What is the CPSIA – and does it affect us?

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is an American legislation passed in August 2008 and set to come into effect in February 2009. This act sets new testing regulations for products marketed to children under the age of 12, including toys, books and clothing. The supposed aim of the legislation is to make products safer for kids, action that is needed after the barrage of recalls over the past couple of years.

The act, however, has a number of fatal flaws. The biggest concern is that the new law will require every manufacturer – big, small, US-based, China-based, every one – to subject every batch of every product to extensive (and prohibitively expensive) testing. This is great for all those big manufacturers who have their toys made in China, where lead paints are not outlawed. But for the little guy handmaking wooden or cloth (or whatever) toys and selling them on Etsy, in the local consignment store, at craft fairs and so on, it means the end of the road. The truly ridiculous part of it all is that those people are more often than not using materials manufactured in the US and already tested to meet these requirements.

Yes, it’s an American issue. But does it affect us here in Canada? I have been waiting to see a Canadian media source cover this issue and haven’t found anything yet. Please let me know if you have!

Here are my concerns, and thoughts of how this could affect us – but then, I am no expert on importing, exporting, free trade or any of the like…

  1. At Babes in Arms, some of our goods come from small, American manufacturers. Happy Tushies is a family-run cottage industry in northern Minnesota; and BabyHawk and Rockin’ Baby are both mom-run companies in California (BabyHawk will have their GCC certificate by the required date, I’ve just been informed – I have not contacted Rockin’ Baby on the matter). Will these companies be forced out of business? Will their prices go up (my contact at BabyHawk reassures me theirs will not)? Will our product options be compromised?
  2. A much larger proportion of our products are made in Canada, again by small manufactures. A few examples include JamTots diapering accessories, SugarPeas wool diaper covers and BabySpats (all made in BC); Tuff Toys; the Baby Buddy nursing pillow; Gabby’s diapers and accessories; AppleCheeks cloth diapers; MotherEase cloth diapers; Claudia’s Choices detergent; All Things Jill skincare; and the RiNGLEY teething toy. Some of these manufacturers sell their products only in Canada and do not rely on sales in the US to stay afloat. But I wonder if others do need their US sales to continue operating. Will some Canadian manufacturers be so affected by these new American regulations that they will stop making certain products, or shut down completely? If so, that definitely affects us.
  3. Our online shopping options may be impacted as well. As consumers, many of us turn to online stores to find the best products to fit our lives. Some American sites will be driven out of business – will Canadian sites that rely on US sales be harmed as well?
  4. Lastly, thanks to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), our regulations are being “harmonized” with those of the US and Mexico – so one can only deduce that it is only a matter of time before these regulations are introduced in Canada as well.

What are your thoughts on this legislation? Have you been following this story? Do you feel this will have any affect on us as Canadian consumers? Let me know!

Lindsay

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