Someone from Think Out Loud should really contact the two women at Grammy & Nonna's Toys on N. Lombard to talk "safe toys" tomorrow -- they're just a few months into their new "responsible toy shop" business and obviously see a need for a toyshop with a conscience in N. Portland... the two grandmas (recent transplants from Eugene) are a wealth of knowledge on the latest in eco-friendly, toxic free, sustainable and overall safe toys. They've really done their research on every single item in their shop. www.grammyandnonnastoys.com -- we're happy their in our neighborhood (albeit an unlikely spot, but close to our house!) and they seem to really be drawing in the crowds!
Amandav and everybody else,
What kind of a premium are you will to pay to buy "eco-friendly, toxic free, sustainable and overall safe toys"? And what labels or certifications mean the most to you?
I've been reviewing some of the concerns about the new law. One comment made on the Handmade Toy Alliance website struck me as the most relevant in terms of a way to approach their concern realistically. The comment from their site is this "If this law had been applied to the food industry, every farmers market in the country would be forced to close while Kraft and Dole prospered" What we can take from this is a couple of ideas: 1. Farmers at farmers markets around the country ARE VERY STRICTLY REGULATED - I know this because my family business is a honey business that primarily sells at Farmers Markets in Northern California. There are annual inspections and certifications AND periodic surprise reviews and inspections to ensure compliance with health and safety standards at the farm. In California there are also inspections and certifications to ensure the product is local and made/ produced by the farm in question and - in the case of our honey farm - we have annual inspections to ensure the honey is Kosher. And 2. I think what we can take away from this is the idea that, while the new regulations may be too strict, the regulations currently in place for farmers who sell at farmer's markets might serve as an ideal model for a regulatory system for small toy manufacturers and toy stores. It would not be a "per-toy" assessment, but more an assessment of the manufacturing plant / the site and the materials used in production. I imagine that the cost of this sort of assessment (when it comes to determining if toys are lead-safe) would be about $450 per site - which is about the cost for a hazard assessment and certificate of compliance for a standard piece of residential real estate. The test could include dust wipe samples of the site and materials and XRF sampling of the materials. It does not need to be complicated or expensive and the companies that are already out there doing hazard assessments of homes could provide this service (using their tools on hand) to toy manufacturers and toy stores. I personally thing all toy stores (and restaurants, and playgrounds, and cafes, etc.) could benefit from having a site-hazard assessment anyway - to make sure these places are safe for children to be in and play at. You don't know how many times (in Portland, Oregon)I have walked into a store or a cafe or bookstore with a play area for children and seen that they toys for the children are not lead safe or the designated play area is surrounded by peeling chipping lead paint. $450 is not much to spend - even if it just protects one child!
To the first point, toy makers are regulated regardless of size. They must take precautions to ensure that their products are safe, comply with safety standards and so on. They are already regulated - this regulation screws small manufacturers (see other people's posts). This said, however, regulation really helped the giant agribusiness and hurt small farms which helped our food production to shift to the agribusiness.
As for the '$450 is not too much to spend - even if it just protects one child!' comment: First, pulling the number $450 out of what I can only presume is close to where you sit with no collaborative evidence is just silly. Second, we're not talking about $450 to protect one child. We're talking about however much per site times all sites. Let's suggested $450 in the math problem. Let's say there are 500,000 small toy maker sites in the US. Would you spend $225 million to protect no children? And, best of all, this does nothing to protect the children who make these toys overseas.
Hi Hazeladd... I wanted to respond to your comment. My name is Tamara Rubin and I am the mother of 4 boys. 3 of my boys have lead poisoning, two from inhaling lead fumes during the work of an unscrupulous painting contractor who illegally open flame torch burned the paint off of the exterior our home in order to prepare it for painting and one got lead poisoning from his school. I don't know why you would assume that I pulled the $450 number out of my butt or why you might say something so inappropriate and rude in a public forum - but I felt it was worth addressing. The $450 number is what a standard hazard assessment costs for a home in the 1600 sf to 2400 sf range. This is the actual cost of several of the hazard assessments I have overseen (in homes and school sites) in my advocacy work since my children were poisoned. I had these assessments done by Net Compliance out of Vancouver, Washington - a very reputable company that I highly recommend. I have had other hazard assessments done by other providers that were not quite as thorough and not as scientific (emotional detachment from the outcome is important in a hazard assessor.) Based on the number of sites tested in a home for that price and the testing methods used - I would imagine it would be easy to extrapolate that the same quantity of tests would be appropriate for (say) a workshop that is 500 to 1000 sf, which is the size of the workshops of most of the small home based businesses that I know (or they are smaller in which case the hazard assessment could be cheaper or more thorough.) These assessments use digestive methods to determine lead levels in wipes samples (up to 10 samples in the $450 price - with additional samples costing $10 to $15 each), they also use visual inspection techniques, and they use an XRF gun on every painted surface or potential hazard (tiles, tubs, sinks, doorknobs). After such a test in a residence, the homeowner is given a VERY THOROUGH multi-page report and certificate stating whether or not they passed or failed the test. Finally for each "approximate $450 spent" per location - MANY children would be protected (any child purchasing the toys from that manufacturer) not just one. I think the example on the broadcast of using reclaimed wood for a rattle - and the need to test that reclaimed wood & workshop to ensure that the woodworker is not using wood from previously lead painted siding - is an example that speaks to this sort of testing. If the woodworker had ever even just once used a piece of wood that had previously been painted with lead paint - a test of this nature would find forensic evidence of this in the floor dust of the workshop (even in the presence of normal cleaning that might occur in such a workshop.) check out my site for more info mychildrenhaveleadpoisoning dot com.
I'm no fan of the over arching rhetoric coming out of the HTA in part because their proposals are untenable being illegal under international law and they've hijacked the broad impact of this law to focus on their very narrow interests rather than everyone else (http://www.nationalbankruptcyday.com) who is also affected but Tamara, you're missing a grave point. What we are being asked to do is the agricultural equivalent of having to test the output of EACH PLANT. Just imagine having to test one zucchini from each vine at a cost of $450 apiece. It's not possible. That said, we have little health and safety regulations and there's MANY producers who don't feel those rules apply to them but really now, there has got to be a safer middle ground that doesn't bury businesses.
Regardless of the outcome of the small toy makers' protests against the new regulations, parents must understand that Federal (or State, or local) regulations do not now?and may not in the foreseeable future? adequately protect their children. It is up to the parent to protect their own child by getting educated and informed and making smart choices for their family, rather than depending on the government to make those choices for them.
As an illustration, the new Federal regulations only bring the acceptable level of lead in a child?s toy down to 600ppm. The 600ppm limit in paint used for children's toys and furniture set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is not in any measure health-based. The American Pediatrics Society's recommendation is that the limit be set at 40ppm.
The 600 PPM number (15 times higher than the APS' recommendation) was set at the insistence of the paint manufacturers themselves, who argued that 600ppm was as lead-free as they could make paint because of "possible lead contamination of the constituents used in the paint manufacturing process". This 600 ppm number does not even address or take into account the real potential impact of applying the level set for a surface coating to the entire mass of an object! By applying this to bio-available lead in other forms, such as lead in plastics, rubbers and metals used in toys - it fails to account for the total mass of lead in these other materials and the damage that can be done at that level in a 3-dimensional solid which obviously constitutes a much greater mass of lead than that found in a surface coating!
So, the Federal guidelines (while a small step in the right direction) still cater largely to lobbyists in the manufacturing and coating industries?NOT to our needs?to protect our children from toxic chemicals that cause permanent brain damage!
- Tamara Rubin
The 600 ppm of lead requirement for surface coatings in toys quickly lowers to 90 ppm by Aug. 14, 2009; in substrates it will be 300 ppm by Aug. 14. The American Pediatrics Society based its 40 ppm recommendation on a study of the lead in the soil of the Green Mountains of Vermont, one of the most untouched areas of the U.S. The study's authors have said they never intended the ambient lead content of nature to be a standard for toy safety.
As owner of an independent toy store in Vancouver (Kazoodles), board member of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) and editor of ASTRA's newsletter, I've been deeply involved in toy safety issues. Colleagues in Seattle, San Diego and Ann Arbor have participated in toy testing studies in their communities. While overall about 30% of toys showed problems, testing in specialty stores uncovered only a few toys that didn't meet standards (which my colleagues removed from their shelves). Yet Washington Toxics Coalition and healthytoys.org didn't differentiate specialty stores from the big boxes when they posted their results.
We worked hard to promote federal toy safety regulations because a patchwork of different state standards like Washington's makes no sense in a global economy. Now the federal regulations threaten to put small American companies out of business because they are geared to the giants operating overseas. My hope is for an equitable solution so we can be assured of the safety of all toys without eliminating unique products from small companies that give consumers a choice beyond mass market fare.
As for who pays, in the end it is the consumer. Poof Slinky reports their testing costs have risen 800% this year -- far more than labor, materials, transportation, or the shrinking dollar. It saddens me that this situation has been created by giant companies that put profits before safety. The CPSIA goes a long way toward ensuring the safety of toys, but it needs to be applied fairly to small toy manufacturers. As a toy buyer I'm impressed by the high standards, integrity and passion of manufacturers I've met, but my customers now will have a more objective standard. They will, unfortunately, pay for it in more expensive toys.
I am one of the small businesses that may close because of this law. I sew childrens toys and clothing and sell them online. Most of my items are one of a kind or I create several different items from the fabric I am using. Testing each batch is not a possibility for me as my products are made (in my living room!) as a batch of one. I am not against testing. I am a mom to four kids and think toy safety is needed, but there must be a better way than closing down thousands of home based and small businesses.
What kind of testing system could you afford, and would work for your system of living room production?
Honestly I am unsure what system would work for my type of small business. If testing was affordable and I could test the supplies I use to make the products that might work. If I use a cut of fabric to make a pair of pants then use the leftover fabric to make an art book the materials being used have not changed. I am usig the same fabric and the same thread to make both items. But under this new law I would need to have both items tested as they are different finished products. The supplies I buy I am buying at my local fabric stores, the majority of them are marked children's apparel fabric. If I could use the testing information that is on the bolt of fabric that would work for me as well. From what I understand these fabrics do not have to be tested as they are not a product intended for use by a child under 12. They are intended for use by adults who sew. Apparently its okay that the fabrics many people use to make clothing for their family are not tested for lead but the finished products must be if they are sold.
Couple questions (father of 8 month old). I definitely would not want to adversely affect small, craft/toy makers. Was their voice heard before congress passed this law? I read the website where amendments are proposed to the current bill and I wonder if we are going to simply create a backdoor for toymakers to 'get around' the testing requirements somehow? Is there any other industry (food for example) that has a similar approach whereby we would have separate standards for imports from certain countries? thanks.
As with the increasing awareness of safe food coming not from regulation, but from having a relationship with your food providers, safe toys are more likely to come from people getting toys from people who they know who make them safe because they are members of the community rather than by regulation. This new law punishes providers who are responsible community members and rewards large, multi-national providers who cut any corners they can to reduce costs - at the expense both of safety and their labor force. One can, with enough resources, find a way around regulations. It is much harder to find a way around facing one's neighbors after one has poisoned their child.
The sad side effect of building in a waiver for small businesses making under 5000 toys is that it creates a glass ceiling for those companies. Say a toy company wanted to expand its business to 6000 toys to meet demand. All of a sudden, they are required to pay much more money and invest time into meeting new standards; I assume most companies would not want to do this.
The fact of the matter is that the largest toy conglomerates, in a true sense of capitalism, have made this mess by seeing the dollar and not the child. They are a symptom of our overall economic system, and it is the system that must change. Perhaps if Christmas became less materialistic, if children didn't acquire 15 new toys every birthday, if parents learned how to play make-believe with their kids rather than distract them with shiny new things, then the demand for fast, accessible, and cheap toys would diminish--and the need to make them out of dangerous materials would diminish as well--and the small toy companies would thrive again.
Small cottage industries should be inspected however the government should provide the resources.
Just a few thoughts:
I was thinking that it might be easier to have a list of products that ARE safe to make toys out of. Like if you make wood, wax, or natural rubber toys, you wouldn't be required to test them. It's a shorter list to make, rather than listing every chemical you shouldn't use.
Perhaps if a company is smaller than a certain size, testing could be free. Having worked in chemical inspections, it's really not that costly to toss in a few extra samples. Maybe this could be subsidized somehow?
Am friends with owners of a small company whose line includes 'childrens' toys. They told me that they will have to stop selling these products because there are so few 3rd party testing labs. They would not get results back until June
Lead in toys is a serious matter and one that deserves attention. It's good to see the conversation taking place. However, when will we have a meaningful conversation about the most common source of lead poisoning in kids which is deteriorating paint in the millions of older homes across our country? Maybe our esteemed leaders might wrap window replacement into infrastructure improvements currently being considered. Such a step could potentially prevent hundreds of thousands of lead poisonings in the future.
Excellent point, of course! But let's not lose sight of the fact that attention brought to the toy issue is a valuable thing, as it focuses parents on a concern about toxins (and lead) in general... This kind of conversation actually strengthens and supports any efforts you are making in the community in terms of creating lead-safe homes ... As lead poisoning prevention advocates, the toy issue is our doorway into making a difference on a much larger scale.
Mother of children with lead poisoning
For over 20 years I have relied upon Consumer Reports for ALL recall and questionable items. I find it more reliable and researchable than the Federal Government.
As a quality professional in an industry subject to recalls (the food industry) I would not rely on finished product testing alone. The cost of production can never be reclaimed should product fail. To be certain, raw materials must be sound and processes must be controlled. The FDA has required safety programs to ensure this for food, why not a process control system rather than finished product testing? (prevent rather than react?)
I have noticed that many of the items (paints, woods, stickers, beads, pipe cleaners, plastic/metallic jewels, etc.) in craft stores are made in China, and I am aware that many of the recent recalls are of products imported from China. I worry, then, about purchasing handmade products that do not include reassuring information about where and from what they are made and whether these products have been tested for safety.
We were just at a local independent toy store today and I discouraged my kiddos from purchasing a bracelet that looked handmade. I was most concerned because it had a metalic/painted bauble on it - and I know that some discount store metallic childrens' jewelry made in China has been recalled because of high lead content. I am not comfortable reassuring myself that something ?made? locally or ?handmade? is therefore safe ? if it may possibly be made with components that are not local or safe. I would be much more likely to purchase both handmade and large manufacturer-made toys if I could feel reassured about the quality and safety of the product I including it's components.
I think this goes back to the issue of importing safe items. Someone is going to buy the beads and make something out of it for someone (either themselves, someone they know, or to sell). Whether its a child making it or an adult making a product, the items used to make it need to be safe. One should not have to worry about buying items at a craft store and whether or not they have lead in them. Testing needs to be done but it should not be at the expense of the thousands of small and micro-businesses.
I just want to highlight another local business that will be impacted by the new CPSIA law.
Boomba Toomba www.boombatoomba.com is a locally owned store that takes pride in carrying affordable, sustainable, locally made, eco friendly items. The owner Shayla carries used clothing to help reduce landfill waste, cloth diapers, baby slings, and more. All new items are made locally by WAHMs, local artists, and local sew houses.
If the micro businesses can no longer manufacture items (due to testing costs) this is going to impact many businesses. Boomba Toomba is only one of them. Others include: local fabric stores (Fabric Depot, Joanns, etc) the USPS, Fed Ex, website designers, web hosting services to name only a few. While one micro business closing will not have much impact on these businesses the thousands across the country will. Off the top of my head I can think of 8 local businesses in Portland and Vancouver that this will impact. I know there are many more!
I know this is about small toy manufactures, but I wanted to bring up another point. I am a small cloth diaper micro-manufacturer, working out of my home. This also affects us, as ALL items directed toward children 12 and under, have to be tested. For me, every cloth diaper I make is different, and individual. Under the new law, every product I create has to be tested. There is a very large group of individual crafty sewers out there that will be affected terribly. We all understand the need for safety, but there has to be a way for the little guy to survive also! There has been talk of certifying all the individual materials, so that the entire product is made from certified materials. This means the fabrics, the thread, the elastic, the snaps, and the velcro, etc., previous to the item being created. Many textile manufactures have already started testing and sending out certifications, but right now this is not good enough for us cloth diaper manufacturers to qualify as compliant. Right now, not even Oeko Tek standard will be excepted. Hopefully this law will evolve. It has to!
Hi Jonny~ I am iso of a US based micro cloth diaper mfg. Please email me with your info. Many Thanks, Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are have two small children and we are a retailer (http://milagrosboutique.com).
When you look at the issues that emerged last year, there were two common threads. First, every recalled toy was made in China:
Second of all, the facilities that actually made the toys in question were independent overseas contractors. The US-based toy companies that contracted these factories had limited objective oversight on safety and factory conditions. However these companies were active in trying to get production services at as low a cost as possible. Lack of oversight plus a lowest cost expectation created a perverse incentive for contractors to try and "cheat the system".
Why was lead in the paint on toys? It is a cheap paint additive that lessens the overall expense. This same dynamic is what resulted in toxic pet food and, more recently, dairy products.
This highlights what is missing in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA): clear and substantial fines for noncompliance with safety standards.
At its core, the "toxic toy" issue is one that emerged from companies focusing on cost savings at the expense of other concerns such as safety and quality. The best way to combat that perverse incentive legislatively is to "head it off at the pass". Yes, there should be more testing and opportunities to determine non-compliance, but the financial penalty for non-compliance by a company who puts cost before safety should be a palpable threat its bottom-line. Basically companies should think twice before turning a blind eye to how their product is being made.
Instead the CPSIA relies solely on a labeling and testing requirement that may be willfully circumvented - since it may still be cheaper to not comply or game the system somehow.
Another effect of the CPSIA that has been noted before is that it passes on an expense that will be substantial for small companies and it may cull responsible manufacturers from the marketplace as a result.
For instance, all of the wood toy lines we carry at Milagros are made in USA. More importantly, these toys are designed and manufactured by the companies or individuals themselves - no third parties are involved.
They source all the materials, they have full control of every step of the manufacturing process and they are fully responsible for it. There is no passing of the buck to a contracted facility and there is an overall level of quality and responsibility that you can count on. This ethic is reflected in statements like this from one our vendors:
Toys are a very small part of our business so I doubt the CPSIA will have much effect on us but having heard from one of our vendors that that may be pulling out of the market because of the CPSIA, it is hard not to be very, very bothered by what is to come.
Ultimately, it is more than ironic that the folks who will pay the price for the "mistakes" made by Chinese manufacturers will be small, responsible companies who have maintained control of their supply chain and their manufacturing practices; it is a travesty.
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