Friday, January 09, 2009

Local TV News Interview ....

I contacted a local TV channel earlier this week when I saw that they were doing a story about the CPSIA - the law that is requiring mandatory testing for lead in ANY item made of children aged 12 and under. I told them a bit about my business and how this would impact me in case they were interested in looking at the story from another angle.

To my surprise & delight they got back to me immediately! I found out at 8pm Tues that they were coming at 10am Wed to talk to me in my studio space! Holy Smokes!!!!!!!

I madly cleaned up my space and prepared for my interview...this is the link to the piece that appeared on the news

gock's frocks aka Kristen Hallagan talking about the CPSIA

I asked Heather of liliputians NYC if I could share a blog post she wrote for Boutique Cafe and she heartily agreed:

"The sky is falling! Yes, I feel a like an overly dramatic Chicken Little. And I wish it were true considering recent congressional legislation is about to crush the life out of the handmade clothing and toy industry. I’m talking about H.R. 4040, the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) signed into law August 14, 2008, and the ramifications it will have when it goes into effect February 10, 2009 (now being popularly referred to as National Bankruptcy Day).

Make no mistake. CPSIA was necessary in principle and has noble intentions, keeping our children safe and holding companies accountable for importing toxic toys. We all demand safety for our children and this is the intent of CPSIA; specifically to ensure safe levels of lead and phthalates in all products manufactured for children under the age of 12. Unfortunately this legislation lacks common sense, is ambiguous and fails to take into account the handmade industry.

What you see is not what you get with CPSIA. There is no distinction between big, small, or even micro one-person businesses. Whether it’s a large-scale manufacturer importing apparel to be sold in big box stores, or a work-at-home mom (WAHM) selling customs on ebay, the legislation applies the same to all.

Unit testing will be required on finished products, regardless if the components are natural materials or if you have documentation from a vendor stating that buttons, for example, are certified lead-free. As it stands, H.R. 4040 fails to recognize that textile products are inherently lead-free. Why then is an organic cotton shirt being tested for lead exactly?

Unit testing is extremely cost prohibitive to small business, but worse, it is unnecessary. In fact, it is completely redundant if the components that comprise the whole have already been tested and due diligence can prove they meet the guidelines.

To put a real dollar amount to testing one of my products, I solicited a lab quote. I was told it was $75 to test for lead per garment component and each substrate. Coated or painted items such as buttons are $100. So my Little Red Riding Hood Shirt, a 100% cotton knit shirt with an appliqué made from 7 cotton fabrics and 2 buttons eyes would cost $625 to test for lead. Flammability testing is also required and is either $50 for a certificate per component stating it meets weight code or $100 for actual testing. So add another $400-$800 for a grand total of $1,025-$1425. in testing costs for a shirt that retails for $40. If the shirt is offered in another colorway, the same testing is required despite the fact that the same fabrics are used throughout.

Small manufacturers have no way of absorbing the price of such redundancy. And all manufacturers will be required to test a finished component/item from each batch. Easy to do in mass production—simply pull one sample from a lot of thousands. But how does one comply when your “batches” are made-to-order batches of one? SKUs will also be required for each product with a permanent label on the item itself.

CPSIA will be retroactive and takes a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach with extremely hefty fines for violators. As written, any product used by children 12 and under (such as toys, footwear, carpets, clothing, bedding, luggage, lamps, toys, books, magazines, baseball cards, consumer electronics, school supplies, office supplies, jewelry, housewares, sports equipment and so on) without the newly required certification would be deemed hazardous, whether the item poses an actual threat or not. So on February 10, 2009, any unsold merchandise (in big box stores, the corner boutique, your fabric stash) will be deemed “hazardous goods” and illegal to sell unless 3rd party testing proves otherwise. By the way, there are only 14 said labs currently in the United States.

Think you won’t be affected? I hope not, but the sad truth is that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) will be. Do you make children’s clothing, toys, jewelry, hair bows, accessories, furniture, artwork or anything else “intended for use by children age 12 and under”? Are you a retailer of children’s goods? Do you resell used children’s clothing or toys on ebay? Do you participate or shop at craft fairs? Do you donate used children’s items to needy organizations? Do you belong to a church that has rummage sales as a fundraiser? Does your child play sports and get their uniforms from a local screen print shop? Are you a consumer shopping for alternatives to mass-produced toys? If so, this law takes away that freedom.

Surely this legislation can be amended by incorporating some common sense and still make it possible to ensure our children’s safety without further hurting the US economy. According to the 2002 Economic Census (the last survey of its type), small U.S. clothing manufacturers (with fewer than 20 employees) contribute over $900 million dollars [consider: nearly $1 billion dollars] annually to the economy and comprise 68% of total apparel manufacturing in the U.S. This is clearly a vital and contributing asset to our economy. Multiply this fallout exponentially when you take into account the myriad other manufacturers, retailers and businesses that will be hurt or ultimately driven out of business.

So, why should you support amending this legislation?

Because the CPSIA isn’t fair and will not function as written. It inadvertently punishes American industries unrelated to toys and will ultimately result in fewer alternatives to mass produced merchandise made in China. The concept that small producers should be subject to the same rigorous standards but with lesser regulation (and common sense) has already been fought for and sustained in the food industry, which is why your local farmers market still exists. Now this same idea needs to be applied to children’s products.

What can you do?
1) Email or call the CPSIA - the office of the CPSC ombudsman 888-531-9070.
Comments on Component Parts Testing accepted through January 30, 2009.

2) Email or snail mail your representatives.

3) call your representatives

4) Spread the word! Write about this on your blog. Tell others about this issue and encourage them to do the same.

7) Join others in fighting this cause.
Facebook group
cpsia central

8) Join the etsy community

9) Read more about this legislation and its ramifications:

Fashion Incubator

Handmade Toy Alliance

National Bankruptcy Day


Angel said...

Good job Kristen! Do you mind if I link to it on my blog too?


Melissa said...

Great interview! I sure hope some sense gets talking into the politicians that developed this rediculous law. Do they honestly not think of any of the other business besides Walmart and the like? I just still can't believe this, seriously....

Jeannine said...

Bravo, I applause you with all my heart. I am so sad about this whole thing, and don't understand it at the same time. I will use your site to try and help the situation. Thank you for all the info. Great interview.

Amy said...

Way cool. season is kicking my butt. It's 5am and we're getting ready to head to our first race. Have a good day. Give me a call some time or email me at school I don't think you have my new email address. A

Paula said...

Hey Kristen--

Saw you on the news... and I was like... "Hey Paul, there's Kristen on the news" Unfortunately he looked up in time to see the fabric and thinks I should have friends who don't think having large stacks of fabric is normal! LOL This rule is an example of why I had to get outside of the beltway... remember there is no such thing as common sense... if there was, everyone would have it! Quite a discussion in the quilting community about this as well. S C A R Y !!!


Liz Amason said...

Hey There !

Just wanted to share that I used your $15,000+ skirt example on my new blog post about CPSIA. Thanks and hope you like it.

Carlie said...

Way to go on the interview! Kepp your fingers crossed.