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Killer Toys and The End of Eco

Toxics Tests Spell Trouble for Organic Toy Producers

— January 15, 2009 — Eco
A law intended to ban toxic toys may instead, remove handmade and organic toys from the marketplace. In August 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act was signed into law. The intent of the act was to prevent toxic toys, like those lead-contaminated playthings from China, from reaching the marketplace where they could harm children.

While nearly every problem toy was manufactured in China, the act requires all toys, no matter what the origin or maker, to be tested for lead and phthalates by a third-party. Every toy must also be permanently labeled with a manufacturing date and batch number. Since the tests range in cost from $300 to $4000 per toy, large manufacturers will be able to spread the cost of testing over the thousands of copies they make of each toy. But the regulation will kill the market for small and hobby producers who cannot afford to comply with the testing.

There are no exemptions for small makers or artisans, or for that matter, grandpa puttering in his garage and selling at local fairs and markets for a little supplemental income. That’s not all. The artisan manufacturers who make children’s clothing are subjected to the same rigorous testing-- so are printers and publishers, used book stores and antiques and collectibles dealers may have to pull merchandise from their shelves.

I’m not a big fan of this type of regulation for a number of reasons:

  • First of all, there’s no way to ensure that a tested toy represents the manufacturing process that will be in place for the duration of the toy’s manufacture.

  • Second, there are already remedies in the law for manufacturers who make poison toys and distributors who sell them.

  • Third, because of the cost involved, it creates advantage for large corporations at the expense of small business.

  • Fourth, this whole child protection stuff is out of control.

I grew up with brilliant colors of lead-laden Crayolas just like hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and around the world. If there were adverse effects, we didn’t notice. After all, we did know we weren’t supposed to eat the things. It seems to me that we’ve replaced a little common sense with a lot of regulation. We think that we can eliminate all of life’s hazards and risks

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we put lead in crayons, but I do think we’ve become a neurotic bunch who gets a bit too hysterical at the mere mention of some potential hazard that might affect children.

The Chinese shot one of the manufacturers who produced toxic toys. Unfortunately, we shot ourselves in the foot on this issue. The availability of non-toxic, safe, organic, locally made children’s toys, clothing, books, and playthings will be nearly non-existent once the act is in force.

The law requiring testing will be phased in from December 2008 through September of 2009.