Under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was signed into law last year, products for children under the age of 13 will need to be tested for lead (and for phthalates in products for kids 3 and under). This all came about after cheap toys imported from China were found to contain lead, which was, by the way, in violation of then-existing laws.
Bear in mind that, in the United States, lead poisoning is not as common anymore as it has already largely been removed from products where it is not necessary. It was once pretty widely used before its effects on health were understood. Around 40 years ago, lead was banned from products and in industries that had dangerous levels of it. Existing laws already covered the use of lead in products.
These days, the most common cause of lead exposure in children is exposure to lead paint, or playing in or on the grounds of older buildings where lead paint or other lead products may have been used. Cases of lead poisoning in children often occur among families living in houses built in the 1950’s or earlier, where lead paint may still be present. Most childhood victims of lead poisoning are between the ages of 1 and 4.
Lead poisoning occurs when lead is inhaled or ingested. Lead particles may be present on the grounds of old buildings, and can still be present even if the building is no longer there. Lead dust could be stirred up when children are playing outside. Also, paint chips may be eaten by small children that and lead may be ingested that way.
So, as children grow older, they generally learn not to lick and taste everything, which is why lead poisoning becomes less common as children grow older.
But, still the new law is designed to, supposedly, protect children under the age of 13. A lot of people get wrapped up in the “let’s protect the children” hysteria, and historically we know well that politicians and despots will use the “protect the children” mantra with the intent to control the adult population and not out of any real concern for children, and people fall under the politician’s spell that to oppose such legislation is to have a total disregard for the health and safety of children.
Any person who examines the CPSIA legislation with a rational mind can see that that’s simply not the case.
So, let’s examine why it is children under the age of 13 that are being “protected” here. Why aren’t they limiting it to products designed for children under the age of 5, where most cases occur?
For years, there have been people arguing that the government is trying to destroy families. Often, such individuals are regarding as nut cases, and will often be portrayed that way in fictional media (television entertainment programs) as well as in non-fictional media (television news and newspapers). But, here we can see some potentially devastating effects on families by examining who will be hurt most by the CPSIA requirements.
Large manufacturers will have no problem adjusting to the new requirements. They produce product in bulk and are much more able to pass the costs along to consumers. It is small businesses, start-up businesses, home businesses and individuals who will suffer the most under the CPSIA requirements. They are the least able to absorb the costs and pass them along to consumers. They produce products in much smaller quantities and, thus, the per item cost can rise exponentially. For many of these businesses and entrepreneurs, the cost of testing may far exceed the cost of production. And, not being able to pass the costs along to consumers (who would pay $100 for something that previously sold for $5?), they will simply fold.
Even if exemptions are made for small volume producers, such exemptions will be essentially meaningless, as how can they expect to compete in the marketplace against high volume manufacturers that will be able to mark their products as “certified safe” or “certified lead-free” or some such thing? A lot of the untested products will in reality be safe but, because they are not tested, they will be considered hazardous. As such, it will be illegal to sell them so businesses that cannot afford the testing will likely close.
Of course, some people may be of the opinion that getting untested products out of the marketplace might be a good thing. However, many products aren’t likely to even contain lead, yet would still have to be tested. Products made of components already tested for lead would need to be tested once again. Some manufacturers may produce raw materials, such as fabric, that may not be subject to testing and would be unwilling to incur the added expense of testing, so the burden of testing would once again fall on the small manufacturer.
Even there, some people may be mislead by the term “manufacturer,” thinking it as some entity running a plant somewhere producing products, but that is not the case. Anyone, including individuals, that creates an end-product for use by consumers is classified as a manufacturer. Grandmothers who knit scarves and mittens for sale at church bazaars are manufacturers.
Families that may rely the supplemental income from creating children’s clothing and toys for sale on Etsy, eBay, and other sites, as well as local flea markets and other venues, will have that income effectively taken away from them. Persons that run small businesses catering to children’s markets will be out of work and may need to file for bankruptcy and unemployment benefits. Any employees they may have had will be looking for work as well.
So, in order to “protect” children, Congress will be forcing many children across the nation to suffer because their already struggling parents will end up in even worse shape. Not only will they be out of work, but the places they may have relied on to purchase low priced goods for their children may be gone as well. These parents will have less money and, on top of that, the products they need will be more expensive.
Yet, it seems many Congressmen, and even the general public, remain unsympathetic. After all, they want to “protect” children from lead and what better way to protect children from lead than by forcing out of business the very businesses that weren’t found selling lead-tainted toys to children and rewarding (by reducing competition) those large businesses that were culpable? Already, some European toy companies, who produce toys that were already made to higher standards than is required in the United States, will be pulling out of the U.S. marketplace because they cannot afford the added costs of additional testing here.
Essentially, the very toy manufacturers that were responsible for the lead-tainted toys scares of the last couple years will get a tiny slap on the wrist, but then reap the reward of having less competition in the marketplace.
Even if you are not among the “lucky” manufacturers that will be forced out of business in February, you will still be affected. There will be fewer products available for children. You’ll have to rely more on mass-market goods and less on specialty goods. Less choice is never a good thing. It may result in higher prices as well.
Now, just think about all the niche markets that are out there, and how many of those might be gone because the businesses can’t afford the testing. Think of religious markets, for example. How many of them will be able to afford testing? What of specialty goods, things marketed toward families of specific cultures or ethnicities? For example, many Native American vendors will not be able to afford testing and they will not be able to sell children’s goods that are culturally important. Think about Amish made children’s furniture, toys and clothing. These could all be gone.
A lot of the focus of discussions and news have been home-made toys and clothing or thrift shops. Very little, if any, attention has been given to the numerous other industries that will be affected.
Do you read to your children at night? You may have fewer choices because books, too, will have to be tested. That may mean that some smaller children’s book publishers may close or reduce dramatically the number of titles they produce, which will also be bad news for children’s book authors. Libraries may even have to close their children’s books sections.
Do you have a family game night? Used toys that are untested will be banned, so many will be tossed rather than sold because the costs of testing will be too high.
Think about scouting for boys and girls. All those uniforms and badges they earn will need to be tested. Remember the pinewood derby? Hopefully you videotaped it, because those cars and parts will need to be tested as well. That’s not a mass-market item, so who knows if companies will be able to continue producing those kits?
Think about items produced for parents who home school? That’s a small market, and products designed for that market may be subject to testing because such products will be intended for use by children.
Do you rubber stamp, scrapbook or make crafts with your kids? A lot of those supplies are made by small manufacturers and they may not be able to afford the testing, so you might have to kiss scrapbook night goodbye. Granted, rubber stamping and toddlers are not a good combination and some stamps could pose a choking hazard, so you shouldn’t keep them within reach of small children anyway. But, remember that the CPSIA applies to all children under the age of 13. (I got my first rubber stamp when I was 10.)
So, fun stuff you do with your kids, kiss them goodbye.
But, wait, you say… Rubber stamps and crafting supplies are sold to adults; it’s their own business if they do crafts with their kids.
Unfortunately, the CPSIA covers any product intended for kids. Now, you can’t just mark your product as “for ages 13 and up.” That won’t do. If some CPSC bureaucrat decides that a rubber stamp with balloons, cute bears, stars or other images are intended for children, it’s intended for children and must be tested.
If a product is that is subject to such testing that makes it economically unfeasible to produce the product, it is effectively banned.
So, essentially, it will be okay to let your kid listen to a portable MP3 player. It’ll be okay to sit your kids in front of the television all day long. It’ll be okay to let them play with video games. It’ll be okay to let them play with mass-market toys. All those things will be produced by manufacturers who produce the items in such mass quantities that the cost of testing will be largely marginal and simply passed on to the consumer.
But, the smaller market items, the crafting supplies, the different things around which you, as the parent, may spend time doing with your children, those things may be effectively banned.
Earlier, I asked you why it was for kids under the age of 13. Are you beginning to see why? When kids start hitting their teen years, they naturally want to spend less and less time with their parents.
But, during those younger years, kids often enjoy playing games or doing crafts with their parents. It can help build lasting memories that they’ll remember into adulthood and want to repeat with their own children.
But, now, building those memories during the pre-teen years will become harder for parents, as the things that will certainly remain available, such as television and DVDs, are things that tend to keep families apart rather than bring them together. Many parents don’t agree with the values that are expressed in mass-market products, like some children’s books as an example, but, after the CPSIA, the smaller market products, the products that may be more in alignment with their values, may not be available anymore, simply because the cost of testing will be too high for small businesses to bear.
Is that the real intent of Congress here? To drive families apart? To effectively ban, without directly banning, those activities, such as rubber stamping, scrapbooking, crafting, etc., that bring young families together? To effectively ban, while perhaps skirting First Amendment issues, small market media that may give children “dangerous” ideas?
It is definitely something to think about…