by Jill Chuckas
Published April 06, 2009 @ 05:29PM PT
Dear President Obama:
My name is Jill Chuckas and I own a small home based hand crafted children’s accessories business in Stamford, CT. Since December of 2008, I have been working with the Handmade Toy Alliance (www.handmadetoyalliance.org) to bring awareness to and changes within the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Unfortunately, this very well intended piece of legislation that I applauded Congress for undertaking, was written so broadly that my product line, as well as thousands of others, has become one of the unintended consequences.
This past Wednesday, I, other representatives from the Handmade Toy Alliance and 24 other industry organizations that are negatively impacted by the CPSIA, joined together at a rally on Capital Hill to discuss and share our concerns with each other and Congress. Afterwards, we attended a multitude of Legislative meetings with our Members of Congress. Personally, I met with Rep. Jim Himes and staffers from Sen. Lieberman’s, Sen. Dodd’s and Sen. Kerry’s offices. This was an exhilarating process that myself, as an ordinary citizen, had never imagined I would undertake. But in this great land, it is both a person’s right and duty to call upon their leaders for help and guidance when they see a problem that needs to be fixed.
The overall consensus of those of us at the rally is that a technical amendment to the CPSIA is needed so that those of us producing safe products that are below the limits set forth within the legislation but can not afford to prove this compliance, as well as those who produce products that for one reason or another should be provided permanent exemptions (such as books, resale shops, ATV and motorbike sellers). To give but one example of these unintended consequences, I create a soft clutch ball for children ages 4 months and up. Like most small scale manufacturers and artists, I work in small batches – usually about 10 in a production run. The way the law is currently written, as of August of this year, I would need to send one clutch ball of each run in to a third party accredited laboratory to test for lead and phthalates – a component in plastics. There are no plastics anywhere on the ball, but because it is intended for children under 3, it would need to be evaluated for this toxin as well. The test is destructive, so I would not get my clutch ball back. And, they would break it down into components – 5 for this product - and perform the tests – to the tune of an average price of $75 per component for lead and $250 per component for phthalates. That totals $1500 to test 1 clutch ball that retails for $16.50.
Now, after I receive the test results, I would need to permanently mark each clutch ball with a distinguishing label listing place of manufacture, company information, date of manufacture and identifying numbers for the batch – different labels for every batch, or run, of 10 clutch balls. The tracking on this alone is burdensome, and would only prove to increase administrative costs without any safety enhancements. For one of a kind artists, this process would be impossible. The other key point that needs to be made is that fabrics are inherently known by science to be lead and phthalate free (as long as no coatings are added). Component based testing – where the supplier of my raw materials would certify the compliance of my components – would be a much more logical, cost effective approach to prove compliance, but the law does not allow for such flexibility.
On Thursday evening, a vote was held on the Senate floor for S.964 – an amendment presented to remedy some of the unintended consequences of the CPSIA. It is my understanding that just prior to the vote, Sen. Pryor assured the Democratic leadership that Commissioner Moore of the CPSC has gone on record stating that the Commission has the authority and the discretion to address the issues of implementation – that the law does not need to be amended. Instead of a change in the law – a change in the leadership at the CPSC (Acting Chairman Nord) is needed to enforce the law with common sense. This is something that I have been told time and time again. I so badly want to believe that it is true. Two things in particular make me believe differently, though. First, the NY District Court overturned a ruling that the CPSC had made regarding phthalate retroactivity and put the industry in a whirl wind just a few days prior to the date of implementation. Secondly, just last week, the CPSC had the opportunity to grant an exemption to ease the burden on the motor bike and ATV industry. Rather than voting to grant the exemption, Commissioner Moore voted against the exemption.
So today, I call on you Mr. President, to please help me and so many other small business owners like me. If new leadership at the CPSC is all that is needed, then please appoint someone quickly. As it stands, I will be put out of business on 8/14/09. Not because my products are unsafe, or because of the state of the economy. But instead because I can not afford the testing protocol that the CPSIA imposes on my company. I need your help and your guidance to save small business from the CPSIA.
Thank you for your leadership.
Owner, Designer – Crafty Baby
Secretary – Handmade Toy Alliance