it will affect me (I am in Canada so I am affected by my US clients and retailers) and how I will refocus since currently about 25% of my business is US based. I am fortunate to not be in the position that many US based designers, store owners, etc... are in, however it is still devastating to a small business located in the use or one that simply has clients in the US, no matter how you look at it.

  3. Anonymous2:22 PM

    OH GOSH! I had no idea about all this! Guess I've been living under a rock or something. I would just die if I couldn't shop from my fave designers and online indie shops anymore. What a sad day that would be! :(

    I'm off to check all those links you posted and learn more about this crazy thing! Thanks so much for raising awareness!!


  4. Hana... Thanks for your comment. I'm so sorry to hear this is affecting you too. I just popped into your blog and just wanted to say that your products are adorable and thanks for linking to this post!

    Cheryl... I'm also sorry to hear about the effect this is having on Canadian manufacturers. And, thanks so much for pointing out the discrepancy in the CPSA spokesperson's statement. See? This is exactly what I mean about misinformation and misinterpretation! There's so much conflicting information out there that I don't think anyone knows heads from tails anymore. UGH!

    Annie... I truly hope it doesn't come to that. I think it would make a lot of people very unhappy. Let's raise as much awareness as possible!


  5. Anonymous3:07 PM

    Thank you for explaining this a bit, but don't you think you are being a bit overdramatic? I see a solution that doesn't require all indie designers and manufacturers to immediately go bankrupt and cease operations.

    How about all the idie manufacturers get together and form a coalition that provides testing at a greatly reduced and affordable price? A co-op of sorts? I know that small businesses do a similar thing when it comes to health care.

    Again, I know little about this, but I don't think that change requires absolute cessation of what people are used to now. It just requires thinking a bit differently.

    Granted, this is just my opinion, and probably not mainstream.

  6. Thanks for posting about this. I still have so many customers and even shop owners that don't know about this law, and it's absolutely vital that we all understand how this will affect each and every one of us. Even many of our legislators have no idea of the far-reaching implications this will have on not only small businesses but consumers as well.

  7. Littlemis, let me try to address your concerns.

    "Thank you for explaining this a bit, but don't you think you are being a bit overdramatic?"

    Sadly, she is not. When I found out about this law I thought the same thing, but I read the law and the official CPSC website with an open mind, and found that it was just as bad as the hype.

    "How about all the idie manufacturers get together and form a coalition that provides testing at a greatly reduced and affordable price?"

    The problem with that is threefold. One, the testing has to be done by a third party-- that is, not the manufacturer or someone under the influence of the manufacturer. So if I was one of the people in charge of running the co-op lab, I couldn't get my testing done there. Two, the lab has to be accredited by the CPSC; they haven't yet come up with standards for accrediting labs to do the testing. Three, it takes time to put something like that together; we have less than a month.

    "I don't think that change requires absolute cessation of what people are used to now. It just requires thinking a bit differently."

    Sadly, Congress didn't agree with you. In the end it doesn't matter what people intended to pass, what would have been prudent, etc. What matters is that this is the law they *did* pass. Nobody wants kids sucking on leaded toys-- but nobody wanted this either.

  8. Littlemis... thank you for your comment. I'm all for thinking a bit differently and I welcome creative solutions for this mess. I'm only trying to create awareness here because it occurred to me that most consumers may not be aware of this law (as Artsiegirl) pointed in the comment below yours) at all and we could use all the votes we can get.

    As for indie designers "leaving the trade" I have already talked to several who have made the decision and read about others on their blogs. I'm only relaying the message. I don't actually make or sell children's clothing anymore, although I used to, and I can tell you from personal experience that my profit was already so little that if I had to tack on the cost of lead testing and certification (even if party subsidized by a co-op of sorts) I wouldn't have been able to make any profit at all doing what I did.

    I'm not saying that your idea is bad. On the contrary, I hope we can come up with a creative solution, like yours, to make sure these small businesses stay afloat. All ideas welcome!


  9. Patty,
    I definitely don't think you're being overly dramatic--I think that the law, as it is written, stands to harm many more small businesses than the law makers ever intended. I think that what we're seeing right now is a back-pedaling of sorts as little exclusions are being made left and right (natural fibers excluded, thrifted items excluded, internal lead components excluded, etc.). I think that there are *some* who are crying out "The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling", and while it may seem that they have been over dramatic, they have prompted a MAJOR grassroots movement to change the scope of the new law.
    With the economy in the straits that it is right now, I think that the powers that be are going to make every effort to keep small businesses alive and growing and while I may not be the biggest Obama supporter that is out there, I think it would be very foolish of him to take Office and NOT change the CPSIA's ruling. We're talking about American jobs here--hundreds of thousands of people who are able to support their families using that "little extra" that they can generate from cottage industries.
    It is my firm belief that this will all get... sorted out. I think sooner than later, but if it has to go all the way to the top, I think that the grassroots movement for change has the power to take it there and Obama certainly has the sensibility to realize the devastating impact that is coming and make the necessary changes.
    All that to say, just hold on, ladies--sit tight, I think everything is going to be alright. :)

  10. Overdramatic? Hardly. Time is ticking away and there are still many people who need to know how this law will impact them and we appreciate blogs like this that are helping get the word out.

    The deadline is fast approaching. Not only will the businesses that provide products for children under 12 be effected but also the consumers who will be left with few affordable choices.

    Call your congress, call your TV stations, write letters to the editor. Tell everyone you know.

  11. Wacky Hermit ... we were writing at the same time so I didn't get to see your comment until after I had posted mine. Thank you so much for your insight. You have obviously done your research.

    And I also wanted to mention that I don't want to discourage any criticisms to my post. I am definitely NOT the authority on the CPSIA. There's so much info out there and so much conflicting stuff that it makes my head spin. Please, if any of you have any information that disproves what I have posted here, don't hesitate to leave a comment. I never claimed to be an expert... just want to raise awareness. :)

    Feather Bunkie... I really *REALLY* hope you are correct. Nevertheless, I LOVE your optimism... its contagious. :)

    Calico Closet... thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment. I truly enjoyed your interview on MSNBC. Thank YOU too for helping raise awareness!


  12. GREAT post. I found out about this about a month ago and have been reeling ever since. I have an 11 month old son and I do NOT want to have to rely on toys from China for him. It's sad what's going to happen to small businesses, and even larger ones (some high-quality decent-sized European toy makers have already stopped selling their toys in the US b/c the added cost of testing, even though they already comply with the EU's strict standards, would make their prices way too high).

    Let's all continue to spread the word as much as we can... the way things are set now the CPSIA regulations WILL go into effect in less than a month-- a lot of work needs to happen before then to keep disaster from happening.

  13. Anonymous4:14 PM

    I wish I thought you were being a bit over dramatic but you are not! I am an indie designer and have been selling my clothing for almost 4 years and the sad truth is that this could very well be the end of my business.
    Even if I am able to comply with the testing requirements for the time being, I doubt that I will be able to afford the same compliance come Aug. (when we will be required to use 3rd party labs). Sure, I could try to illegally fly under the radar but the risk is HUGE and just not worth it.

    I am also equally upset as a consumer. I prefer handmade, natural toys and products for my home and children. I wonder what will be available to us AND if I can afford what is available after the changes.

    I've written my Congress person and Senator to demand clarification and will continue to send letters, sign petitions, and bring awareness where possible. Thank you for doing the same!

    Also, there is a yahoo message group called Save the Children's Handmade Community that is open to help bring awareness to the impact this will have on the homemade children's market.

    Thanks again!

  14. Anonymous4:22 PM

    if you're being over dramatic, than so are Selecta and HABA, the European toy companies. Selecta isn't shipping ANYTHING here now and HABA has scaled way back on the number of items it will now ship to the US.

    Not to mention those of us willing to carry other manufacturers products. I can't stock a whole website by myself, so I rely on other small designers and some bigger companies you know and trust already (like Melissa & Doug) to bring in the lookers and sales...well is it overdramatic to point out that I am about to either have to throw thousands of dollars of merchandise (I have the invoices to prove it!) in the TRASH? RETAILERS are supposed to test stock in hand-stock that was like produced even BEFORE this law was in effect!

    This is OUTRAGEOUS and you are not being overly dramatic at all Patty!!! :)

  15. Patty, you are a very sweet lady, so let me play devil's advocate here:

    Overly dramatic?

    What a minute....so you readily admit that you know little about this, but claim that Patty might be a little dramatic in her blog post.

    I would say losing your business, everything you've worked for since you started it, and having to do it all in less than one month is reason enough to be a "little dramatic". It's also reality.

    Things may get amended. The law may change. Eventually. However, it's a law that has passed and will start February 10.

    And don't think for a moment that people in the business haven't banned together to fight this. You have no idea the scope of this, and the scale to which these people have come together to fight.

    The apathy that I'm seeing from many people on this matter simply floors me. It's not a joke. It's not a hoax. It's reality, and it's going to have real and devastating consequences.

    If fighting to save (yes, actually SAVE) your business is overly dramatic then sign me MS Drama Queen.

  16. Anonymous10:04 PM

    Patty, I'm sorry if my comment caused a commotion on your blog. I was only sharing my reaction to what I read, and I read so many things on the internet about laws changing and it impacting people in various ways - usually predicting catastrophe - and that when all mellows out in the long run, it ends up all working out just fine, and usually not as devastating as initially thought.

    Now, I'm *not* saying that is the case here. I'm saying that was my reaction to what you wrote and I generalized the situation. I freely admit that I don't know much about this particular case, but I do know what I've experienced and witnessed in life and in this great country of ours.

    I do know this. I am fully supportive of all your readers, all those who make a living selling and making handmade goods of all sorts. I applaud them wholeheartedly for what I don't have time and skill to do. I admire them and cruise their blogs and sites in awe and admiration. I would hate to see even one of them have to close their doors.

    What I am totally unsupportive of is big government and passing laws just to pass laws. Certainly, I won't get into a political debate on your blog, and clearly there are times where we need laws for our safety and for the best interest of society.

    My thoughts about the coalition were more around the buying power of many versus one. If all those independent, small businesses got together and used their purchasing power to negotiate reasonable rates with the third-party testers, it might just be a solution.

    Anyway, I'm sorry if I caused a ruckus on your blog. Not my intention. I love your work and your blog and have subscribed for a long time because I admire you and your followers.

    Claire aka Little Miss.

  17. Claire aka LittleMiss... it was really sweet of you to comment again, but please, no apologies necessary. I mean that! We are all entitled to our own opinion and when I wrote about this issue I was really hoping it would promote a healthy discussion, and by golly it did! LOL!

    If you google CPSIA you will find a myriad of information about this and you will also see that sadly dozens of companies have already thrown in the towel ... premature, maybe? Could be. But regardless, small businesses cannot survive under this law.

    There is even a class-action lawsuit going on:

    Scary stuff, eh? But again, I truly appreciate your sincere compliments and your willingness to think creatively. I am also NOT an expert in this case so I welcome any and all suggestions! :)


  18. Thank you for sharing this info...I had been seeing the rumblings on different forums. They have to amend it! I cannot imagine a world without handmade baby goodies!

  19. Patty,
    Thank you for this great post and the links to other resources. I've gone ahead and linked to you (to save me the trouble of having to write my own post which would not be nearly as well thought out and executed as your post!).

    This law is over-reaching and not well researched by the ones who passed it (I doubt they even read it!). It breaks my heart to see some of the small business shutting their doors already. But, I really think we can turn this thing around if we keep spreading the word though (and make lots and lots of noise)!

  20. Well written Patty - thank you for explaining this so well! I hope you get lots of links to your post. I know I will.

    I truly wish our LEGISLATORS would read this so THEY can understand the issue. The reply I got to one of my letters was ignorant. No other way to describe it.

  21. Anonymous6:00 PM


    I was chatting with the owner of my fav re-sell boutique (where I sell my goodies) and she will have to shut her doors with the law as it is written now. She is not being dramatic, she has consulted lawyers, congressmen, etc.
    Our opinion is that we are not worried about the government enforcing the rules...they can barely keep the roads paved (HA). We don't think men in black suits are gonna show up with swabs in hand to test products.
    Our greater concern is lawyers looking to sue (think hot coffee at McDonalds). These predatory types are just looking for anyone they think they can get money from. You can sue just about anyone for anything in civil court. I know they would have to prove harm, intent, all that legal mumbo jumbo. However, you would still have to spend time and money defending yourself, even if the case goes nowhere.
    I am not interested in losing my house or retirement just so I can make some sparkly barrettes.

    I think that this is where most people are coming from when it comes to "shutting down". I don't know anyone that is getting rich making custom childrens items. Very few people have the resources to do much more than sign a petition or mail a letter.

    My 2 cents.

    BTW thanks for keeping up such an inspiring blog! I am still dreaming big, only making stuff for my dd but hoping that someday........

  22. Jona... thank you so much for linking to my post. I don't really know if it was well-written, but it was written from the heart and I tried to educate myself on the issue as much as I could before putting it in writing. This is complicated stuff! ;)

    Martha... I am so sorry to hear about your reseller closing shop! That is so sad. The American dream shattered because of such carelessness. And sadly, she's not the only one shutting her doors... so many out there. What's this world coming to!?!? :(

  23. Thank you for spreading the word to your readers!

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