Small businesses say flaws in new product safety law will force them to shut

I just started looking into a story on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, after a reader on Twitter alerted me to it a few days ago. The law is intended to ensure that toys and other kids products don’t have unsafe levels of lead and another harmful chemical, phthalates. But the law, which takes effect Feb. 10, could require people who make handcrafted goods or screen-print baby tees to test each batch of products for lead levels, which could be prohibitively expensive for many small companies and home-based artisans. Lots of folks who sell on Etsy and eBay are worried.

There’s already been a fair amount of press about this. BusinessWeek’s Monica Gagnier blogged yesterday about the implications for thrift stores, which would have been forced to dump old, untested inventory. Regulators just dialed back the rules for companies reselling used children’s products, saying they don’t have to get them tested, but they can still face penalties if they sell items with levels of lead above the new limits.

There’s a growing grassroots campaign online asking the Consumer Product Safety Commission to implement the new law in a way that’s fair to small business owners, while still protecting children from harmful items. And this seems to be an issue that’s picking up steam (the person I talked to briefly in the CPSC press office said they were very busy answering reporters’ calls).

I don’t want to repeat what others have already reported. So for those of you involved in this issue — what do you want to know that you haven’t seen out there already? What should I ask the CPSC when I speak with them next week? How can this law be implemented in a way that’s fair to small business owners? If you run a business that makes or sells childrens’ products, how will the CPSIA affect you? How are you preparing? If you’re a parent, how do you want to see the act implemented?

Tell me in comments, on Twitter, or by email.

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