Waaaaaaaay back in December, you might remember I wrote my representatives a letter about the CPSIA of 2008. As a small crafter of children’s items and a consumer of handmade goods for myself and my children, I was extremely worried about the stringent testing requirements called for in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Specifically, I envisioned a future in which only a few huge manufacturers (the same ones, perhaps, whose outsourcing caused the lead scandals in the first place?) could afford to put children’s items on the market, and in which thrift stores and libraries were cleared out of children’s items entirely. Considering I only buy handmade or second-hand, that’s a problem for me.
Less than a month after writing, Senator Lugar replied, with a letter that was short and on the vague side, but implied that he understood where I was coming from as a small business-type person, at least, even if he overlooked my roles as a parent who buys natural and handmade children’s things and an environmentalist who buys second-hand children’s things.
In late February, Representantive Hill also replied, in a letter that was much more thoughtful (though much more belated), although still, perhaps, missing my point that throwing more legislation at a poorly written act is, while more helpful than not, less the solution I’d completely prefer.
Finally, here in early July, I have my reply from Senator Evan Bayh. Here we go:
Dear Mrs. Finn: (again with the Mrs.! I know good and well I signed myself as a Ms.)
Thank you for contacting me regarding the new product testing rules from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). I appreciate your thoughts and understand your concerns.
Congress established the CPSC in 1972 to protect the public from unreasonable health and safety risks posed by the thousands of goods under the agency’s jurisdiction. Yet, in recent years, we have witnessed a series of incidents and high-profile recalls involving toxic and dangerous household goods and children’s toys. American consumers deserve to know that products sold in this country are safe.
To address the CPSC’s shortcomings, Congress enacted sweeping reform by passing the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which became law on August 14, 2008. The agency will now have the resources, staff and authority it needs to achieve its mission of maintaining confidence in our products and protecting American consumers. The new law took effect on February 10, 2009, and I have been monitoring its implementation to ensure that its goals are met.
At times, the CPSC has suffered from a lack of direction and an often incoherent approach to ensuring consumer health and safety. A series of congressional hearings leading up to the enactment of CPSIA found that a leadership vacuum left the agency ill-equipped to carry out its mission effectively. In particular, the Commission developed a reputation of indifference to the challenges faced by small businesses in implementing the agency’s rulemaking.
As a result, many small business owners became alarmed by the prospect of complying with CPSIA’s tough new rules regarding the testing of consumer goods for contaminants. I am disappointed that the CPSC did
not do a better job of communicating the specifics of the new law and the testing regime it mandates. Entrepreneurs and craftspeople should have been better prepared for any new requirements imposed upon them. Ultimately, at the urging of Congress, the agency issued a “Guide to the CPSIA for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters and Charities.” This document attempts to answer some of the more frequently asked questions posed by small manufacturers and shop owners, and I hope that it will serve as a resource to you in your efforts to comply with CPSIA. The guide is available on the Commission’s website at
Small businesses are the engine that drives Indiana’s economy. Moreover, I believe our nation’s competitiveness hinges on our ability to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit and provide a policy environment
that helps our nation’s job creators start or expand their businesses. I have been honored to serve on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship since 2003, putting me in a unique position to help Hoosier small businesses – which constitute 97.6 percent of all businesses in Indiana. While our small business owners confront many obstacles unique to their fields, they all share the challenge of growing a successful business in a fast-paced, global economy.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I hope the information I have provided has been helpful. My website, http://bayh.senate.gov <http://bayh.senate.gov/> , can provide additional details about my work in the Senate, including legislation and state projects. You can also sign up for occasional email updates. I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter to you.
Office of Senator Evan Bayh
Washington, D.C. 20510
Fascinating. I find Senator Bayh’s criticism of the CPSC most interesting–is the CPSIA of 2008 the result of an incompetent bureaucratic organization trying to do something way too big for it to handle, or the result of an incompetent bureaucratic organization slowly and painfully trying to get its act together? Either way, I’m still not sold that tons of stringent testing regulations is what is going to get poisonous kids’ products out of our nation’s Wal-marts, but as long as the exemptions for second-hand sellers and natural goods hold, I suppose I’ll let Playskool and Little Tykes figure it out, and keep shopping my own little handmade and Goodwill way.
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Well, at least he didn’t tell you the law was all happy rose scented unicorn farts…
I know, that’s my favorite part!
Yea, I’m with you guys. The transparency in that letter is really heartening!
Actually, I would put the blame for the CPSIA mess square on the shoulders of incompetent government officials!
I would love to know what exemptions for resellers you know about that I’ve missed somewhere…This reseller has found very little to celebrate in any exemptions Congress or the CPSC have come up with so far in regards to this mess of a law.
I’ve almost stopped contacting my reps because I get the exact same reply every time. It just shows they don’t read my letters and they don’t care. These were letters sent snail mail which is supposed to get more attention. Oh well, they’ve lost my votes.
sounds about typical…and they wonder why people are so apathetic about voting
I’m sorry, but if you’ll read the link closely, there is NO EXEMPTION for natural goods and second hand sellers. It states that second hand sellers need not test, but that is true for first hand sellers also. Manufacturers must supply GCCs backed by testing; retailers are not manufacturers; however, retailers may not sell items that violate the law. The linked CPSC announcement goes on to say, “Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.” That has always been the case; this announcement was merely a “clarification” of the convoluted mess. If anything, the CPSC has hinted that it will not expend resources to hunt down second hand stores, but you still have to remember the 50 Attorneys General who are empowered by the law to enforce it as they see fit.
As far as the “natural goods exemption”, that has long been rumored but has never come to pass (and is not even mentioned in the linked CPSC announcement). It would require component testing, which has been proposed by manufacturing groups and test labs, but has NEVER been approved. Congress would like to blame that on Nord, but in fact the law provides little wiggle room on the subject.
I feel compelled to point out that the CPSC was considering a **proposed** rule to exempt clothing made from 100% natural fibers (cotton, flax, hemp, etc.). I believe I have never seen such a thing. Thread is typically polyester, you have buttons and zippers, and of course there is the dye. So basically they had a rule proposal to allow rough, undyed, diapers and togas and undyed wooden shoes. As far as I can find, they have never finalized that rule, probably because of the furor that erupted leading up to and in the wake of the one year stay of enforcement in February.