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What CPSIA Has Done

Friday, July 31, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Why Congress at work is dangerous:

Hi, you asked small manufacturers to report to you how we’re doing with tracking labels. I was happy to receive some guidance from the CPSC, but sadly it doesn’t change my situation.

My biggest problem with the tracking label guidance is the vagueness of “to the extent practicable” and the exemption from labeling if the label would mar the product’s “aesthetics.” I make hand-crocheted baby booties. It is physically possible to attach a label to them. However, the only way for me to do so without stitching showing on the outside is to sew the labels in by hand. For me to do this would increase my costs past the point where the business is profitable (they’re already pushed to that line by the recession and compliance with all the rest of CPSIA minus the third party testing requirement, which I’ll get to below). Clearly CPSIA was not meant to consider costs when thinking about what’s “practicable,” so this wouldn’t hold up as a defense of not labeling. I could claim that the aesthetics of the crocheted texture would be marred by machine stitching lines. However, I really don’t feel comfortable betting that everyone at the CPSC and every state AG and every consumer group’s lawyer would agree with me. So these “extent practicable” and “aesthetic” exemptions are worthless to me without the assurance that my judgment as the artisan will not be second-guessed by a platoon of philistines… which assurance, of course is not provided to me under CPSIA.[# More #]

Then there’s the issue of whether hand-crocheted baby booties are shoes or socks. I applied for an RN number several months ago and was denied because the FTC considered baby booties to be shoes. However, I don’t think my booties are shoes. I think they’re more like socks because they don’t have hard soles, they’re a bit on the stretchy side, and they’re worn only by babies who are not walking. If my booties are socks, then they are exempt from labeling. But if they’re shoes, I have to label one of each pair. And as noted above, the cost of labeling would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m not going to get a second job so that I can afford to sell baby booties.

At any rate it is a moot point. I won’t be selling baby booties after August 13, because I can’t afford to meet the third party testing requirements. I had my booties’ materials tested for lead by an environmental engineer using XRF technology, and their lead levels are non-detectable. But because the engineer doesn’t work for a CPSC-approved lab and wear a pretty white lab coat, and because CPSC hasn’t yet ruled on whether XRF is an acceptable test for textiles, that’s just not good enough to meet the CPSIA requirements. Even though my booties are covered by the CPSC’s stay of enforcement, I don’t dare risk being made an example of by a state AG. I’ve put my own real name on my anti-CPSIA posts and comments, and while it’s not likely I’d be targeted, I just can’t take the risk. Two of my kids are on the autism spectrum and don’t handle change well, and losing all our assets to a lawsuit would be a change massive enough that the fallout could break up my family. 2009 was going to be the year I incorporated, being my 5th year in business, but between the recession and all the CPSIA confusion I wasn’t able to get enough wholesale orders to make it worthwhile. And now it’s all over. I’ll keep going through December making the products that got me started, dishcloths and dish scrubbers. But they were never as profitable as the booties, and I can’t grow my business on such thin gruel. I’ll try selling the patterns for my booties, but as I discovered when trying to find contractors to make them, there are only a limited number of people who are capable of making them, so I probably won’t find a huge market for the patterns.

Thanks for being such a vocal advocate for those of us affected by CPSIA. Please don’t give up the fight! I’m not giving it up. I’ve been contributing posts to to educate the public and also affected businesses.

Sarah Natividad

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