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Small businesses say flaws in new product safety law will force them to shut

Posted by: John Tozzi on January 9, 2009

I just started looking into a story on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, after a reader on Twitter alerted me to it a few days ago. The law is intended to ensure that toys and other kids products don’t have unsafe levels of lead and another harmful chemical, phthalates. But the law, which takes effect Feb. 10, could require people who make handcrafted goods or screen-print baby tees to test each batch of products for lead levels, which could be prohibitively expensive for many small companies and home-based artisans. Lots of folks who sell on Etsy and eBay are worried.

There’s already been a fair amount of press about this. BusinessWeek’s Monica Gagnier blogged yesterday about the implications for thrift stores, which would have been forced to dump old, untested inventory. Regulators just dialed back the rules for companies reselling used children’s products, saying they don’t have to get them tested, but they can still face penalties if they sell items with levels of lead above the new limits.

There’s a growing grassroots campaign online asking the Consumer Product Safety Commission to implement the new law in a way that’s fair to small business owners, while still protecting children from harmful items. And this seems to be an issue that’s picking up steam (the person I talked to briefly in the CPSC press office said they were very busy answering reporters’ calls).

I don’t want to repeat what others have already reported. So for those of you involved in this issue — what do you want to know that you haven’t seen out there already? What should I ask the CPSC when I speak with them next week? How can this law be implemented in a way that’s fair to small business owners? If you run a business that makes or sells childrens’ products, how will the CPSIA affect you? How are you preparing? If you’re a parent, how do you want to see the act implemented?

Tell me in comments, on Twitter, or by email.

Reader Comments

Olivia Omega Logan

January 12, 2009 2:41 PM

Hi John,
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me last week regarding CPSIA impact on small companies.

I would like to know if there will be a budget that small/med. businesses can pull on to help subsidize the high costs of mandatory 3rd party testing. Also, will there be any regulations placed on the 3rd party testing labs making sure they don't take advantage of the mandate by increasing rates. Thanks for covering this story! Olivia


Owner, Baby Candy Store ( & Founder, Congrats from Colorado (


January 19, 2009 2:36 AM

Basically all one has to do is print page 1 and fill in the information and you are done. There is no official certification process, and it is a self issued certificate. You just have to "accompany" said certificate with a product and have it be "furnished" with distributors and retailers (aka you can just have it on your website and a note on your website, and a link to your website on a tag on the product). As for the testing?

Q. On what does my certification have to be based?
A. The general conformity certification must be based on a test of each product or a reasonable testing program.

So, or any such product tested on one's manufactured product would suffice as long as it can detect lead in the required levels. In the "certificate" you simply note that it was a self test, and I guess you could even say what you used for the self test. Nowhere does it say that a third party test is required, or which specific tests must be performed.

So, if your goods are under the 600ppm (and soon 300ppm) level, all you have to do is create the certificate. If your goods are not, well they shouldn't be sold anyways.

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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