Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Toy Story: Should Safety Really Come First?


I'm freaking over a new measure that will drastically affect all those cute toymaking people at Etsy or in your local craft fair. See my latest bloglet post:

I just learned that on account of a stringent new safety measure passed by the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), our toy-making friends at Etsy and anyone else who makes fantabulous handmade objects of delight for children may soon be history.

The measure is designed to protect us from the freaky stuff in mass-produced toys, after the recalls on Chinese-made products got the nation into a tizzy over safety.

Like any parent with a titch of common sense, I'm all for the banning of lead and those other un-spellable dangerous compounds. I'm all for asking corporations to show us that their mass-produced toys are safe. But the CPSIA Act mandates that smaller handmade, artisanal-type businesses in Europe, Canada, and the US also roll out new tests and comply with an expensive new regulatory process that will drive most of them out of business.

And for what? It all seems a touch absurd, since we haven't had any problems with Waldorf dolls from Wisconsin, Pinocchio puppets from Prague, or wooden teethers from Winnipeg.

Please go here to read the complete story and add your two cents if you so desire. Seriously, I am so over all this safety hysteria in parenting. I just saw on a mommy noticeboard some dufus mother was worried that a Christmas poinsettia would pose a danger to her infant.

Yes, a Christmas poinsettia is going to kill your tot!

I mean, hey. Maybe she has a point. Maybe we need to get some legislation on Christmas vegetation. What if an infant gummed your wreath before you put it up and got a pine cone lodged in his throat! And maybe we need to extend this legislation to include food baskets. After all, it is entirely possible that your toddler could shove a Harry and David cashew up her nostril.

Shall we take action? Want to join me? Shall we write to Obama and ask him to add poinsettias and Christmas cashews to his list of national threats? LET'S!


Anonymous said...

People please grab a freaking brain! I am tired, tired, tired of government legislating every minute detail of my life.

I am a grown woman with brain, and I use it.

For the morons out there who need cashew laws and poinsettia rules (this is going to sound harsh), you are too dumb to be reproducing anyway! I say "let them eat plants".

Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more... as the owner of a small business that had to pay hundreds of dollars to have our pillows burned in a lab (yes, burned in a lab), and comply with the myriad of inconsistent, state-by-state regulations and associated FEES (CA calls our nursing pillow a "piece of furniture", so we are subject to the same rules as a sofa, for petesake... plus we fork over $650 every 2 years for the privilege of letting Californians buy them!)
Not to mention the silly things we are required to put on labels (or have to just to avoid being sued). Like "care should be used with burning cigarettes"... like if you're balancing a cig on your mouth carelessly while breastfeeding your infant, catching the pillow on fire should be your biggest concern.
Whatever... we have to cover our bottoms, not only because of the Gov agencies, but unfortunately some of the "big guys" will do anything to eliminate the competition (even manipulate a Gov agency that should be worrying about the crap being made in China). I can g a r u n t e e you that we care way more, and have put 10x the effort (and research) into making a safe product than we could ever be required to do, but we still have to dump resources and energy into this nonsense.
Oh, don't get me started...
(not trying to advertise here, so I won't mention which pillow company we are ;) )
p.s. check out this post (babymedbasics.blogspot.com) for the TRUTH about poinsettias... they're getting a bad rap!

Anonymous said...

Well, I generally agree with the principal that it would be unfair to small craftspeople and businesses to force them to comply with an expensive regulatory system, and a tragedy for them to be unable to operate because of such a law. At the same time, I think there must be a middle ground that allows small manufacturers to continue operating while still adding some regulations, because the thing is that there is some very very toxic crap making its way into kids mouths these days.

What about a provision that allows small makers to add a disclaimer to their product that says that it hasn't been tested -- basically a kind of 'use at your own risk' label?

It's obvious that it would be absurd to have a result where a craftsmen is not allowed to create a hand-made toy and sell it, but what if the guy is ignorant and paints it all over with cadmium-based paint? (you wouldn't believe the stupidity I've witnessed in art school regarding toxic materials). Maybe your take on it is that any parent who isn't smart enough to be careful is "too dumb to reproduce". Well that's fine and good, but they do reproduce, so is your conclusion that their kids deserve to get brain damaged because of their stupidity? Honestly, I wouldn't be so hard on the parent who buys something that's painted with poisonous paint without thinking about it -- it's normal to assume that toys are made to be safe for kids.

I will admit right now that I am not intricately familiar with this particular law (I will try to find out more about it), but to the guys who says we should be more concerned with the crap coming out of China, I have news for you: just about everything is coming from China these days. In some cases, toy manufacturers are not aware of the chemical constituents of the parts they order because the actual materials are lost in an undecipherable trail of subcontracts. That's how some of the recent scandalously poisonous toys came in to existence (ie. aquadots). The seller was totally unaware of what was in the plastics and the only way it was discovered was through (drumroll here...) TESTING!

So again, I agree wholeheartedly that some provision needs to be made for artisans and small businesses, but I don't think general disgust and rancor toward government regulation is in order, and that a little awareness raising (and some mechanism for finding out what mass-produced toys are really made of) is generally a good thing.

crabmommy said...

I think what you say is very sensible. I love the idea of a "use at yr own risk" sticker on handmade goods. Indeed we need a set of safety regulations for the toxic crap making its way into the country, but some sort of measured approach to all this regulation is also, surely, in order.

Anonymous said...

PS. I think the site you linked to on the bloglet and their form letter:
provide a well-reasoned approach -- basically an exemption for smaller, local businesses. I still like my idea of a 'use-at-your-own-risk' disclaimer just for the people who never think about such things.

Also, please forgive the numerous typos in my previous post, Grammarmamma. Sadly, I am unable to go back and correct them.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that it is the smaller businesses who are more likely to purchase materials that are not from a series of subcontractors than the big companies are. When you make a business of something you love, you aren't as likely to have "cheap" as your primary factor for sourcing. (although I agree that there are some ding-dongs out there that will paint a toy with whatever is laying around in the shed...) I'd like to see this law passed with some reasonable common-sense (like how about it shouldn't cost $4000 PER PRODUCT [not per material used]to have things tested... sounds like someone's interest in an "approved lab" is going to benefit the most from this) I think that it could actually help the smaller businesses by making the big companies "play fair", no pun intended.