Today, Feb. 10, 2009, was the day the sky was supposed to fall for retailers. It didn't, but it still might. It was dubbed National Bankruptcy Day because it was the day the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (a name Ayn Rand would appreciate) was supposed to go into effect. The CPSIA is a brilliant example of good intentions gone horribly wrong.
In a nutshell, the CPSIA was created by the 110th Congress in the wake of all the toys recalled from China last year. The new law, parts of which went into effect last August, was designed to keep lead and certain chemicals out of products intended for children under 12. Sounds good, but the devil is always in the details. The problem is that the new law doesn't just apply to new products; it applies to every item already in existence, even though all those products were in full compliance with the law at the time of their production. All items that weren't retested were to be deemed "hazardous materials" by the government. (The only time in American history where a product was legal one day and illegal the next was Prohibition.)
The other problem with the new law is that it requires manufacturers to test every single product it makes, even if all the items come from the same wood, the same paint, the same fabric. So instead of testing the raw lumber and single bucket of paint that all the wood toys come from, an individual test, costing as much as $4,000 a piece, would have to be done for each finished product. When your product line is as big as Holtziger's, the cost becomes prohibitive. Some manufacturers will just say forget it, as European toymaker Selecta has already done. And the irony is, the only ones that will be able to afford some of the onerous testing are the companies that were the chief perpetrators of the recalls. So far, all of our lines are hanging in there, like PlanToys, our favorite.
It's already having an effect on second-hand stores, including Goodwill.
Fortunately it looks like people are figuring this out, though the new changes still hold many concerns. But it's a step in the right direction.
I could write more but you get the gist. At Tadpole we're committed to safety and quality. We just know there is a way to get the same results without driving small toymakers and toy retailers out of business. If you love quality, non-mass-produced toys, please contact your Congressman and urge him or her to rethink the CPSIA.
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