Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Maybe I'm Cynical...

It's not a maybe. I am.

I am not necessarily always cynical, but definitely when it comes to our wonderful government.

I have had two things remind me this week of why this is the case.

Item one...

Most people that know Nathan and I know that we really prefer wooden and fabric toys for our kids. There are lots of these types of toys on the market right now, as they seem to be growing in popularity. However, we really have a love for handmade items made in American, Canada and Europe. There are many reasons for this - they last longer, children are more likely to use their own creativity to play, fewer concerns with "chemicals" in the toys, and we are supporting a craftsman/woman in their art. These are just a few reasons.

It appears that our government is trying to put new regulations in place to prevent the fiasco that happened last year with recalling toys due to lead issues. (Thank you, China...you make such wonderful things for our kids). And I am glad to know that they are trying to "fix" this issues. However, this process of "fixing" is squashing, strike that, killing the little guy's business. Below is what Handmade Toy Alliance's website says:

In 2007, large toy manufacturers who outsource their production to China and other developing countries violated the public's trust. They were selling toys with dangerously high lead content, toys with unsafe small part, 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 toy makers, however, the costs of mandatory testing will likely drive them out of business.

  • A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
  • A work at home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craft fairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
  • A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
  • And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earned and kept the public's 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.

The lovely handmade toys on Etsy or HyenaCart will no longer be available. Not only that, but it is possible that some handmade clothing would fall into this category as well. Also, some European and Canadian toy makers are already pulling out of the American market as a result of this. If you feel so inclined, please write your Congress Person and Senator...tomorrow, December 10th, is the deadline.

Item two...

Admittedly, this issue seems to be much more serious in nature. However, the toy thing is something I care about...so I blog about.

Last week my mom brought to my attention a few articles that she had read about a SWAT team raiding an organic food co-op in Ohio. I hadn't heard anything about it until this point. So, she sent me a few articles. After doing some research and reading online, plus talking with a friend who lives in Ohio, I found this to actually be a true story. Sad, but true.

I am not sure I could even do justice to the story without quoting another blog or website, so here are a list of articles/blogs that will give you the story:

The Bovine

True Discernment

AIP News


So, our government is okay with some melamine in our infant formula, but send a SWAT team out for an organic food co-op due to a possible licensing violation? Seriously? Since when did we live in a police state, and when are we going to get our Constitutional rights back. This is America, right?

See why I'm cynical?


Shannon Spaulding said...

as for the first issue, what do you expect them to do? they cannot assume that all toys from the US, Canada and some European countries are safe. they're not. just because toys are hand-made or from a small company does not mean they are safe. if you want to enforce a toy safety law, you have to enforce it on all players. (we require that ALL drivers wear seat belts, not just the ones with a bad driving record.) if you have a suggestion to make the regulations less expensive to comply with for small businesses, then you should write your congressman or start a petition.

Stephanie said...

It is hard to know your tone from your post, but I am going to assume that you are just saying it matter-of-fact-like...and that is how my response should be taken. ;)

I realize that they can't assume all toys made in the US, Canada and some European counties are safe. While I think chances are they are probably are safter than MIC toys, it is not a guarantee. And I agree that you do have to enforce the toy laws on everyone, but I think there should be a different way to approach it when it comes to individuals and small companies. Obviously, they can't afford $4,000 a toy for testing. I don't have the answer (though I am sure someone does), but that doesn't mean I am not writing my congressman or senator.

Shannon Spaulding said...

i mean my tone to be matter-of-fact as well.

the really nice thing about the blogosphere is that it's easier to inform people of issues like this, and it's easier to mobilize active responses. i think it's a great way to keep our democracy working well. so go on! spread the word! :)