"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world." -Richard Dawkins

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Fight

Ever since I become pregnant with Ro, I began reading and researching natural parenting. Nothing struck me so hard as being practical and right like natural toys. It spoke to the nine-year-old girl who read Pleasant T. Rowland's mission statement on the back of the Pleasant Company catalogs and thought, "I know she's right. Toys these days are lacking in meaning, intelligence, quality and integrity." Only I said it in nine-year-old terms. It probably sounded more like, "this lady is right! These dolls really ARE cooler than Barbies!" It was around that same time I saw my first Hearthsong catalog at my grandmother's house and learned about wool and wood and Waldorf. I was sold.

Moving back to the point. Nothing has been as important to me throughout the past two and a half years as providing high quality, imaginative toys for my daughter, made by small companies, stay at home moms, and European manufacturers with their finger on the pulse of the true meaning of childhood. Even cloth diapering and working for Alyssa of Cinchworm Carriers has really made me know and love what it means to be a work at home mom who creates handmade items for children.

All of this is now in danger. (Article copy and pasted from the awesome Inhabitots.)

What’s going on:
Due to toy recalls that have occurred recently, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) passed a Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in late summer. We all want safe toys, and for the most part, this Act seemed to be looking out for our kids and their welfare. The Act ensures bans on lead and phthalates in toys, requires better toy labeling, including a batch number, and lastly, the Act mandates third party testing and certification for all toys.

That last line is the major issue. While large, conventional toy companies can easily afford to have individual toys tested, small green, natural, and handmade toy companies can’t. It’s an impossible rule for many toy companies to achieve, and will in essence, shut them down in the U.S. Selecta Spielzeug is one current example in the news. Selecta, who creates wonderful wooden toys will be ceasing U.S. distribution due to the new testing requirements. They won’t be alone either.
Many small American, Canadian, and European toy-makers will most likely be driven out of business. The cost to run individual and mandatory rigorous testing is totally unreachable to most small company toy-makers.

According to the Handmade Toy Alliance the following negative issue examples are connected to the CPSIA:
  • “A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
  • A work at home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craft fairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
  • A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
  • And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.”
Why this matters:
  1. Because we want green toy choices. Many of the conventional toy companies who can afford testing offer few to no sustainable toy options. Currently, the green toy market is held up by a plethora of small companies, family run companies, and individual toy-makers.
  2. Because many of us, bloggers and parents alike, support purchasing handmade children’s items.
  3. Because this will negatively affect not only consumers, but the people behind the toys. Imagine the toy-makers selling through Etsy, or other personal web shops who will be forced to shut down. That’s not cool for their families who may depend on their income.
  4. Because there is no need to do this. Period. Many of the toy companies who will be targeted with this Act have done absolutely nothing wrong. They make proven safe toys. Because of irresponsible companies outside of the U.S., all toy companies will be punished, and that’s simply overkill, and it’s not a fair decision. As the Handmade Toy Alliance states, “The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of toys that have earned and kept the public’s trust: Toys made in the US, Canada, and Europe. The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade toys will no longer be legal in the US.
What you can do:
You can help speak up about this CPSC decision. You can make it known that we as parents deserve choices when it comes to toys for our kids. While yes, we want safe toys, we don’t want only plastic non-sustainable options. We don’t want to put people who don’t deserve it out of work.
First of all, you can sign the online petition to Save Handmade Toys in the USA from the CPSIA. You can also write to your United States Congress Person and Senator to request changes in the CPSIA to save handmade toys. Use the Handmade Toy Alliance sample letter or write your own. You can find your Congress Person here and Senator here.
If you care about the future of green and handmade toys, now is your chance to make a difference. Sign the petition, tell your friends, and let the Consumer Products Safety Commission know what you think.

Thank you.

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