Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm a mommy blogger!

Yesterday I came upon some raw footage of Julie Vallese, from the CPSC. Julie Vallese is resigning from the CPSC, however on her way out the door, she’s managed to give one bang up interview about the CPSIA

Here are a few of the things that really stood out to me about this interview. First of all, it was focused on resale and consignment shops. Which is great, except that they’ve already released an official memo on resale and consignment shops. So, this interview gives us no new information. You can see that memo here:

From this interview there are a couple new phrases to be entered into our language when talking about the CPSIA. The first one I’d like to discuss is “level of confidence”. I first introduced the memo above in my previous blog post from January 9, 2009.

So when asked to clarify this memo a bit, Julie Vallese talked about a reseller having a “level of confidence” in their product. And that while this was “not defined”, she suggested three possible ways to gain this “level of confidence”:

#1) Look at the product and assess whether or not you feel it might not pass the lead limit
#2) Contact the manufacturer
#3) Screen the product using XRF technology

This brings me to the point I made in my first post about this issue: Since it’s been determined that used goods are still subject to the law but don’t need to be tested, and selling them is basically at the seller’s risk. Why can’t handmade goods be exempted in the same way? The difference with my handmade goods is that I *know* what went into making the item. As the manufacturer, I can have a higher “level of confidence” knowing exactly what is going into my products. I can contact the manufacturers of my supplies and discuss materials and any certifications they have. If that standard is good enough for used goods, it should be good enough for my handcrafted goods. Sellers could still be held accountable and face civil and/or criminal penalties for selling goods that are in violation of the new limits the same way a reseller of used goods is. So, why not extend the testing exemption in this way to those who handcraft items?

I’m not going to address the suggestion of XRF screening at this time because that’s a topic that will warrant a post all it’s own. And that post is coming, I promise. But I do want to make the point that in this video, Julie Vallese was extremely careful to make sure we all knew that XRF was not definitive and could only be used as a “screening tool”. I find this to be indicative of what may come in terms of the suggestion to allow XRF testing replace the third party lab accredited digestive testing that is currently mandated as of August.

The second phrase I’d like to address is “mommy blogger”. If you’re not interested in a short rant, please skip this paragraph. All I can say is, Wow. Just wow. I’m not really sure how much more condescending that phrase could be in the context that it was used. And the notion that we, “mommy bloggers” are responsible for the misinformation regarding this law on the web is more insulting than I can express. Let me tell you who THIS mommy blogger is. I am a former higher education administrator with a Masters degree under my belt. I am a business woman (as long as the CPSIA doesn’t put me out of business), and I am a mother of two small children. I’m smart and I’m discerning of good information and bad information, regardless of the source. My first phone calls about this law were made to the CPSC directly and to my Congressman’s office for some clarification and to gather information. My information gathering resulted in misinformation being given to me by the CPSC. Information that directly contradicts the law as it is written. If there is any misinformation on this blog, you better believe I will address it, apologize, and print a retraction. But I stand by what I’ve written based on my interpretations and the information that I’ve gathered from many sources, including from the CPSC directly.

On a more positive note, I’m meeting with Congressman Dent today! I plan to update you all on how that meeting went as well as address the XRF testing next week. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What are children's products?

I know it sounds like a crazy question. But with the stroke of the CPSIA pen being so broad it’s an important one to ask. Do the collectibles meant for adults that are plush or dolls fall under the law? What about miniatures? How about jewelry, what’s keeping a child from wearing it? Keep in mind the following is my interpretation of various resources and I’m not a lawyer.

Children’s products defined: A consumer product designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger.

“Ok, so my item isn’t primarily intended for children. So, I’m good, right?” Well, sort of. Because you see it’s the CPSC deciding what is and what is not a children’s product, not you as the manufacturer. So you can’t just blindly stick a “Not intended for children under 12” disclaimer on your item and call it a day.

Here are the criteria by which the CPSC will determine if a product is a children’s product:
#1 - A statement by the manufacturer about the intended use of the product, if such a statement is reasonable

#2 - Is the product represented in it’s packaging, display, promotion, or advertising as appropriate for use by children 12 years old or younger

#3 - Is the product commonly recognized by consumers as being intended for use by a child 12 or younger

#4 - The Age Determination Guidelines issued by the commission staff in September 2002

#1...means to me that you can say your products isn’t for kids, but if that statement isn’t reasonable, your disclaimer doesn’t matter.

#2...makes sense and should be relatively easy to determine.

#3... seems very subjective to me. Especially relative to miniatures, plush, collectors dolls, etc.

#4... well you can read that fun little 300 pg document here, if you’re so inclined. I was not able to read it before posting about this topic, so I can’t comment on it at this time.

What about art and wall accessories? Their “use” is to look at it, not touch it. And that brings us to the question of “play value”. Well, in terms of children’s products themselves, play value doesn’t matter. It still needs to be tested for lead (Section 101). Where play value DOES matter, is in determining whether it needs to be tested for phthalates (Section 108). So your wall art and decorative accessories are children’s products, but since they have no play value they don’t need to be tested for phthalates.

By the way, the question of art and wall accessories is an interesting one to me because what it written is in direct contradiction with what I was told verbally by the CPSC. Obviously, I have to go with what’s written. Saying “Mr. X told me over the phone this is ok” isn’t going to cut it.

I’m not sure if this information is complete enough to help you determine for yourself whether or not your item will be considered a children’s product. For some of us, it’s obvious. All my products are children’s products and subject to lead testing. And for some of you phthalate testing may also be required, which I didn’t really discuss, but is an important part of the law.

Here’s my sources for this blog post so that you can determine for yourself if your products are “children’s products”:

Tomorrow is my meeting with Congressman Dent. Stay tuned, I'll be discussing that meeting and the XRF testing information I've gathered in some upcoming posts.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Am I really a manufacturer?

When I first mentioned the CPSIA to a couple of my friends who are attorneys and my attorney, their reactions were “But, you’re not a manufacturer”. So my initial reaction to hearing about the CPSIA back in November was, “Naaah, this doesn’t apply to me”. But I “heard” it does. So I started reading and researching and making phone calls to try to get information. Mostly I was looking for information telling me that this law didn't apply to me or that all the people out there talking about this were wrong.

Well, in case you haven’t heard, it does apply to me. And if you are a crafter of handmade children’s products, it applies to you too. My very first question for the Congressional Liaison at the CPSC was, “As an artisan/crafter, am I considered a manufacturer?” His answer was a resounding YES.

Here is how the CPSC defines manufacture: To manufacture, produce, or assemble

So based on that definition, I am most definitely a manufacturer. And I suppose I really always felt that I was, at least in terms of my nursery decor items. But I was surprised to have that label placed on me regarding my line of BuggApparel. After all, I'm just embellishing a pre-made blank garment. How can I be considered the manufacturer of that? But I am. And furthermore, the fact that I put my own label in that garment, makes me a private labeler.

But it's my opinion that there should be a distinct difference made between me and a company who manufactures mass-produced children's products. And as there currently isn't one, that is one of the things I am asking to see changed in any amendment or revision made to the CPSIA. Here are just a few of the changes I am requesting be brought to the attention of the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce:

>>>>I am asking for the consideration of reasonable exclusions to the testing and certification requirements for textiles and apparel to the extent that a component presents a risk that it contains lead. As such, proof of component compliance from a supplier should be acceptable for handmade products.

>>>>I would like artisans/crafters to have a different designation by the CPSC from “manufacturer” that will exempt handcrafted products that meet the criteria for reasonable exclusion from testing as stated above.

>>>>I would like to see adjustments for small business such as limits of production under which certification is not required. This could include reduced certification requirements without removal of the liability.

More on product testing soon, specifically, information on XRF testing costs that I’m currently researching. Tomorrow, a discussion on what counts as a children's product.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CPSIA - What is a General Conformity Certificate (GCC)?

I'm struggling very much with the interpretation of the CPSIA as it is intended for micro-manufacturers of handmade goods like me. I have been reading and turning it over in my mind. My goal is to stay in business while Congress and the CPSC figure out the law and what amendments should be made to it.

While it is very clear that in August 2009 the new regulations require third-party testing. The February 10, 2009 deadline allows for XRF testing and/or another "reasonable testing program".

So, based on that, until August I can come up with a reasonable testing program and produce a general conformity certificate regarding this program. So what is a general conformity certificate. Well, it just so happens that the CPSC has some guidelines on what that means.

Here's what I've learned:

  • Certification means vouching that a product complies with the standard set by the CPSC, In this case lead limits (and phthalate limits if those apply to you)
  • Certification may or may not include any laboratory testing
  • Certification may or may not include a label or mark on the product
  • If the product has a private label (like my BuggApparel does), the private labeler must also issue a certificate

What needs a certificate:

  • Certification must be based on a test of each product OR a reasonable testing program.
  • All products intended for children under 12 must be tested.

Where do you get a certificate?

  • You make it yourself based on the information and data you get from your "reasonable testing program"

What goes on the certificate?

  • Certificate must be in English
  • It must identify the manufacturer AND private labeler of the certificate issuer
  • It must identify the party doing the testing by listing name, address, and phone number
  • Date and place the product was manufactured
  • Date and place the product was tested
  • Contact information of the person maintaining the test records
  • Each applicable standard (or ban)

What do you do with the certificate?

  • If you are the retailer of your own products: File it away, if someone asks for it, you must be able to produce it.
  • If you do wholesale or consignment of your products: Send it with any wholesale order you receive or with any products you intend to consign as the retailer must be able to produce it if asked.
General disclaimer: This is only MY interpretation of my source about GCCs. I am NOT a lawyer. Here is my source:

Here is a template for your GCC:

In the upcoming days I'll be talking about XRF testing. I'm currently researching costs and gathering information. Stay Tuned!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Winner of the Love Letter Giveaway announced!

Congratulations to Andreah
She is the lucky winner of a set of Love Letters
through the blog giveaway
Todays CPSIA update: I'm currently reading through the several updates that have been posted by the CPSC, including the natural materials exemptions. I hope to share my thoughts on these updates with you over the coming days.
Have you sent your letters to the Committee Leaders of the Committee on Energy and Commerce? Here is my letter to them, sent today. Please feel free to use my letter. But also note, as a concerned citizen I hate receiving form letters back from my legislators, so why would I send one? It will be much more impactful if you write an original letter to them in your words, detailing your concerns. Still, a form letter is better than no letter, so if you it is:
I am writing today to express my concerns with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) passed in August 2008. As the mother of two small children, I am pleased to see that actions are taken to ensure our children’s safety when it comes to toys and clothing. However, this well intentioned law has some unintentional consequences.

I write today not only as the mother of Arden, age 2, and Braden, age 4 months. I also write as the owner and sole proprietor of a small online business called BuggaLove. I create handcrafted nursery décor items and embellished children’s apparel. These items are made from non-toxic materials. None of my materials or supplies contain lead. According to the CPSIA, I am a manufacturer. Further according to this law, I need to have my products tested for lead. My items are not created in batches of thousands, or hundreds. My items are custom made, individually, specific to the needs of my customer at a reasonable cost. The law currently does not take into account one-of-a-kind or made to order items in its testing regulations. Furthermore, the costs of testing and certification on a small businesses, like mine, are burdensome. If amendments to the law are not made, I may be out of business as of February 10, 2009. I very much would like to find a reasonable way to comply with the law and maintain my growing fledgling business.

There are thousands of small business owners like me. We work in our garages, at our dining room tables, and in our spare bedrooms. We lovingly create items with care for our children and children around the world. I realize that this law was well intentioned and necessary due to the toy recalls that took place in 2007. I ask that you please consider a hearing to analyze the unintended consequences of this law and analyze the economic impact of CPSIA due to its broad terms.