In August 2008 The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was passed and will be in force, February 2009. Under this law, all makers of children's items (including toys, clothing, bedding, etc.) will be required to have 3rd party testing done on each of their products to ensure that there is no presence of lead. While at first glance, this sounds like a fabulous act aimed at protecting our children - and who am I to argue, the safety of our children should ALWAYS be at the top of our concerns. However, as with many US laws, the application of this is a bit skewed.
Now many of my fellow small business artisans, as well as Handmade Toy Alliance, believe they should be excluded from this law and are actively seeking exemptions. The 3rd party testing is cost prohibitive, etc. Again, who am I to argue - I can't afford the testing myself. But here is my problem with the whole thing:
If it isn't safe for our children, it isn't safe for ANYONE. And, even if a small exposure wouldn't hurt me - a (largish) adult - if I have been exposed and then handle a child, they are now EXPOSED. Lead is TRANSFERABLE.
In MY opinion, this needs to go back to the material producers. As with all chemicals, ALL materials should be required to produce a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) listing any and all potentially hazardous agents. The window cleaner you use has one, the tape you use has one - why not your yarn? The paints, the adhesives, the dyes - any kind of "chemical" we use in our art - ALREADY is required to have this information available to any and all that may COME INTO CONTACT (not just the purchaser). Many times this is available online, sometimes it has to requested from the manufacturer - but it is ALWAYS BY LAW AVAILABLE. Why is this not the case with all of our materials? What chemicals were applied to my yarn in the processing? Could they be hazardous? Could I simply be allergic? Requiring MSDS on all materials would allow us to REALLY know what we are exposing ourselves to. Much like listing the ingredients on our food, it makes us a more informed consumer.
How would this help Joe Artisan? Well, much like a building contractor, being required to provide (at request) the MSDS for all material used in their small business item would nullify the need for 3rd party testing. While it would require extra time acquiring the necessary information (which they should do PRIOR to applying to their product to ensure safety and that it passes all applicable laws) there is no additional out of pocket expense. And, might I add (in case someone with some pull is reading) this would mean no additional expense to large manufacturers as well.
Of course, all of this is just MY opinion - and who am I?
If you are the "petition-signing" type, there is a place for you to state YOUR opinion here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/handmadetoys/
If you are "I need more information" type, there are some great articles (albeit mostly written by opposers) here: