West Michigan sounds off about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Like so many other makers and fans of the handmade movement, I’m very disappointed that lawmakers passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) without carefully considering how it would impact small handmade businesses. I’m all for making sure kids have safe toys, but disagree with the language of the law that will require handmade business owners to pay for expensive testing of all products intended for children under age 12, even if the materials they are using have already been tested and deemed safe by the manufacturer.

The sad irony is that many of the artists and crafters who will be impacted by this legislation got into making toys, clothes and other goods for kids because they wanted safe alternatives to products manufactured overseas.

I’ve written about people like West Michigan sock monkey maker, Dulce VanDyken, who crafted herself a career after losing her job. Now, because of the CPSIA, she’s talking about not making monkeys anymore because she can’t afford the testing. In this tough economy the government needs to encourage people operating small businesses, not create impossible roadblocks that force people out of business.

This week I wrote my Grand Rapids Press art and craft column about the issue and posted the emails I received from local makers (and a few from out-of-state) on my newspaper blog. (Scroll down below the column to read their stories.) Sadly, more than a few are contemplating having to shut down.

It’s doubtful that lawmakers will hold hearings to change this law before it takes effect Feb. 10, so now is the time to make noise. Blog about it and write to your elected officials and tell your friends to do the same. And, if you haven’t already, join the Handmade Toy Alliance, which is doing a great job of keeping artists and crafters updated on the latest CPSIA information. And you can sign petitions here and here.

We all want safe toys and goods for our children, now we just have to educate our goverment about how to do this without crushing handmade businesses. What suggestions to you have to solve this problem? Post your ideas below.

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