Friday, January 23, 2009

The Cost of Compliance - Volume 3 - Sending your items for XRF testing

Special Edition! Two posts in one day...OY! I just couldn't wait the whole weekend to post. Ok, I’ve been sitting on this information for a week, dying to share it with everyone. But whenever I endorse a company, I want to be sure that my endorsement is well deserved. So I waited to get my results back from my tests to ensure that I could really recommend this company. And I can recommend this company with no reservation.

The Breaking News! I have found an affordable place to get your items XRF tested. I sent them an email and heard back early the following morning from Seth Goldberg, President of the company. A few minutes later, I had him on the phone and we talked for nearly an hour. Since then, we’ve talked several more times at length. Essco Safety Check is a small business just like mine. As a result, Seth understands the implications of CPSIA on my business and he wants to help people like me. His service and accessibility have been beyond reproach. And to me, that type of personal service is really valuable. Not to mention he’s an expert in the field.

Essco Safety Check charges by the hour and they can do ~50 tests per hour. I sent in 200+ components for my items and will be charged only $500 for their services. While they charge by the hour, break that down and it was about $2.25 per item. Based on all the other quotes I’ve seen from various companies as well as renting my own XRF gun, this was definitely the most cost effective. And here’s what I got for my money:

1) ~225 items XRF tested
2) All the data from each test in excel format
3) A certificate for each test detailing a picture of the item, a graph of the contents, and a pass/fail reading (some other things are on there but these things were most relevant to me)
4) A CD with this company’s software detailing all the information needed for me to make my GCC (coming to me when he returns my items via snail mail)
5) Also, this company is working on a way to make data available in HTML so you can make it accessible on your website or potentially have your data hosted on theirs.
6) He will re-run the data based on the changing lead levels over time. In my case, 99% of my items tested 0 and the other 1% were less than 27ppm, so there would be no need to re-run as that is well below the eventual 90ppm limit that will be imposed. But that kind of follow up service may be very important to some people!

Essco Safety Check
2018 156th Ave NE
Suite 100, Building F
Bellevue, WA 98007
P: 425-749-4136
Seth Goldberg, President:

How long did it take? I mailed my package to them on Tuesday. They received it Thursday (2 days from PA to WA using USPS...WOW!), and I had my results early evening on Friday. I’m not really sure you can get much better than that. And if you’re local and don’t want to send your stuff to him, Seth will come to you. After reading this, if you decide to contact Seth at Essco Safety Check, please tell him that Jessica from BuggaLove recommended him to you. It’s one way I have to show him how much I appreciated his service.

The Cost of Compliance with CPSIA - Volume 2

I know you were all expecting XRF Testing – Volume 2 today, and it is coming. I may be putting out another blog tonite or tomorrow. At the latest I expect you’ll have it Monday. But in the meantime, I got a little curious about all the quotes for the digestive lead testing that I was hearing. So I checked the CPSC website for accredited labs and I found one in Pennsylvania (because that’s the one closest to me) that I decided to call.

If you’re curious as to where to get the CPSC accredited lab list, here it is:

Here’s the bottom line for digestive lead testing as it applies to me. I'm only doing the costs for my BuggaMobiles and my BuggApparel. Each component of my item will cost $60:

My line of BuggApparel, I specialize in designs on creepers:
Snaps - $60
Fabric - $60
Thread - $60
Labels - $120
Designs - $3000

Cost of Testing - $3300
Cost of Product to be tested - $300
Total cost to maintain my line of Creepers: $3800

And each time I ran out of any of my supplies, I would need to have the new batch of garments retested. So based on 2008 sales, this testing would net me a loss of $500-$1000 on my line of BuggApparel in 2009. I would have to price myself out of the market just to break even. I would potentially consider reducing my offerings in terms of designs, but that really stunts my creative process. I love coming up with new ideas for new designs. Additionally it would prohibit me from doing custom designs, which is a significant portion of my business.

Let’s talk about my mobiles. I have 13 different styles, 3 sizes, 20+ paint colors, 16 design schemes with over 100+ designs within them. For the purposes of this I have estimated some things or lowered my quantities, so the actual cost would be slightly higher than what this reflects.

Hoop - $180
Mobile Pieces – $6000
Fishing Line - $60
Paint - $1200
Designs - $6000

Cost of Testing – $13440
Cost of Product to be tested - $300
Total cost to maintain my BuggaMobiles: $13740

For those who are interested in which lab this was:
Chemical Solutions
Mechanicsburg, PA

And again, each time I run out of any component from the initial batch, I would need to retest those components. There is no reasonable way to absorb $13740 into my costs. That cost exceeds my total spending in all of 2007 AND 2008. I suppose I could look to limit my offerings significantly in order to bring costs down but part of the beauty of my work is that each one is unique, strung individually, made to order based on the colors my client wants, etc. That aspect, the creative aspect of my work, and the aspect I love most, would be destroyed.

So, I’m simply confirming what we all know to be true, the digestive testing for micro-manufacturers is simply prohibitive financially, among other things. On a positive note, this testing facility understood that I am a one-woman operation running a home-based business and was more than willing to do business with me. Please note this testing is for LEAD ONLY. Phthalate testing is not done by the lab I contacted. Based on these numbers, my business will not survive the next wave of deadlines in August 2009. BuggaLove has been given 8 months to live.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Cost of Compliance with CPSIA

I’ve been researching XRF testing for about 2 weeks. As many people are finding it to be the way they want to go to test items (at least until August). I looked into the DIY version. Of course, I DIY everything else! Why not this?? So here are some company names and rental rates.

Renting your XRF gun:
Here are 3 companies that will rent an XRF gun to you. All of these companies say that they’re easy, user-friendly machines. They’ll download your data into an excel document for you. Honestly, at first I thought this would definitely be the way to go. Until I saw how much it would cost me.

Innov-X Systems
100 Sylvan Rd., Suite 500
Woburn, MA 01801
Phone: (781) 938-5005 Ext. 309

My contact was Kyle and he sent me a document detailing the following rental costs:
Monthly Rental - $4,900.00
Weekly Rental - $1,900.00
Daily Rental Daily (2-day minimum) - $575.00

I never got the information about training from Kyle. Though it seemed as though there was some type of training involved.

Atlas Inspection Technologies
500 Elliot Ave W
Suite A
Seattle WA 98119
Office 800-281-0650 ext. 2424

My contact was Tyler. In his email to me, he stated, “As far as training goes, if you are in the US no training is necessary. We send the gun along with a good set of instructions and it is very easy to use.”
Daily Rental - $500/day
Weekly Rental - $2000/week.

Ajax Environmental and Safety Supply
2537 S. Gessner, Suite 238
Houston, TX 77063
Ph (713) 789-4149

My contact was Judd. I spoke with him on the phone and he emailed me the following rates:
$400 - day
$1,400 - week
$4,000 - month

Estimated shipping $235 (EACH WAY).

After contacting these 3 companies I determined that there was no way I could do this myself. It was simply financially prohibitive. If a company were to provide me training, I might be more inclined. But again for those enormous daily rates PLUS shipping costs for overnight shipping each way (it costs a lot of money to ship an item that costs $40K to replace!), I determined this was not a cost effective method of testing for me.

My next step was to a local company who tests for lead in the home. They had never heard of CPSIA. They said while they use an XRF gun it’s not the same type of gun I needed and therefore were really unable to give me a definitive test. They’d charge me $125 just to come visit my house and then up to $500 for half a day of testing. But since they didn’t have the proper equipment to give me a pass/fail based on the lead levels required by the CPSIA, I decided this was not the best way to spend my money. However, I’m sure there are local companies out there who are equipped to handle these types of requests. So it is definitely worth exploring in your area. One place you might call to find one is your pediatrician's office. Since they often deal with testing children for lead, they may have a suggestion for a company that typically tests your home.

At this point I determined that neither of these options, renting a gun or finding a local company was the right one for me. I was starting to lose hope that there was a viable, affordable XRF option. I also considered trying to arrange for a co-op of folks to rent a gun with and split the cost, but I was having some trouble getting traction in that arena as well. So I decided to explore my options in terms of where I could send my items to be tested.

Stay Tuned for XRF Testing – Volume 2 Sending your Items for Testing

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

7 Stages of Grief

Every day I scour the web and the CSPC website for new information about the CPSIA. And every day there’s some roller coaster ride of “good news” and “bad news” first saving my business from extinction and then destroying it and putting me out of business. I realize there are a lot of people who have been dealing with this issue much longer than I have. Since late November I’ve been reading, researching, placing calls, and discussing it with anyone who will listen on a daily basis. My part time home based business gets even less of my time and learning about CPSIA and lobbying for change has become almost a full time job.

I also went through the 7 stages of grief during this time. That must sound a little wonky but I bet if you search your feelings, you might find it to be true of you too. (That statement was very Star Wars Geek of me)

Stage 1 – Shock/Denial – “Naaaah, this can’t be true!” “That’s just crazy!” “What I’m reading has GOT to be wrong.”

Stage 2- Pain – The thought of losing the business I’ve been building over the past 2 years hurts me to the core. My items are part of who I am. Sometimes I am even sad when they sell because I really love them!

Stage 3- Anger – Anger at those who passed the law and anger at not being aware of it until it seemed too late to change anything.

Stage 4- Depression – Feeling a sense of impending doom as I prepare to liquidate inventory and go out of business.

Stage 5 - The Upward Turn -Slight hope as change starts to happen that maybe it will all be ok and I will be able to stay in business after all.

Stage 6 - Reconstruction and Working Through - Creating a business plan that I’m comfortable with that includes a reasonable testing program leaving me with a high level of confidence that my products comply with the lead laws, even if they don’t comply with the third party testing requirement.

Stage 7 - Acceptance and Hope - Becoming comfortable with my business plan and hope that things will change based on some of the statements and letters I’ve seen from the CPSC and legislators.

So, since I’ve reached the acceptance stage. I am going to cautiously move forward with my reasonable testing program and my business plan, which includes discontinuing a few things and expanding a few others. But first, I might take a few days to just decompress from this roller coaster. I will still likely report on things I find of interest regarding the CPSIA, but I’m going to work hard at making my blog a place for other BuggaLove news as well.

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.