CPSIA Update: Goodbye Curious Workmanship

We waited in vain throughout all of yesterday Senate Committee Commerce confirmation hearing for the Consumer Product Safety Commission nominees to hear just one sentence, one acknowledgment from a Senator or nominee about the CPSIA’s real impact: “I know the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act has put people out of business…”

As we waited, across the nation in Tooele, Utah, Sarah Natividad of Curious Workmanship was calling it quits. The home-schooling mom of four and former math professor operated a “microbusiness” that produced handmade baby booties in Tooele, Utah. (We wrote about her in June 24 Washington Times op-ed, “Lead-footed safety issues.”)

Curious Workmanship was dragged down by the legal liability and costs imposed by the CPSIA’s third-party testing requirements, prohibitively expensive and risk-laden to many home-based businesses and manufacturers of small-batch products. Sarah reports at her Organic Baby Farm blog about the end of Curious Workmanship.

[Yarn] is only covered under the CPSC’s stay of enforcement for third party testing, which expires Feb. 10, 2010. And I know for a fact my yarn is lead-free– I had it tested by XRF by an environmental engineer. However, this testing doesn’t meet the third party testing requirement, because it wasn’t done by a certified lab– those tests I can’t afford. On August 14, I (and everybody else who’s trusted in the CPSC’s stay to protect them) become fair game for any of the 50 state Attorneys General plus any plaintiff’s lawyers, who DO NOT have to follow CPSC’s stay of enforcement.

That is why I’m going out of business now. The CPSC’s stay of enforcement only protects me from CPSC action. It does not protect me from everybody else’s lawyers. They can sue me for violating the third party testing requirement, even though my booties are lead-free. It only takes one to ruin my life. I don’t think it’s likely they’d come after me, but I just can’t take the chance. I have a family to think of; losing all our assets (which is what a lawsuit would mean) could be strain enough to break it up. Not only that, but if I sell things wholesale that don’t meet the letter of CPSIA law, stay or no stay, I’m putting all my retailers and distributors at risk too. THEY can be sued by any of these same lawyers for selling a noncompliant product, and if they get sued, so probably will I. My business model, which I’ve always thought was a good idea that enabled my booties to be on the Ellen DeGeneres show twice and to put together international wholesale orders, also puts me at exponentially more risk from CPSIA than the average retail crafter as well.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) mentioned the attorney general enforcement factor in the confirmation hearing yesterday, but the possibility of private suits or class-action litigation has escaped much discussion. During her confirmation hearing, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) told now CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum he wanted her to return to the Commerce Committee to discuss the CPSIA’s implementation.

Let’s have the testing and litigation issues figure prominently in that hearing. And let’s hear a first-person account from Sarah Natividad or one of the many others like her: “The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act has put me out of business.”

Leave a Reply