Thursday, January 8, 2009

Safer Products? At What Cost?

If you haven't heard yet, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was signed into law this past year in August. The Act imposes stringent safety standards for consumer products. It specifically targets children's products and restricts the use of lead and phthalates in them. In addition, products that are subject to these new rules, will also have to be tested by an independent third-party. Exciting news--right? While it is great that our Federal Government is finally seeing the light and taking steps to remove harmful chemicals from children's products, there are some unfortunate unintended consequences for manufacturers and retailers.

What products will be included?

  • Any product intended for the use of children under the age of 12 and Child Care Articles, products intended for a child under the age of 3 for the purpose of sleeping, feeding, sucking or teething.
  • This is more than just toys. It could also include products such as educational materials, jewelry, books, clothing, game boards, etc.

What will be removed from products?
  • As of February 10, 2009, children's products cannot contain more than 600 parts per million of lead. For paint and surface coatings, as of August 14, 2009, the amount must be reduced from 600 parts per million to 90 parts per million.
  • As of February 10, 2009, three phthalates known as DEHP, DBP and BBP are prohibited in children's toys and childcare products in concentrations of more than 0.1%.

What other changes will the new law include?

  • Mandatory testing--as of November 12, 2008, the new general certification requirement goes into effect. This will require manufacturers to issue a "supplier's declaration of conformity". This basically says that the manufacturer has undergone a "reasonable testing program."
  • Third-party testing will be required in addition for all consumer products intended for use by children under the age of 12. Products will have to be tested by an independent third-party accredited testing lab. A certificate will be issued stating that the product meets all applicable Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements. The third-party testing will be phased in as follows:
    • December 22, 2008 - Lead Paint
    • January 2009 - Cribs and Pacifiers
    • February 2009 - Small parts
  • Tracking Labels will be required on all children's products as of August 14, 2009. The label will contain the source of the product, the date of manufacturer, etc.
  • Labeling Requirements for Advertising Toys and Games. If a cautionary statement regarding a choking hazard is required on a product due to small parts, balloons, marbles or small balls, the advertising of that product through the internet or catalog must also include the statement.
What does this mean for the consumer, the retailer, the manufacturer?
  • On the positive side for the consumer, this is a step in the right direction. After all, harmful chemicals are being reduced or removed. It will be easier to find out that a product is safe. However, due to the third-party testing requirements, some of their beloved products may disappear. Not because they are harmful but because the manufacturer is small and can't afford the hefty price of testing every product that they make. This includes even products made from natural materials.
  • For the retailer, it means spending an enormous amount of time and money verifying that their products comply. This includes items that they have in stock.
  • For the manufacturer, it means additional costs that may put them under - especially the smaller manufacturers. For others it may mean no longer selling in the US market.

My thoughts...

With one law we have seen the complexity of this issue. It is not just about safer products. It is also about our economy. I want to see safer products in our stores more than anyone. We should not have to worry about things like lead, phthalates and BPA in products that our children play with, wear, or is absorbed into their skin. However, is this law the answer or are more companies going to go under, including those who have been dedicated to providing healthier alternatives all along but can't afford the testing? Let's not punish those who have worked so hard to provide families with better choices. We have always been about bringing healthier options to our customers both online and in our store locally in Apex, NC. We search out products that do not contain harmful chemicals. It is the core belief that our store was built upon. Here are just a few of the items that you can find at GreenPea Nursery: stainless steel sippy cups, Green Toys, organic clothing, safe feeding products, Greenguard Certified cribs, Naturepedic organic mattresses, and green cleaning supplies.

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