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The CPSIA Today: Kid's Toys, Clothes, and Thrifting

I feel sorry for kids like I was: ones whose parents dress them from the Salvation Army. Being hip on a resale budget won’t be possible for awhile, as resale retailers like the  Salvation Army have responded to the CPSIA by pulling children’s clothes off the shelves that contain zippers, buttons, and the like.

February 10, the day that the CPSIA (Children’s Product Safety Improvement Act) was supposed to go into effect, has come and gone. In that time, the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has issued a one-year stay for SOME manufacturers, but not for retailers.  This is awkward as now retail businesses are held accountable for their products’ lead and phthalate levels, but the manufacturers are NOT required to have tested them.   It is also unfortunate that the CPSC continues to demand testing of materials KNOWN not to contain lead (wood, paper, cotton, and even organic items) AND has put the BURDEN of testing on small businesses by NOT allowing materials-based testing. Instead, they are calling for unit-based certification. This means that every kind of item, in every size  (each SKU number), must be tested by EVERY manufacturer, even if the exact same material has already been tested and proven safe (and even if they already meet a higher EU or organic standard).

What does this mean for the green consumer?
 “The law applies to every product intended for a child age 12 and under, from clothing to bicycles.  Toys, clothes, furniture, books, jewelry, blankets, games, CDs/DVDs, strollers, and footwear, may all be considered children’s products,” says the Handmade Toy Alliance.

When you go into your favorite toy store or children’s boutique, you might notice changes. Some stores will be pulling products off their shelves that are totally safe (e.g. painted, wooden toys made in the U.S.) because they don’t yet have the testing and don’t want to be held responsible just in case.  At other stores nothing may have changed. “Some stores don’t even care because it is too hard to understand,” says Jennifer Murphy of Chapter One Organics. “Unless you are Target with a team of people, it can be overwhelming.” Though the law has dealt a particularly hard blow to businesses like hers: small, organic, American-made, and sustainability-minded, she still believes that it is important that the CPSC offer protections for children’s products. She has already tested the clothes she sells, which all came out clean, because she wants to make it as easy as possible on the retailers with whom she sympathizes.

The law also applies to thrift stores. Which means not only will you find less there, but that if you are thinking of donating items that you aren’t sure are safe (soft vinyl-like items, plastic items, things with zippers, metal pulls, clothing with bling on it, or toys that have been painted), don’t bother.  They probably can’t accept or resell them until the law is clarified.  This is a major blow to The Green Mama who is obsessive about recycling (or donating) everything.  
You can learn more by visiting the CPSA website to see the law itself. To read A LOT more about the CPSIA there is a special website dedicated to discussing it.  To learn more about how the law will effect small, independent toy manufacturers visit the Handmade Toy Alliance.  To learn how it will effect the cloth diapering effort (YES! even this is effected) visit the Real Diaper Association forum. To learn how green, sustainable, or small children’s apparel businesses will be affected visit the Fashion Incubator. And you can also read more about how libraries and children’s book publishers are being effected. 

 And, yes, you can get involved. There are petitions to sign. In Chicago our legislators had a hand in creating the bad law and would love to hear from you on its effect on your life. 

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