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198 Days to Extinction: Denise Mollison Closes Doll Shop in Feb 09'. Business was a lifeline for Sick Daughter 7/27/09

posted Jul 27, 2009 12:10 PM by

Doll shop closes despite temporary hold on anti-lead law

Posted: Feb 05, 2009 10:22 PM CST Updated: Feb 06, 2009 6:24 AM CST
 Raven Mollison
Raven Mollison
Denise Mollison
Denise Mollison
By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

KAILUA (KHNL) - Some possible relief for those who sell children's products, from toys to clothes.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a temporary stay on the controversial anti-lead law that takes effect February 10.

But, even with the stay, a doll shop on the Windward side of Oahu says it will still be forced to close.

In Kailua, little Raven Mollison holds what's left of her mom's at-home business.

"It's the last doll that my mom made so she gave it to me," she said.

Her mom Denise, ran a doll shop to pay for Raven's medical supplies. The eight-year-old has Russell Silver Syndrome, which stunts her growth.

"I'm very sad that she's shut it down out of business," said Raven.

But Denise says she has no choice. A new anti-lead law calls for safety tests she can't afford.

"Parents and consumers are hesitant to purchase my products and truthfully I don't blame them. If I could provide the certification then everything would be fine but my hands are tied," said Mollison.

In response to critics who call the law a job-killer, CPSC has issued a stay of enforcement which puts testing requirements on hold for a year until it can work out a compromise. But business owners must still abide by the new lead limits.

"The snag here is they're saying 'don't test but follow the guidelines'. You can't be sure you're following the guidelines unless you test so it's a catch 22," said Mollison.

For Raven's sake, Denise is launching a new business.

"My only life raft is making wristlets until this mess is resolved," Denise said.

"It's very important so then I can get feeding more, so then I can grow," said Raven.

On Thursday, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint introduced a bill to reform the law, saying "Congress has overreacted and threatened to kill thousands of jobs, small businesses and harm charities around the country. We simply cannot allow this law to go unreformed."

DeMint's reforms would allow small businesses to use certification from suppliers and manufacturers.

That way people like Mollison won't have to shoulder the costs of testing.

Congress passed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 last Fall after a lead paint scare in children's toys made in China.

The act bans children's items containing more than 600 parts per million total lead.

Businesses that sell used children's items, such as thrift stores, are not required to test their products. But they cannot resell them if they exceed the lead limit.

201 Days to Extinction: Bruce Wolk Author of Made Here Baby 7/24/2009

posted Jul 24, 2009 12:58 PM by   [ updated Jul 24, 2009 1:03 PM ]

We Will Lose Ourselves

I am one of “those” people who routinely use the social networking tool twitter.  To be honest, I use it more to feel the pulse of America than to deceive myself into thinking that it will sell a lot of books.  Right now, I am feeling an angry pulse, especially when some people become incensed at me for suggesting that Americans at least consider buying American-made products.
One woman recently “tweeting,” berated me about my position by suggesting: If I don’t buy my daughter something made in China, she’ll have nothing to play with!
I have given her comment a lot of thought.  As the author of Made Here, Baby! where I interviewed well more than 500 American manufacturing companies, I cannot agree that her daughter will have nothing to play with.  However, I am not naïve to the fact that our politicians, both Left and Right have done almost everything in their power to strip of our country of its ability to make things. 

The CPSIA is a new twist, perhaps, but it follows decades upon decades of a mindset that says Americans “can’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t” produce innovative, quality, and safe items.  Every piece of legislation in regard to manufacturing incentives since WWII, and endorsed by both parties was designed to reward multi-nationals for chasing manufacturing away from America. 

The woman was partially correct: chances are that as her daughter grows older, she’ll be unable to play with toys made in America.  We’ve abandoned our industries.  We can’t even buy an American-made stroller or baby bottle, let alone an American-made computer, mechanical toy, or interactive video game.  It’s not that the Chinese or Indians or Mexicans or Vietnamese make things better than we do; it’s that we’ve allowed them to do so with our blessings.  We continue to create all kinds of incentives for them at precisely the time when up to 10 percent of our friends and neighbors are out of work. 

I might add that I’ve nothing against factory workers from other countries, especially as I am person who has worked in factories.  I feel sorry for many of these workers; in order for their managements to produce as cheaply as they do, the workers are brutalized and underpaid and are often forced to work in dangerous conditions.

Though an Army veteran, though the son of a woman who built fighter planes in WWII, I am not one of those fire and venom spewing flag wavers.  Politically I am a very neutral voter, voting on issues rather than pretty faces. 

In interviewing companies for my book, I felt a deep, gut level sense of patriotism rush over me.  Many people I interviewed expressed very strong views of both the Left and Right and I didn’t flinch.  In fact, it made me happy that people who make things represent such diversity.  Underneath the politics I heard other things: pride, courage, dedication, and love.  This is especially true where Americans connect closely with their heart and hands to produce kid’s products.

The Americans who make products with their hands are in danger of becoming extinct.  Amazingly, it is not the fault of woman who asked me the question who will be responsible (indeed the woman makes apparel here in America!), nor some multi-national “suit,” but by the very people we have elected to represent us. 

If the CPSIA is fully enacted without modification and moderation what will we really lose?  According to the person who is worried about her daughter’s toys, we won’t lose much.  However I believe we will lose a great deal more than just things, I believe we will lose ourselves. 

When American companies can no longer make things, and no longer dream the American dream, how long will it be until pride and courage begin to fade?

In my book, I talk about how my mom (she’s 91 now) would gently touch the fighter planes she was working on, and would pray for the brave men who would fly those planes into battle.  At the end of the day she knew she had made something with love along with everything else.  If the CPSIA is fully enacted, will we lose some of our love as well? 

     I believe so.  I know so.

Bruce H. Wolk

Copyright © 2009

209 Days to Extinction: Little Sapling Toys. Kimber Christensen's Story 7/16/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 12:48 PM by

Please help

Our entrepreneurial spirit was quenched in May 2008 with the official formation of Little Sapling Toys. We have had a deep, humble gratitude since then for each success and challenge that has been faced.
An incredible amount of thought, time and concern is invested in each toy that we make. The wood we use is carefully selected to be sustainably harvested and safe for children. From the rocking horse to an individual teething square, each toy is meticulously hand sanded. Half our toys are finished with locally produced beeswax, which we selected to use after much research. We plan on starting to make our own beeswax mixture within the next few months. The other half of our toys are left unfinished because we know their intent is to go straight from our recycled boxes into a child's mouth.
Little Sapling Toys has not only been our livelihood, but a dream come true.

"In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small parts, toys with improperly secured and easily swallowed small magnets, and toys made from chemicals that made kids sick. Almost every problem toy in 2007 was made in China.
The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number. All of these changes will be fairly easy for large, multinational toy manufacturers to comply with. Large manufacturers who make thousands of
units of each toy have very little incremental cost to pay for testing and update their molds to include batch labels.
For small American, Canadian, and European toymakers, however, the costs of
mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business.
The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earned and kept the public trust: Toys made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade toys will no longer be legal in the US.
If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered."

Here is an article about how the CPSIA affects manufacturers of apparel, "diapers, blankets (housewares), books, videos, computer and electronic products, strollers, cribs, car seats, and anything humans come in contact with in their environment." This also puts in danger the thousands of retailers around the country that offer these products made by artisans and small businesses.

Please take a few minutes (by Monday) and fax members of the Congressional committee that will be meeting on 12/10 to discuss CPSIA implementation issues. Here is a sample letter for your convenience.
**Updated to add: The 12/10 meeting has been postponed, so that just gives us more time to be heard.**

211 Days to Extinction: Annette Ringeisen Owner of Wool Creations, Doll Maker 7/13/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 12:00 PM by

Efforts to amend the CPSIA to protect small businesses

My name is Annette Ringeisen and I make one of a kind children toys. My love for creating safe and wholesome toys for children has been in my heart since I had children myself. My oldest daughter was born 24 years ago and ever since then I have been involved in creating toys. For many years I have taught a a local Waldorf School, bringing my knowledge of the craft to children and adults alike. For the past 3 years I have created a small business for myself and love the fact that I can be home for my family.

The CPSIA law was passed and is now threatening to shut down my little business and so many others in the same boat. It is just now that finally I am getting tracktion and making a name for myself. I will continue to create my toys as long as I can and it would break my heart if that had to come to an end.

All of my WoolCreations are made of wool, cotton, silk, bamboo and wood (example wooden rod on the Hobby Horse) and are 100% natural. I am the only person who is making the WoolCreations item, therefor I am sure of what goes into each item.

With each small business a craft and tradition gets passed on from generation to generation. When one shuts down, the opportunities of sharing these skills with our children will not be available. Our children are not taught these skills in schools, because funds had to be cut "Art" had to be taken out of their schedules. I am glad that I can set up an appointment with a woodworker, knitter, fiber artist, doll-maker, jewelry maker, seamstress ect. to show my children and grandchildren that there are so many talents around us.

As a small business I also try to give back to the community in one way or another. I the past year I sent "Hope, the traveling doll" onto her journey "around" the world. Now she is back "home" and will find a new home. Funds raised in this event will benefit the Shriners Hospital for Children. If the CPSIA will take effect I will not be able to create another event like this. Hope the traveling doll is a safe toy for all ages. She is stuffed with 100% wool batting, cotton tubing for shaping the head, 100% wool skin, cotton sewing and embroidery thread. Her clothing is knitted of 100% wool yarn or 100% cotton fabrics. It would be sad to see that something of this heartfelt community building event could happen no longer. Please check out her blog and participate in raising the funds

It might be the last chance before CPSIA takes effect. Save Handmade!

217 Days to Extinction: Michelle Sasscer's Story from Babus Toys. Crafter using only natural materials 7/7/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 11:59 AM by

My name is Michelle Sasscer and I make baby and little kid toys under the name babus.  While pregnant with my son Nicky I began turning my knitting hobby/mania toward making little toys and decorations for him.  Having no desire to return to my previous job as a cheesemonger, I was stumped as to what would come next.  Health reports about BPA, Phthalates and lead paint in factory toys were gaining prominence in the news and making me very wary of what I bought for my baby.  Happily, I found that the natural toys I was making seemed perfect for babies and after running them by my son's top-rated pediatrician and getting the OK, I began selling them on  The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Thus, babus (pronounced BAY-bus, it was my husband's nickname in utero) was born.  Just a few months later, the CPSIA was passed, threatening to shut down my little operation before it really got off the ground.  And while I wait and prepare for the coming changes, I continue in faith, making toys I love and believe in.

Most of my toys are made from handknit wool yarn felt, a thick, sturdy, washable and resilient fabric that's also soft and safe. My fabric toys are made from remnant and reclaimed fabrics and stuffed only with organic cotton stuffing.  No lead is used in the dyes and the yarns I buy are sustainably produced (many organic).  Since everything is made by me, I have the power of personally assuring the safety and quality of each item sold.  As a mother, my conscience would never allow me to cut corners or run a shoddy operation, I mean, that's the whole reason I started making toys, to ensure that safety.  And also to make beautiful, unique things, which the CPSIA act, as it currently stands, would make crushingly difficult to do on any small-scale commercial level.  So, we need to press on in amending the CPSIA to protect small businesses as well as our children, and not leave all the toy-making in the hands of those corporations whose wretched decisions brought about the CPSIA in the first place.  Save handmade!!

218 Days to Extinction: Sarah Natividad Owner of Curious Workmanship 7/6/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 11:50 AM by

When I was in high school, I made hand-crocheted baby booties that look like shoes, and sold them to my mom's friends to give as baby gifts.  When I got pregnant with my 3rd child about 5 years ago, I wanted to start a business that I could use to earn a little extra money while staying home with my children.  I brought two small plastic bins of dishcloths I'd made to the farmer's market and sold them on a rickety old card table underneath a borrowed canopy.  I brought back the baby booties (this time in more versatile cotton yarn) and they were an instant hit.  Since I found myself spending all my time filling orders for them, I made them my only product.  Within a couple of years of plowing the profits back into the business, I was able to field a table at an expo.  I have two international distributors and I employed half a dozen other crocheters to help me fill their orders.  I quit my unfulfilling job as a community college instructor to make more time to pursue the bootie-making business.

CPSIA hit me like a ton of bricks.  Business was already down from the recession.  Then, in December, I got the news that I would have to test all my products for lead.  I went through the whole learning curve that everyone's going through-- first you think "I'm too small a fish, they'll throw me back" but then it occurs to you that your competitors could turn you in and that noncompliance would jeopardize all the wholesale accounts you've worked to cultivate.  Then you look at those Home Depot lead test kits, but discover they don't give you accurate lead levels.  I wrote to labs for test quotes, hoping (but not really believing) that the "consumer" groups were right about the testing being affordable.  When I got the quotes back, I was aghast.  Just to test all my components once would cost about 30-40% of my annual revenue.  Since the cost of testing is more than my annual profit, I would have to pay for the privilege of staying in business.  If it were a one-time cost maybe I could handle that, but as an ongoing cost, no way.  So I can only stay in business as long as I'm protected by the CPSC's stay of enforcement on third-party testing.  After that, I have to go out of business.  I can't ask my husband to get a second job on top of the overtime he already works, just so that I can afford to keep selling baby booties.

I've been an American all my life and I've been taught that even though it works slowly, our republic's government works to bring the voice of the people into law.  Having faith in that, I started writing to my representatives about CPSIA.  I noticed that just about everyone in Congress had voted for this law and I was sure they had just not realized what it entailed, so I made them aware of it.  And that's when I discovered just how little "We The People" figured into their calculations.  When they wanted to know what consumers thought about something, they didn't ask consumers; they asked the groups they thought represented consumers.  When they wanted to know what the people thought about something, they talked to other politicians or to journalists, and the politicians and journalists got their opinions from talking to other politicians, journalists, and "consumer" groups.  None of them really gave a flying fig newton what the actual people thought, and they left themselves vulnerable to being influenced by scheming parties.  As a result, our politicians basically let focused, ignorant groups like PIRG and Public Citizen write their own law, and rubberstamped it over not only the objections of those who testified before them, but the will of the vast majority of the U.S. populace.

Perhaps the system will, slowly, work.  But I fear for the damage that will be done in the wake of CPSIA.  The billions of dollars that are now being wasted on losses and testing costs for inherently lead-free products are only the tip of the iceberg.  The worst and most lasting damage is being done to the people's respect for the rule of law.  As a student of history, I know that for most of the world's history nations have been ruled by men and women of power who were above the law and could impose their every capricious whim on their populace.  The advent of the rule of law represented remarkable progress-- for the first time, the people could prosper in the secure knowledge that their sovereign could not detain them for merely displeasing him.  Laws like our own Constitution have two purposes, to prosecute (i.e. define crimes and provide for the law's enforcement) and to protect (i.e. define what one can do to demonstrate innocence).  But CPSIA allows only for prosecution and not protection-- there is nothing a company can point to and say "I made a good faith effort to comply, now I call upon the protection of the law."  Those who have not lived under the whim of those in power, or have not even read about it, have no idea what it's like to live without the protection of the law, but they're about to find out.  Acting CPSC Chairman Moore made it very clear in his opinion rejecting the Writing Instrument Manufacturer's Association's request for an exemption for ballpoint pens that he was willing, for now, to wink at the fact that many pens are sold as children's products.  But Moore has shown that he changes his mind quite readily in response to who is in power.  What's to stop him, or the newly appointed CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, from changing his or her mind back?  And what's to stop them from applying this "logic" to every product that the law has put under their thumbs?

This is the tyranny of laws that fail to protect as well as prosecute.  When people know that there is no protection for them under the law, they are all at the whim of the enforcers.  But worse, laws like CPSIA which force people to choose between compliance and their livelihood breed disrespect for the rule of law.  If you're already breaking half a dozen laws by just having your breakfast, why would you balk at breaking another dozen laws selling your goods on the black market?  What happens if some of those dozen broken laws are ones that genuinely offer protection to the consumer or to the citizen?  Disrespect for the rule of law will corrupt us all.  It is an evil that will throw us back under the rock of tyrannical rule.  So there is much more at stake here than my little business selling baby booties, much more even than all the little businesses like mine put together.  Once CPSIA fully kicks in and they are gone, the world will go on turning without them.  But without the rule of law, there is little chance for human freedom, the foundation of our country, to flourish.  CPSIA is a crack in that foundation.  It needs to be fixed before it spreads.

Sarah Natividad

219 Days to Extinction: Comply or Quit? Crafted By Design's Story 7/5/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 11:43 AM by

Saturday, July 4, 2009


If you make children's items, you should be aware of CPSIA. For those that don't, it is the "Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act". It is requiring testing and labeling for all products intended for children under 12. Some things are exempt from testing, but most need to be tested for lead, phthalates, and/or small parts. If you donate handmade items, this affects you as well.
For me, this is what I love to do. But the rules and laws are so confusing that even the lawmakers themselves aren't exactly sure what they are. Then how in the world do they expect ME to be able to understand all of it. I understand that I need to test my items. However, testing needs to be done on each new item. Well, most of my creations are OOAK, so that would require testing on each individual item! If I have to do that, I will have to raise prices to cover those testing costs. It could cost over $300 just to test a headband for phthalates! Talk about an expensive accessory.
I am left to choose between two options: Do nothing or Do nothing...
Let me explain. I can either
A) Do nothing. I can continue to do what I'm doing and charge what I'm charging, doing nothing to follow this absurdity of a law.
B) Do nothing. I can stop making any children's items. Nothing to be donated to those who need it most. Nothing to sell to help my family.
Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place! I know they are trying to protect our children, but give parents some credit! We can make appropriate choice for our kids without being forced to!

221 Days to Extinction: Jen DeGrace from Jen Lynn Designs (Closed due to CPSIA) 7/3/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 11:39 AM by

Dear Mr. President:

Like so many others, I worked hard to get you elected, and I’m thrilled that our collective efforts were fruitful. Solutions to real problems require a measured, thoughtful and reasoned assessment of myriad issues too often top-lined for the sake of media sound bites or political sparring. Your ability to both weigh and articulate complexities is one of the reasons I voted for you.

So I am asking you now to apply that skill to the very real problems with the CPSIA. This is not a business vs. children issue, as it has been portrayed. As a mother, a liberal, an environmentalist and small business owner, I welcome the new limits on harmful materials in children’s products, just as ardently as I oppose the irresponsible and destructive aspects of this law, which do not improve safety. These include:

RETROACTIVE APPLICATION OF NEW STANDARDS has created immoral and unnecessary waste, not to mention lost profits and productivity, confusion and closed businesses. Wasted unsalable new inventory and used goods. Businesses, non-profits and individuals scramble to follow the law and the CPSC’s specific directions to sequester books published before 1985, and dispose of, rather than donate or sell used clothing bearing buttons, snaps or zippers, as well as untested toys and other products. This is particularly unconscionable considering that there are no reported injuries attributed to these products. Products found to cause injury have already been recalled, and are therefore already unlawful to sell, making this completely unnecessary and shamefully wasteful.

END PRODUCT TESTING has forced small producers out of the market, ironically leaving the spoils to the same large companies - manufacturing overseas - who are guilty of the very offenses that spurred Congress to create the CPSIA in the first place. While it may seem reasonable to test each component of a completed made-in-China “Dora” doll before selling millions of them, that logic does not hold up when applied to testing each component of a completed domestic handmade dress before selling three of them. Expensive third-party testing is simply not practicable for small producers, and as their products have not been shown to be the offenders, imposing regulations that force them out of the market is unfair, un-American and considering the current economy, unwise. What does make sense, affords greater safety and efficiency, is requiring manufacturers to use CPSIA compliant materials and manufacturing processes.

I have had to close my hair accessory business because testing is simply not an attainable option for a small producer of custom products. Congress has made it painfully clear how expendable and insignificant they consider my plight through their profound lack of response to my repeated requests for CPSIA reform. But I believe my situation is representative of thousands, and worth a closer look.

If family integrity is revered at all, the entrepreneurial efforts of mothers providing their families with needed income while home caring for their children should be valued and encouraged, not ignored, disparaged, or regulated out of existence. And it goes well beyond moms like me, working from home. My local consignment shop, a 26 year old family business, has stopped selling children’s items – previously the largest portion of their sales. I’m afraid to sell my own kids’ outgrown clothing, which typically funds their next year’s wardrobe. Our school district and local library are biting their nails, waiting, hoping for reasonable reform before the stay of enforcement expires. Even many domestic manufacturers far larger than myself can’t afford to comply with testing requirements and are on the brink of collapse. Personally, I have lost my disposable income, and with it, my ability to stimulate the local economy. Multiply these experiences by tens of thousands across the country.

And while businesses hobble along, crippled by the CPSIA, close up completely, or operate unknowingly in violation (risking significant liability) Congress deflects responsibility and plays politics with the CPSC. The complete unwillingness of Democratic lawmakers to even concede there is more to the story than big business vs. children’s safety is excruciatingly disheartening to me as a liberal, forsaken by my own party.

I beg you to intervene. Please make CPSIA reform an urgent priority, for the sake of small business, consumer safety, and our children. Far more of them will be compromised by their parents’ loss of income than could ever be compromised by reading old books or wearing jeans with zippers.


Jen DeGrace
Jen Lynn Designs

224 Days to Extinction: Owner Peapods, Founding Member HTA & Crusader, Dan Marshall's Story 6/30/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 11:36 AM by

Friday, January 9, 2009

Our long campaign

From Dan: It's now been about a month and a half since we helped form the Handmade Toy Alliance in an effort to save the dozens of small companies that we buy stuff from. I've learned a lot in that time, most of it incredibly humbling.

First, I've learned that there are a lot more people making toys and children's products in the US than I ever would have dreamed of. I wrote last year in this blog that there is no one making dolls in the USA anymore, and I have learned that this is not true.

We are really at the start of a renaissance of manufacturing in this country, with hundreds of people making stuff in their living rooms and basements and selling it on the internet. It shouldn't surprise me so much, since that's basically how we started our business, but it has. I only hope we can fix this law before all that energy gets squashed.

Second, I've learned that it is true that a small group of dedicated people can make a difference. In early December, all our calls to Congress went unanswered and the CPSC ignored us. But, working from one member to the next, one blog to the next, one reporter to the next, we've finally gotten the attention of Congress and the CPSC, which has begun issuing guidance to make the CPSIA less burdensome to small businesses.

I've been talking to too many media folks, from the LA Times to CNN to Oregon Public Radio, which is way beyond my comfort level. Others in the Alliance have been quoted in the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Wall Street Journal, amoung many others. The story is easy to tell: why should these tiny manufacturers suffer because of the sins of Mattel and Thomas the Tank Engine?

We're not there yet, not by a long shot, but we have found hope in this month and a half. I'm not sure it's audacious hope, but it feels better than despair. The truth is that the reason I'm working so hard on this is that it's the only way for me not to get totally depressed about the situation. We'll know we've succeeded when every one of our suppliers and every member of the Handmade Toy Alliance can say yes, I can comply with the law and I can remain in business.

And, along the way, I've met some really wonderful and talented people that I never would have had a chance to meet otherwise. People like us who believe in sustainable, quality goods for children.

Thanks again to those people and to all of our customers who have expressed their support. Best wishes,

225 Days to Extinction: Colleen Jamison Owner of The Natural Toy Box 6/29/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 11:22 AM by   [ updated Jul 16, 2009 11:36 AM ]

Last Summer I started an ecommerce children's toy business named Everything I sell is made in the USA, Eco-Friendly and Handcrafted.

I started this company because I was frustrated with the imported recalled toys, lack of consumer safety and America's weak market. I was also another casualty from the recent lay offs due to our struggling economy.

My similar story is repeated thousands of times across the America. I am part of a massive, growing number of small businesses who make and sell unique, handmade children's products. In 322 days I will have to close my business because of the new CPSIA laws (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act). Ironically, this was a main reason why I started my business, lack of trust and accountability of many foreign produced mass manufactured toys. Little did I know that this can be the reason for its closure.

By and large the new law is for good reason. It requires all manufacturers of products marketed to children 12 and under to have mandatory testing. The CPSIA law was created in response to the Chinese toy recalls of 2007. The United States Congress rightly recognized that the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) lacked the authority and staffing to prevent dangerous toys from being imported into the US. So, they passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August, 2008. Among other things, the CPSIA bans lead and phthalates in toys, mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

The problem for small businesses manufacturing children's products is that the testing required is from $300-$4,000 for EACH product. The cost will likely drive the vast majority of small, handmade children's product makers out of business. The mandatory tested items will include; toys, clothing, body care, school supplies, dining ware, Everything made for children 12 and under. The large corporations who are responsible for the 2007 recalls will have a real opportunity to monopolize the entire children's market because they can easily afford the mandatory testing while the small businesses who have always produced safe products will likely be closed down.

A number of groups are currently lobbying Congress to amend this law to put unrealistic testing costs on small USA business who are already providing safe products. There are ways to help by writing a letter to your Congressman and Senator, signing the several petitions floating around and by creating awareness about the effects for small business with the CPSIA law in your community. On April 1st, 2009 at 10:00 am there will be a "Amend the CPSIA" public rally and forum on Capital Hill in Washington DC. Please help support this amendment.

Colleen Jamison

227 Days to Extinction: Jill Chuckas Crusader & Secretary of HTA 6/27/2009

posted Jul 16, 2009 11:13 AM by

My Letter to President Obama

by Jill Chuckas

Published April 06, 2009 @ 05:29PM PT

Dear President Obama:


My name is Jill Chuckas and I own a small home based hand crafted children’s accessories business in Stamford, CT.  Since December of 2008, I have been working with the Handmade Toy Alliance ( to bring awareness to and changes within the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).  Unfortunately, this very well intended piece of legislation that I applauded Congress for undertaking, was written so broadly that my product line, as well as thousands of others, has become one of the unintended consequences. 


This past Wednesday, I, other representatives from the Handmade Toy Alliance and 24 other industry organizations that are negatively impacted by the CPSIA, joined together at a rally on Capital Hill to discuss and share our concerns with each other and Congress.  Afterwards, we attended a multitude of Legislative meetings with our Members of Congress.  Personally, I met with Rep. Jim Himes and staffers from Sen. Lieberman’s, Sen. Dodd’s and Sen. Kerry’s offices.  This was an exhilarating process that myself, as an ordinary citizen, had never imagined I would undertake.  But in this great land, it is both a person’s right and duty to call upon their leaders for help and guidance when they see a problem that needs to be fixed.


The overall consensus of those of us at the rally is that a technical amendment to the CPSIA is needed so that those of us producing safe products that are below the limits set forth within the legislation but can not afford to prove this compliance, as well as those who produce products that for one reason or another should be provided permanent exemptions (such as books, resale shops, ATV and motorbike sellers).  To give but one example of these unintended consequences, I create a soft clutch ball for children ages 4 months and up.  Like most small scale manufacturers and artists, I work in small batches – usually about 10 in a production run.  The way the law is currently written, as of August of this year, I would need to send one clutch ball of each run in to a third party accredited laboratory to test for lead and phthalates – a component in plastics.  There are no plastics anywhere on the ball, but because it is intended for children under 3, it would need to be evaluated for this toxin as well.  The test is destructive, so I would not get my clutch ball back.  And, they would break it down into components – 5 for this product - and perform the tests – to the tune of an average price of $75 per component for lead and $250 per component for phthalates.  That totals $1500 to test 1 clutch ball that retails for $16.50. 


Now, after I receive the test results, I would need to permanently mark each clutch ball with a distinguishing label listing place of manufacture, company information, date of manufacture and identifying numbers for the batch – different labels for every batch, or run, of 10 clutch balls.  The tracking on this alone is burdensome, and would only prove to increase administrative costs without any safety enhancements.  For one of a kind artists, this process would be impossible.  The other key point that needs to be made is that fabrics are inherently known by science to be lead and phthalate free (as long as no coatings are added).  Component based testing – where the supplier of my raw materials would certify the compliance of my components – would be a much more logical, cost effective approach to prove compliance, but the law does not allow for such flexibility.


On Thursday evening, a vote was held on the Senate floor for S.964 – an amendment presented to remedy some of the unintended consequences of the CPSIA.  It is my understanding that just prior to the vote, Sen. Pryor assured the Democratic leadership that Commissioner Moore of the CPSC has gone on record stating that the Commission has the authority and the discretion to address the issues of implementation – that the law does not need to be amended.  Instead of a change in the law – a change in the leadership at the CPSC (Acting Chairman Nord) is needed to enforce the law with common sense.  This is something that I have been told time and time again.  I so badly want to believe that it is true.  Two things in particular make me believe differently, though.  First, the NY District Court overturned a ruling that the CPSC had made regarding phthalate retroactivity and put the industry in a whirl wind just a few days prior to the date of implementation.  Secondly, just last week, the CPSC had the opportunity to grant an exemption to ease the burden on the motor bike and ATV industry.  Rather than voting to grant the exemption, Commissioner Moore voted against the exemption.


So today, I call on you Mr. President, to please help me and so many other small business owners like me.  If new leadership at the CPSC is all that is needed, then please appoint someone quickly.  As it stands, I will be put out of business on 8/14/09.  Not because my products are unsafe, or because of the state of the economy.  But instead because I can not afford the testing protocol that the CPSIA imposes on my company.  I need your help and your guidance to save small business from the CPSIA.


Thank you for your leadership.


Best Regards,


Jill Chuckas

Owner, Designer – Crafty Baby

Secretary – Handmade Toy Alliance      
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