In Santa’s Workshop, Rising Costs

By December 24, 2008General

Yes, it’s completely understandable that the news media are now, this week, jumping on the story about the new consumer product safety law threatening the economic viability of toy companies. (See here and here.) You’ve got the Christmas angle, the coming effective date of the law’s testing provisions, the toy manufacturers are making a PR effort, etc.

But you know, these objections were being raised during debate on the various consumer product safety bills that eventually became Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Many manufacturers pointed out that the lead-content restrictions bore little if any connection to health risks and that testing costs could prove prohibitive.

And the warnings proved prescient. The AP now reports, “Ho, ho, no: Toymakers say lead law harms workshops“:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Worries over lead paint in mass-market toys made the holidays a little brighter for handcrafted toy makers last year, but now the federal government’s response to the scare has some workshops fearful that this Christmas might be their last.

Without changes to strict new safety rules, they say, mom-and-pop toy makers and retailers could be forced to conduct testing and labeling they can’t afford, even if they use materials as benign as unfinished wood, organic cotton and beeswax.

“It’s ironic that the companies who never violated the public trust, who have already operated with integrity, are the ones being threatened,” said Julia Chen, owner of The Playstore in Palo Alto, which specializes in wooden and organic playthings.

With respect, Ms. Chen, and we appreciate your frustration, but it’s not really ironic. It’s entirely predictable.

More from the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, “Local toy makers say new safety law is overreaching, unfair“:

As the owner of St. Paul’s Peapods natural toys and baby care store, Dan Marshall is all for keeping children safe.

But Marshall is afraid that a new law will put toy makers in the Twin Cities out of business. The law was enacted after highly-publicized recalls last year over excessive amounts of lead paint in toys made in China.

He and owners of some of these small businesses gathered Tuesday morning at Peapods to warn that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed in August is overly stringent for small toymakers with a solid track record manufacturing products in the U.S.

They say the testing is prohibitively expensive, redundant and testing sites aren’t easy to find. “We cannot financially be compliant,” said Tanya Westerman, owner of Little Canada-based Kangaroo Korner, which makes baby-holding slings and pouches.

Perhaps the advocates of regulation at any cost are really after another goal — a simpler, less competitive time, with fewer luxuries like baby-holding slings and pouches.

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