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The Sky is Falling – CPSIA Issue

December 17th, 2008

Article by: Heather Flottman
liliputians NYC

The sky is falling! Yes, I feel a like an overly dramatic Chicken Little. And I wish it were true considering recent congressional legislation is about to crush the life out of the handmade clothing and toy industry. I’m talking about H.R. 4040, the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) signed into law August 14, 2008, and the ramifications it will have when it goes into effect February 10, 2009 (now being popularly referred to as National Bankruptcy Day).

Make no mistake. CPSIA was necessary in principle and has noble intentions, keeping our children safe and holding companies accountable for importing toxic toys. We all demand safety for our children and this is the intent of CPSIA; specifically to ensure safe levels of lead and phthalates in all products manufactured for children under the age of 12. Unfortunately this legislation lacks common sense, is ambiguous and fails to take into account the handmade industry.

What you see is not what you get with CPSIA. There is no distinction between big, small, or even micro one-person businesses. Whether it’s a large-scale manufacturer importing apparel to be sold in big box stores, or a work-at-home mom (WAHM) selling customs on ebay, the legislation applies the same to all.

Unit testing will be required on finished products, regardless if the components are natural materials or if you have documentation from a vendor stating that buttons, for example, are certified lead-free. As it stands, H.R. 4040 fails to recognize that textile products are inherently lead-free. Why then is an organic cotton shirt being tested for lead exactly?

Unit testing is extremely cost prohibitive to small business, but worse, it is unnecessary. In fact, it is completely redundant if the components that comprise the whole have already been tested and due diligence can prove they meet the guidelines.

To put a real dollar amount to testing one of my products, I solicited a lab quote. I was told it was $75 to test for lead per garment component and each substrate. Coated or painted items such as buttons are $100. So my Little Red Riding Hood Shirt, a 100% cotton knit shirt with an appliqué made from 7 cotton fabrics and 2 buttons eyes would cost $625 to test for lead. Flammability testing is also required and is either $50 for a certificate per component stating it meets weight code or $100 for actual testing. So add another $400-$800 for a grand total of $1,025-$1425. in testing costs for a shirt that retails for $40. If the shirt is offered in another colorway, the same testing is required despite the fact that the same fabrics are used throughout.

Small manufacturers have no way of absorbing the price of such redundancy. And all manufacturers will be required to test a finished component/item from each batch. Easy to do in mass production—simply pull one sample from a lot of thousands. But how does one comply when your “batches” are made-to-order batches of one? SKUs will also be required for each product with a permanent label on the item itself.

CPSIA will be retroactive and takes a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach with extremely hefty fines for violators. As written, any product used by children 12 and under (such as toys, footwear, carpets, clothing, bedding, luggage, lamps, toys, books, magazines, baseball cards, consumer electronics, school supplies, office supplies, jewelry, housewares, sports equipment and so on) without the newly required certification would be deemed hazardous, whether the item poses an actual threat or not. So on February 10, 2009, any unsold merchandise (in big box stores, the corner boutique, your fabric stash, Good Will donations, etc.) will be deemed “hazardous goods” and illegal to sell unless 3rd party testing proves otherwise. By the way, there are only 14 said labs currently in the United States.

Think you won’t be affected? I hope not, but the sad truth is that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) will be. Do you make children’s clothing, toys, jewelry, hair bows, accessories, furniture, artwork or anything else “intended for use by children age 12 and under”? Are you a retailer of children’s goods? Do you resell used children’s clothing or toys on ebay? Do you participate or shop at craft fairs? Do you donate used children’s items to needy organizations? Do you belong to a church that has rummage sales as a fundraiser? Does your child play sports and get their uniforms from a local screen print shop? Are you a consumer shopping for alternatives to mass-produced toys? If so, this law takes away that freedom.

Surely this legislation can be amended by incorporating some common sense and still make it possible to ensure our children’s safety without further hurting the US economy. According to the 2002 Economic Census (the last survey of its type), small U.S. clothing manufacturers (with fewer than 20 employees) contribute over $900 million dollars [consider: nearly $1 billion dollars] annually to the economy and comprise 68% of total apparel manufacturing in the U.S. This is clearly a vital and contributing asset to our economy. Multiply this fallout exponentially when you take into account the myriad other manufacturers, retailers and businesses that will be hurt or ultimately driven out of business.

So, why should you support amending this legislation?

Because the CPSIA isn’t fair and will not function as written. It inadvertently punishes American industries unrelated to toys and will ultimately result in fewer alternatives to mass produced merchandise made in China. The concept that small producers should be subject to the same rigorous standards but with lesser regulation (and common sense) has already been fought for and sustained in the food industry, which is why your local farmers market still exists. Now this same idea needs to be applied to children’s products.

What can you do?
1) Email or call the CPSIA - the office of the CPSC ombudsman 888-531-9070.
Comments on Component Parts Testing accepted through January 30, 2009.

2) Email or snail mail your representatives.

3) Call your representatives. For their contact information just enter your zip code.

4) Make your voice heard by voting on this issue. The top 3 in each category will be presented to President-elect Obama.

5) Sign the petition.

6) Spread the word! Write about this on your blog. Tell others about this issue and encourage them to do the same.

7) Join others in fighting this cause.
Facebook group
Twitter search

8) Join the etsy community in the virtual chat with CPSIA Small Business Ombudsmen or send a handmade children’s item that will become “hazardous goods” as of 2/9/09 to Bobby Rush, founder of H.R. 4040.
Etsy Thread

9) Read more about this legislation and its ramifications:
Fashion Incubator

Handmade Toy Alliance

National Bankruptcy Day

YouTube video

YouTube Video

YouTube Video

5 Minutes for Mom

Cool Mom Picks

The Smart Mama


Apparel and Footwear.org

Toy Association.org

Cafe Mom

Safety and Compliance



Freshly Baked Blog

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48 comments on “The Sky is Falling – CPSIA Issue

  1. THANK YOU for such a great article on the CPSIA. As a small-business owner with an infant line, we have been desperately trying to figure out what all this means for us. Your article was one of the few that put it in our terms and made it easier to understand. We are doing what we can to amend this legislation and hope others will too!

  2. Hi everyone,
    Thank you for supporting momprenuers and small business (big biz too) by getting involved with this issue. We’ve noticed several bloggers have copied and pasted our article today on their own blogs verbatim, and while we encourage everyone to pass along this information (it’s flattering) we kindly request that you mention this is a Boutique Cafe Article and link back to our original post.

    Thank you very much for your assistance!

  3. Thank you for explaining this in a way everyone can understand. The ramifications of CPSIA are far reaching—much farther than I think was the intent of the law.

  4. cristina on said:

    hi there, thanks for the great article. i linked on my personal blog at http://www.delbueno.net – the link comes to you directly.

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  6. I am located in Canada and I don’t fully understand this new legislation. As a Canadian Manufacturer are we subject to these testing requirements? Even if we aren’t I am definitely behind those who are small manufacturers located in the US in fighting for their freedoms and rights, I truly think that this could be the end of handmade and that is very disturbing. So many mothers do this to make enough money to be able to stay home and raise their children, something like this new law could rock the very core of the family value system.

  7. Kathleen on said:

    Good article!

    One point to make tho. You don’t need to test for flammability if this is not a child’s pajama (recently amended to include “lounge wear”).

    Also, you don’t need to test for flammability if you can get the documentation from the fabric vendor.

  8. Heather on said:

    That’s right, everyone spread the word and let people know how this act. Safety of our children is possible putting small businesses out of business.

    This is NOT just about toys.

    The ramifications of this will affect all industries making ANYTHING that could be intended for a child 12 and under, whether is has never had safety violations, whether it is made in the USA, etc., etc. This law applies to clothing, to toys, to bicycles (the BMX community is up in arms and can you imagine how much it would cost to test every component & surface on a bike?!? and what baby is going around sucking on bicycle tires anyway?!?). ATV’s. books, school learning tools suck as microscopes in schools (apparently there is a touch of solder on the light bulb that deems them unsafe now, again common sense, any babies you know using school quality microscopes and sucking on lightbulbs?!?)

  9. Heather on said:

    That’s right, everyone spread the word and let people know about this act. Safety of our children is possible WITHOUT putting small businesses out of business.

  10. The CPSC is requesting comments about unit testing (which you’ve demonstrated here) versus component testing (which would allow you to test the fabric once, and use that certification across products, thus reducing costs). Please everyone go and let them know what you think. I’ve written about this at Safety & Compliance, which is linked from my signature. This is our chance!

  11. Heather, this is so well written – Thank you. As a WAHM that manufactures childrens products, I have been pouring over all of the info since last Friday and have not been able to put something together to get the point across. I am definitely going to reference this as I am contacting all I know to get behind amending this act. Here’s hoping we can make the changes needed.

  12. Thanks for posting this and explaining it so well. I will post this link on my blog as well.

    There is a group forming on Yahoo who are collaborating to let help show world know how big the Children’s Handmade really is.

  13. Heather on said:


    Thank you for the info on flammability. This is just so complex in its scope! That is at least one positive morsel of informaiton about not having to do flammability testing since I can absolutely get the info from my wholesalers. I don’t do pajamas or lounge wear and will restrain from doing anything that could possible be construed to go in that category! I spoke with 2 labs and they indicated that it would be required. Such conflicting info.

    I’m also reading conflicting info on thread. Most info that I have read indicates thread would be a substrate and therefore require testing. Both labs I spoke to said “no.” When I asked them about interfacing or elastic, I was told “no” if there were not exposed. I just realized I forgot to ask about tags that are sewn into each garment – my label, the size tag, and then the care/content/made in US tag. Three more possible tests.—sigh—
    I am just keeping my fingers crossed that component testing is allowed vs. unit testing. THAT I could live with. It would satisfy safety concerns, cut down on redundant and expensive testing, and would mean I would have unexpected expenses BUT that I could afford to stay in business making children’s clothing.


    PS - Wanted to share this link with Boutique Cafe readers that I just received from the Material World newsletter.

  14. Pamela Kramer on said:

    Awesome! I have a break down of my own product too! I’m so glad that you are spreading the word to your readers.

  15. Pingback: CPSIA - What Children’s Clothing Designers and Manufacturers Need to Know « THE DOMESTIC DIVA’S DISASTERS™

  16. Lisa thedomesticdiva on said:

    Great article Daria!

    I’ve also posted to my blog – CPSIA: What Children’s Clothing Designers and Manufacturers Need to Know


    With friendship,

  17. Pingback: Supporting Small Businesses - CPSIA law issues « Baby Swags

  18. Thanks so much for this great breakdown! I do have question regarding components—
    We currently use American Apparel blanks, so, we’re required to test:

    garment fabric (per color way/design)
    thread (per color way/design)
    label from American Apparel (two components = fabric + ink)
    our own label (ditto)
    any pigment (we use plastisol from Union Ink Co. which has been lead-free for 20 years), which is tested per color

    But, do we also not need to have the hang-tag paper, hang tag ink(s) and plastic gizmo we attach the hang-tag with (I know many designer friends also use colored crafty thread and a safety pin, too)?

    Not to add to the doom and gloom, but for those who also place their products in a plastic bag or wrapper and use a sticker when shipping (whether wholesale or resale), are all of these non-t shirt items also consider a “component”?

    Obviously this could jack the expense even higher than it already is.

    Any insight on this would be great!


    jen in sf

  19. oh…forgot two more components!

    We have our own company label sewn on, so, one color thread for the front of the label and then a colored thread to match the t-shirt on the back of the label.


  20. I still am shaking my head about all of this. How does this effect the stay at home mom world that doesn’t sell handmade items, but clothes from other labels such as european designers and high end boutique items. Can they reach out to the retailer and get some type of documentation stating that they comply with the new standards, by Feb. 10th?

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  22. Pingback: Handcrafted Toys May Become ‘Banned Substances’ | atGeist.com

  23. Dorie Leland on said:

    I own and auction company in Georgia. We sell estate items and newer modern items. All of our items are used but there are many in this area that sell new china junk and salvage items.

    Are we going to be able to resale items? Many people buy storage units that the rent has not been paid on and resale all the contents at local auctions and the higher value items are sold online. Many Many have toys, beds etc. in them. Anything that comes out of a house..so what about that?

    I have posted a link to this article on Auction Zip.com auctioneer’s forum to see what they say about this mess. Please let me know your idea’s.


  24. Thank you fro the great break-down of what this all means….
    There is a lot of support out there, and this was very clear!

  25. Old book seller on said:

    When facing a law having unintended consequences, which this one obviously does, the only way to beat the idiots is use the system to beat itself. California passed a law saying all second hand books had to be registered with the police if for resale. 500 000 books per week later the police admitted they couldn’t handle it. The law (it may be still on the statute) was ignored…always the eventual death for poor legislation… and CA booksellers continued as they always had. Good luck.

  26. Linde Balderas on said:

    This is so scary. All the hard work and sacrafices my family and I have made will be for nothing. I have a similar article posted on my blog to try to get the word out. http://www.tailoredtadpole.blogspot.com

  27. This is one of the BEST explanations about this nightmare I’ve seen yet. I’m sending links to everyone! Thank you for pulling all this information in one place.

  28. Thank you for breaking this down for us. I had heard about this, but wasn’t exactly sure what it all meant.

  29. Jennifer on said:

    In regard to Tony Ting’s post, you are right that the CPSC may exclude some items and materials. The problem is they haven’t yet. The law goes into effect in a little more than a month and we have no clue how this will play out. It leaves absolutely no time for reaction. And the Falvey Opinion states it is retroactive (regarding lead) to all items produced prior to November (when the mandatory testing started) will be considered hazardous unless specifically tested. That means new and used items. This is definitely something to get worked up over. If anything, the media is playing it down and not giving this issue the coverage it deserves!

  30. Heather on said:

    A message to all members in regard to CPSIA:

    I received this message today. I am broadcasting it here, in case anyone is in the DFW area and can help out.

    Here is the message:

    I sent a message to the newspapers and TV news stations here in the Dallas, Texas area (I’ve included it below). I heard back from a reporter for our CBS affiliate. She would like to do a story and include as many local toy makers that will be impacted as possible. If you are a DFW manufacturer, contact me and I will send your information to her.


  31. Heather on said:

    In response to Tony Ting’s post:

    I wish you were right and fabrics were exempt. THEY ARE NOT. There are some items being up for considertion for exemption from testing and I believe the deadline for this decision is today. We should be hearing about the vote on exempting UNDYED cotton and wool fabrics, UNFINISHED woods and precious metals and gemstones. At this point, those are the only “certain materials” that are up for consideration for exemption.

    I have read and reread and read the entire bill in its entirety. It applies to BOTH domestic and imported goods. It applies to all items for children 12 and under. It applies to fabrics (whether they have already been tested, are Oeko-tex, etc.).

    This is not media hype nor am I a big corporation, but a micro one-person manufacturer that is expected to comply just as the large companies.

  32. Kathleen on said:

    Can’t you just delete TT’s comment? I’m all for free speech unless it’s getting personal OR it’s the equivalent of yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater, meaning a disservice. TT is pandering to people’s desires and it’s easy to be misled by what one wishes were true. imo.

  33. Jupitex on said:

    Yes, this policy may have a impact for children products (including toys, children wear.) I have highlighted some criticals point of CPSIA requirements on my blog, please kindly visit for more information.

  34. Just letting you know that the #2 link isn’t formatted correctly and doesn’t work. Thank you for the great blog post.

  35. Thank you for a wonderful and informative post Heather. I’m continually amazed at the lack of awareness of this legislation. Seems that every time I bring it up in conversation I’m met with a blank stare. Considering the widespread impact this will have not only on small business owners but also parents, teachers and so on this is most unfortunate.

    I’ve started a series on my blog in hopes of spreading awareness and featuring some of the people who will be affected. I’ll add a link to this post. Would it be alright with you if I reprint the section (with attribution of course) about the cost of testing? I’d like to give some actual examples. Actually, if you’re willing, I’d like to do a feature on your store. http://justaddcharm.com

  36. Pingback: liliputians NYC blog » Save Small Business in America from the CPSIA

  37. Heather on said:


    Thank you for your compliments on the post and please feel free to use the article as you see fit in educating the public about CPSIA and the effect if will have on small businesses like mine.

    You are more than welcome to use my testing quote regarding. However, I would like to update that information. Kathleen corrected me that flammability testing would not be required since it’s not sleepwear or lounge wear (the testing lab implied I would need it to so hence my confusion/mistake). So that expense would be spared. I did not count thread or my tags in the testing quote. Again, the source at the lab told me I would not have to test the threads. It contains 6 thread colors so $75 X 6 = $450. I forgot the labels too (one size tag, one care/content/made in usa tag, and my liliputians label, in addition to the tracking/labeling label I will now be required to have so $75 X 4 = $300. I stand by my $650. estimate for testing of lead in all the shirt substrates. The revised total for testing the shirt is $1400. (essentially the same but arrived there differently).

  38. Stephanie on said:

    I am wondering if this is going to stop things like Mom-2-Mom resales, garage sales including baby/kid items. Being a full time student, and Single mom of 2, I rely on these things to keep my kids clothed and have toys to play with!
    Any info on how this is going to effect me is greatly appreciated!


  39. Heather on said:


    I wish it were over, however the CPSC’s press release just said that thrift and resellers did not have to test USED items for lead. It also went on to say they should not sell anything that does or may contain lead and there would be severe penalties for violators. I guess they are supposed to use common sense (in addition to checking for toy and furniture recalls obviously) when it comes to apparel. Kind of ironic considering the law has no common sense in the scope of items required to test for lead.

    This is positive news but HANDMADE CLOTHING is still in jeopardy. There are no provisions for COMPONENT TESTING. There are no provisions for FABRICS with COLOR. Please don’t think this is over. We are gaining momentum and let’s continue this fight and save our livelihoods.


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  44. Cynthia on said:

    CPSC Spokeswoman Chastises ‘Mommy-Bloggers’ On TV

    Did you see the video from Baltimore Channel 11 where, for the first time someone from CPSC is interviewed on air? Yep. She disparages ‘mommy-bloggers’ for spreading ‘misinformation’ on the internet! Do you believe this? (Of course, the poor sacrifical lamb has already resigned, her last day is tomorrow) Gee, why do you think they picked her to go on camera?

    There is a closed door Congressional Staffer meeting tomorrow about CPSIA. Today and tomorrow would be a REALLY good day to CALL, email and FAX everyone in congress you can think of as well as the CPSC.

    We would also appreciate you continuing to spread the word to go to http://www.savekidsresale and Click! to vote (the petition has over 70,000 signatures) as we intend to print out all 500 pages and distribute it to Congressional members tomorrow. As you know, the CPSC has done it’s best to quell the uproar our little corner of this devil in diapers that is CPSIA by their infamous ‘Press Release’.

    Thanks so much! Here’s the video http://savekidsresale.squarespace.com/recent-news-stories-video/

  45. Pingback: Boutique Café » Blog Archive » The Sky is Falling - CPSIA Issue | AttireVendor.Com

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