Sunday, January 11, 2009

CPSIA

I need to do a general what's-going-on-around-here post, but I had to get this out of my system first! I promise to do an update this week!

If you enjoy buying or selling children's items from places like Etsy, HyenaCart, thrift stores, flea markets, used book stores, or even visiting the children's section at your local library and haven't heard of the CPSIA, now is the time to read up!

To sum up, in response to last years problem's with lead in toys imported from China, our wonderful Congress sped a bill through the legislative process that has since been signed into law by President Bush. This law mandates that any item made for children under 12 has to be tested and certified to fall within new lead limits. Sounds pretty good, right? We don't want our kids to get lead poisoning, right? Except that the law is retroactive and applies to clothing, books...anything made for kids under 12. Think about what that means when you think about everything your children own and where you bought it from. Used items, new items, handmade items from small businesses run out of someone's home -- all of it has to comply with this law.

I'm not a fear-mongering alarmist, so I do not think the government is going to go around fining and arresting consignment store operators or trying to shut down public libraries (in fact the CPSC has pretty much said they won't), but I do see at least two significant issues here (aside from the increased prices on children's goods that we are going to see as a result of expensive testing):

1) Some small business owners hear the government saying that they aren't going to enforce the law on them, so they won't feel the need to change their business practices based on that assurance. However, some store owners will feel ethically bound to adhere to the law, regardless of the wink wink they are getting about how they don't have to worry about complying because the law is just for the big manufacturers and not for small thrift stores or used book sellers. So someone who feels duty bound to obey the law of the land is going to shut down their business because of their own moral convictions, no matter how much the government assures them they don't have to worry about enforcement. And lets be clear: the CPSC says that they won't actively seek to enforce this law on certain businesses, but they still maintain that those businesses do have to comply, and if they don't and are found out they can still be prosecuted. Which leads to this other problem over here...

2) Maybe the government wants to get a search warrant for someone's house for some unrelated crime, but they can't because they don't have the necessary evidence or probable cause. They find out that someone in that household is making and selling stuff for children on Etsy without proper lead testing or certification. Now they have a legitimate reason to execute a search warrant on someone's home based solely on the fact that they are sewing or whittling children's toys. I'm not a tin-foil hat type of person, but I don't think this is something completely without precedent.

There are many facets of this that I'm glossing over, but it is just a prime example of the way our government operates. We have congressmen and senators passing bills without even reading them and doing some basic critical thinking about how these laws will affect their own constituents. Of course no lawmaker (aside from Ron Paul, God bless him) wants to be seen as the heartless one who voted against stricter lead standards for children's products, because the media would rake them over the coals (or they would have if they had been paying attention to this issue), so instead they have passed a bill that makes absolutely no sense and is impossible to enforce gets signed into law and now something has to be done to fix the situation.

The Deputy Headmistress over at the Common Room has a good sum up of everything here (start at the bottom posts and scroll up to go in chronological order).

If you feel compelled, please write your legislators and tell them what you think.

1 comment:

Just another said...

Bottom line, the CPSIA is an ill conceived law. The intent is wonderful - and I am all for child safety and at first glance was glad that the legislature had made some stringent laws.

HOWEVER, The CPSC’s press release is basically an attempt to imply that shop owners become bootleggers. No different really from Prohibition.

Liquor was illegal, government mostly looked the other way ignoring the speak easy’s, but the cops could still arrest you and throw you in jail if the anti-liquor crowd made a stink to local law enforcement. Prohibition was repealed as we know - it took a little while.

Don’t you find it curious that not one of our state or federal officials have gone on TV in person to address the issue?

Additionally, the National Association of Resale & Thrifts has just created a press release - they have always worked with CPSC and continue to do so even in this mess.