Monday, January 19, 2009

My meeting with Congressman Dent

This past Friday I had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Dent. I found him to be very receptive to my concerns as a small business owner and truly interested in finding a reasonable solution to the unintended consequences of the CPSIA. And I believe after speaking with him that the affects we’re feeling truly were an unintended side effect. Earlier in the week he drafted a letter to the Energy and Commerce committee leaders. He recruited 5 other Pennsylvania Congressman to sign that letter. So even before meeting with him, I knew that he had been working toward learning more about CPSIA and the impact it was having on his constituents.

So, what did we talk about?
Truth be told, I did most of the talking. He was very interested in the fact that all of my supplies were purchased in the US. I mentioned that of the suppliers (most of them at this point) I’ve contacted, none of the supplies I use contain lead. I showed him a sampling of my products and detailed how each component was lead free.

We talked about the testing requirements, how it is physically impossible for me to comply and financially burdensome/impossible to comply with third party testing requirements. I talked about the end unit testing requirement vs. component testing and the effect of that on my made-to-order items. I mentioned XRF testing as a reasonable testing program instead and I gave him a contact who is an expert in XRF testing in case he had additional questions about it. I mentioned the labeling issue as well that will arise for me in August.

I discussed how the paint I use is acrylic, non-toxic, water based paint, made in the USA and is lead free. I let him know that as much as I want to comply with the law, I am unable to and this will result in my business closing down as of August. I mentioned I’d be using XRF technology to screen my products for lead at this point, and while I was making this good faith effort, even that wasn’t approved to keep me compliant in terms of my painted products the way the law is currently written. I left him with some notes on our meeting (Who I am, What I do, What my Concerns are, etc.).

It sounded like he felt it might be prudent to slow the deadlines down, that there were too many issues to address in such a short a period of time. It sounded like he was interested in helping to get amendments made to this law so that I, and those like me, will be able to continue business as usual. It also sounds like the Energy and Commerce Commission has most of the power in this situation to make changes since the law has already been passed.

Overall, I feel the meeting was productive and I feel as though he listened and heard me. He assured me his office would maintain contact with me about the issue. One of my concerns was that now that I’d met with him, my issue would just fade away. He assured me that would not be the case. For my part, I don’t think there’s any more action that I can take that will be any more effective than what I’ve already done.

What should you do?
1) Write or call the leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee. They need to continue hearing from us.
2) Call your Congressman and ask for a meeting to discuss CPSIA (no more emails or letters, it’s time to meet). Emails are ineffective for making real contact, Congressmen get too many of them.
3) Continue blogging, contacting news media, and spreading the word about CPSIA. Don’t stop the noise.

Late Friday there was some GOOD news, about the issue. The Energy and Commerce committee had a committee meeting Friday afternoon. From that came the following letter:

This is very important! It shows that we are being heard, most of the main issues we need addressed are included in that letter. Things are happening. We can only hope the CPSC will respond quickly with some answers that will be clear and address our concerns.

At this point, with so little time before the February 10th deadline, I have to make business decisions that represent due diligence on my part even though there the limitations within the law for made-to-order, one-of-a-kind and painted items. Should changes not be made, I will be closing my “doors” come August. In the meantime, I have come up with a plan. A lot of people have been contacting me and asking me what I plan to do. While I cannot endorse that this will be a good plan for everyone, it is what I am going to be doing.

I believe based on my research regarding XRF testing that it is a good screening tool for lead for all of my products. Additionally component testing is the only reasonable way for me to test, because my products are made-to-order (MTO) and/or one-of-a-kind (OOAK). So digestive testing is not physically possible, in addition to being prohibitive financially. So, I am going to move forward with my “reasonable testing program”. I am going to stay in business until August and hope in the next seven months there will be change enough to allow me to continue BuggaLove.

My reasonable testing program:
1 – Contacting the manufacturers of my items to determine whether the possibility that there is lead in them exists.
2- Component testing (regardless of the manufacturer’s assurance of a product being lead free) using XRF technology.

I am mailing my components out tomorrow for XRF testing. When I receive the results, I will be blogging about my experience with the company I chose to use as well as providing a variety of quotes for rental of an XRF gun. For those considering this method of testing, the following is an important note to make. I sat in on a conference call on the afternoon of Thursday, January 15th. Among the panelists was Jennifer, aka The Smart Mama. Jennifer talked a little bit about XRF testing to keep items in compliance until August. There are some items that can be XRF tested in order to remain compliant with CPSIA until the mandated third party testing requirement goes into effect in August. My creepers, for example, can be XRF tested in order to remain compliant. However, the way I understood it, items that are painted require the third party digestive lead testing now and XRF is not acceptable. XRF is acceptable for determining total lead content which is seen differently within CPSIA than the lead paint requirement.

Take that information and apply it as you see fit to your own solution for remaining compliant. I have determined that between my contact with the manufacturers and the XRF testing, I will have the highest level of confidence that my items are within the lead limits set forth by the CPSC and that is the spirit and intent of the law, even if I cannot follow the exact subscribed testing method that is mandated.


Goldtone Designs said...

Thank You Jess!!!

Nan said...

Thank you for keeping us updated!

Tip-Tops said...

Thank you for your great post!

Mark Riffey said...

Thats awesome. I hope the Congressman is chatty about it and sells the situation we've been talking about. Great job. I hope it also motivates more people to call their Senators and rep's offices and talk up the right people - if not the reps themselves.

kaboogie said...

Thanks for your efforts! Sounds like your congressman is actually one who cares, not the form letter type like mine. I am going to set up a meeting with him, if I have to camp outside his door!

Sygnet Creations said...

My main concern was one of a kind items as that is my entire shop. When i opened my doors it was the one thing I focused on.. not making the same design twice. I do hope this law is amended so that I can continue to create my safe items. I too insure all components are safe but with this law in its current state I will be guilty until proven innocent =( Thank you for sharing your meeting. The information is very useful.

myminimocs said...

great info jess - thank so much for posting it!!!