December 28, 2008
This has been quite a year at Quiet Hours. Along the way, we introduced you to new artisans working in the tradition of small-scale handcraftmanship or in a spirit of fair trade that promotes a better quality of life for families living in difficult conditions. Your children may see our toys simply as delightful playthings but, as parents, we can take a measure of satisfaction in supporting small businesses and families who have made it their life’s work to create pieces that are unique. More than just another disposable toy to be tossed onto the pile of objects that clutter our lives, each item is crafted with thought, integrity and an eye for lasting value that will charm the children of tomorrow as well as today.
December 12, 2008
Greetings, everyone. Our friends over at Ohdeedoh (the junior-centric arm of the popular Apartment Therapy blog) are busy spreading some serious holiday cheer to their readers. They are giving away a whole range of beautiful, useful gifts all month long, including unique and hard-to-find children’s items. Quiet Hours participated in last year’s giveaway, so we’re quite flattered to have been asked back a second time. This year we are offering a Maileg Princess & the Pea set ($95 value) that is in need of a good home. Even better, we saved up a set that includes the lovely blue princess doll that is proving so elusive to Maileg fans these days. Head on over, check out the pieces on offer, and enter for a chance to receive this treat of a toy on your doorstep before the holidays.
December 9, 2008
Quiet Hours is not a political forum, but I am forwarding you the texts of two very important e-mails I recently received regarding the future of handmade toys and children’s wares in the U.S. The first comes from our friends at the Handmade Toy Alliance; the second is from an importer working in the natural and handmade toys industry.
There is much here to read but I urge you to do so. Quiet Hours and other “niche” retailers were established in order to provide distinctive handmade goods to families seeking an alternative to mass-produced plastic items. We take great pride in not only providing safe toys but supporting individual craftspeople, international fair trade co-operatives, and small companies keeping the tradition of hand-workmanship and craft alive. We have also been thrilled to witness a resurgence in small-scale natural toy manufacturing and crafting in the U.S.
Our ability to support such makers, as well as families’ access to their products, will be severely hampered (or eliminated altogether) unless modifications to the current Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) are made.
Read on for more details and ways you can act to keep a rich diversity of handcrafted children’s items available in the U.S.
Help Save Handmade Toys
In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public’s trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small part, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick.
All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and update their molds to include batch labels.
For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers, however, the costs of mandatroy testing will likely drive them out of business.
- A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
- A work-at-home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craft fairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
- A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
- And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.
The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earned and kept the public’s trust: Toys made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade toys will no longer be legal in the US. Hand-crafters won’t be the only ones impacted by the CPSIA. Anyone who produces or sells any of the following new or used items will be required to comply with the law: toys, books, clothing, art, music, educational supplies, materials for the learning disabled, bicycles, and more. Any uncertified item intended for children under the age of 12, will be considered contraband after February 10, 2009. It will be illegal to sell or give these items away to charities, and the government will require their destruction, or permanent disposal.
If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered.
You can read our Proposal to Improve the CPSIA here.
How You can Help:
Please write to your United States Congress Person and Senator to request changes in the CPSIA to save handmade toys. Use our sample letter or write your own. You can find your State Representative here and Senator here.
#2 – NEWSFLASH FROM A NATURAL & EUROPEAN TOY IMPORTER
While we all applauded efforts by the federal government to tighten the safety standards for toys, we all got much more than we bargained for. The law that was passed extends to all products directed to children 12 years of age and younger, and includes such things as clothing & toys and much more, with very few exceptions or exemptions. That wouldn’t be so bad, but there are a few requirements that, if left as is, will force most small businesses (and many medium & large sized businesses) out of business….including retailers, work-at-home moms and independent crafters making products for children. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing on Wednesday, December 10, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing is entitled “Implementation of the CPSIA: Urgent Questions about Application Dates, Testing and Certification, and Protecting Children.” This is an oversight hearing examining implementation of Public Law 110-314 (H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)). Witnesses will be by invitation only.
The staff briefing for this hearing will be held on Monday, December 8, 2008, at 4:00 p.m. in room 2322 Rayburn House Office Building. 3.
1. Existing Inventory: The law states that any affected product that does not meet the new standard (with the exception of phthalates) cannot be sold from the shelves after February 10th. The problem is that the law includes many new items that have not been under a previous regulation, and have not been tested. To test these items now, on the retail or wholesale level is prohibitively expensive, and/or simply not possible. So it is very difficult to confirm compliance (although most items in most companies would be compliant), and at the same time, penalties for selling anything that doesn’t meet the standard are very stiff.
4. Complexity: The law is extremely complex. Needlessly so. It is requiring companies to hire lawyers just to get a grasp of what is required of them. Also, the requirement of including certificates of compliance of each product shipped, with each product is overly burdensome. Electronic certificates has been approved, and will help, but even then there is a substantial cost to the additional administration—which does very little, if anything, to improve the safety of our toys.
5. Frequency of Testing: Experts are still trying to get a clear grasp of this. However, it is very possible that each batch must be tested/certified. This is fine for large companies running 10,000 or 100,000 pieces per batch. For small manufacturers, with small runs, it multiplies the enormous cost from point #2, even higher.
What this means is small, innovative companies that typically make niche products, will be forced out of business, or forced to narrow their product range and sell to the mass market. Product availability and selection will diminish. We will be primarily left with imported plastic toys from China. Yes, quite ironic isn’t it.
What else can you do? Pass this on in your e-newsletters, in your stores, among your friends. There is much disinformation in the market, and it is up to us to warn consumers and colleagues of the pending disappearance of the natural & specialty toys we have come to rely on in the recent years.