SBP on Facebook SBP Facebook

This week's message:

That has to be the shortest time I've been open pretty much ever -- more than 300 slings ordered in 24 hours. I'm terribly sorry if you weren't able to get an order in -- I really had to cap it at 300 slings in order to keep the closure time to three weeks. I hope to reopen on August 3, at which time I will be requesting that orders be placed only by those who do not already have a sling they can use, so that people without a sling have a chance to get an order in.

I will be posting regular updates about the precise time I will reopen the store on my Facebook page. If you "like" my page on Facebook you can get them easily, and if you select "get notifications", Facebook will tell you when I post, which is likely the best way to get reminders. Otherwise, you can always refresh the home page here and check the Facebook feed in the lower right to see what I've posted.


2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Yay! On January 30, the CPSC granted a one-year stay of enforcement, which pushes the date the CPSIA goes into effect back to February 10, 2010. It's a bit confusing to me; the language says that you still can't sell things that don't meet the guidelines, but you don't have to test them. So a big ??? on that. I am guessing that it means that unless you have a reason to believe there may be high lead levels in a product or a component (like cheap zippers, or particularly children's jewelry), it's okay to sell. This is great news!

The below was written before January 30, and I'll update it when I have more time.

Everyone wants safer toys and other items for their kids -- there's no question of that. So in 2008, Congress approved the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a sweeping reform of current safety legislation. Sounds great, right? Now our kids can be protected from lead and phthalates in numerous products, and who on earth would vote against that?

Well, the trouble is the broad scope of the legislation. It doesn't target only plastic or lead-painted toys from China. It targets every single item made and sold in the United States that will be used on or around children. Whether you're a giant corporation importing toys, or a tiny garage business making wooden toys, or, like me, a mom sewing slings to help pay her mortgage, everything has to be tested. And this means, every fabric, every color, every different color of ring, has to be tested for lead. Testing done by the fabric manufacturers themselves is not enough -- it's finished products that have to be tested, so just testing upstream is not sufficient. Every small business will be required to test each and every component of its items for sale, and label them with a batch number and date of manufacture. This includes thread, buttons, fabric, etc. If they do not comply, they are in violation of federal law and could be subject to fines up to $100,000 PER ITEM - and even jail time. Any children's items made before this date that are not tested and certified lead-free are considered banned hazardous waste and cannot be sold after February 10, 2009. Even fabrics and other materials that were tested by their manufacturer not to contain lead must have third-party testing done.

Testing for lead costs more than $100 per item. For me, that means a conservative estimate of $8000, based on my current fabric inventory (add another $2000+ if I add more colors or fabrics in the future, which I will need to do eventually). I would also need to test thread, zippers and snaps -- each different color -- so I would be looking at around $10,000 (minimum) in testing. That's a huge portion of my annual profits -- more than I care to admit!

Obviously, that is totally unsustainable for a small business, or even a big one. My business, along with pretty much every single other cottage industry, would be forced to close down, or face fines of $100,000 and even jail time for violating this law. If we pass the costs on to you, the consumer, we'd be looking at price increases of 2-5 times the current prices at least.

This goes for other textile items as well... including knit hats, blankets, cloth diapers, stuffed animals and other plush, and boutique clothing. Every WAHM producing anything of that nature will be affected by the law. Keep in mind that lead levels in fabric are already low -- on the order of <10ppm. The standards right now are 900ppm, falling to 90ppm in the future. Even at that level, the vast majority of fabrics (barr those with plasticized overlays, which have been an issue in the past) would pass... but the act doesn't specify that fabrics are exempt.

The economic impacts this law has on business in America cannot be understated. One gentleman has gone so far as to dub the day the testing provisions go into effect (Feb 10, 2009) "National Bankruptcy Day", because any business that hasn't tested its products will be unable to even liquidate its inventory (since untested products are assumed to be full of lead and thus hazardous), leading to mass bankruptcies. That's NOT what our already-shrinking economy needs right now.

The law was well-intentioned, to keep children from getting sick and dying from lead poisoning. But it ignores the fact that the vast majority of lead-tainted products were from large manufacturers, almost universally imported from Asia, and instead puts this impossible testing standard squarely on the backs of small American businesses, the very ones that Americans want to shop with right now for their record of safety and honesty. What this act will end up doing is making it impossible for small businesses to compete (since the costs of testing will have to be passed on to consumers, and small businesses will pay disproportionately compared to big ones), and limiting the choices Americans have in their shopping.

These sites offer more information:

If you value small businesses and handmade products, I urge you to contact your representatives, sign the petition above, and email the CPSC and let them know that this act is *not* what you want. Handmade products are historically far safer than imported, mass-produced ones, yet the latter will be all that is left in the marketplace if the act goes into effect as written.

What will SBP be doing if the law goes into full effect as written, with no exemptions?

I haven't bought new fabrics in several months... and I certainly won't be doing so until I know for sure what the ramifications of the law will be for my business. So right now, what's on the site is what I will have until further notice.

If the law goes into effect as written, I will have to stop selling what I currently have. That's pretty much the long and short of it. I can't afford to have my current inventory tested. I do plan to buy a few rolls of organic, undyed fabrics, and have them tested, if I can find a lab that has spots open (unlikely, given the volume of testing that needs to be done by Feb. 10). If I can't have them tested, I am hopeful that their organic certifications will be sufficient; fibers like hemp, silk, cotton, and tencel are not at risk for lead contamination by their very nature, and a policy that makes no exceptions for such materials is simply bad policy and unlikely to stand up in court (which it is likely to face). This does, of course, mean that my inventory will be severely limited -- no colors, and very few choices in fiber content. And organic fabrics are considerably more expensive than standard ones, which means my prices will have to go up. I will try to soften the blow as much as I can, and keep my prices as low as possible, but there's only so much I can do when my costs increase.

I am hoping that OKO-Tex certifications (that's the rigorous testing done in the EU) will be made valid in the US. Currently, even though OKO-tex certifications are more stringent than what the CPSIA requires, the US does not recognize them. This is just dumb. Pretty much all the European wraps pass OKO-tex standards, so I will likely put more capital into buying wraps and turning them into slings. If challenged, OKO-tex certifications should stand up in court; it would be ludicrous for them not to. Of course, woven wraps are not inexpensive, but they do make fabulous slings, and would offer colors and patterns that would otherwise be completely unavailable after Feb. 10.

I truly hope that some sanity will be injected into the legislation, and that the CPSC will recognize that even dyed fabrics contain little to no lead (certainly far less than the 100 parts per million that will eventually become the highest acceptable level) and that I will be able to offer a wider selection again. I can't make that assumption now, though, and so all I can do is suggest that if you have your eye on a sling from my current inventory, you make the purchase soon, as I won't be able to offer them after February 10.

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