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Posted January 2nd, 2009 in Milagros News, public policy | Tags: |

milagros-tops.jpgWe recently posted about our concerns with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). As we get closer to the implementation of the CPSIA, there is a growing anxiety in the local, handmade craft community.

One of our local vendors, has decided to throw in the towel rather than wait and see if the CPSIA is amended. Others are waiting and hoping that much needed changes will be made but have made it clear that they will not be able to continue if the regulations are not modified.

When we opened our doors five years ago, we helped redefine the choices families had in Portland. We have prided ourselves on offering our customers practical, safe, environmentally-friendly products and have strived to provide local and USA made alternatives to imports whenever possible. During this time, we helped enhance the visibility of many locally made items and have seen some of these “cottage industries” grow from hobbies, to second incomes, to primary incomes, and to even more.

Our business standards have been emulated by a number of retailers since that time. We are more than flattered by the imitation. We are proud that an adherence to environmental and ethical values in the “baby marketplace” and a support of local vendors have been embraced. As such, it is more than a little distressing that the opportunities for work at home mothers and others to create their own ethical economic path is being threatened.

When you look at the issues that emerged last year, there were two common threads. First, every recalled toy was made in China. Second of all, the facilities that actually made the toys in question were independent overseas contractors. The toy companies – often US-based – that contracted these factories had limited objective oversight on safety and factory conditions. However these companies were active when it came to ensuring that production services were provided at as low a cost as possible.

Lack of oversight by the manufacturers and the local, regional, and national governments where the facilities were sited plus a lowest cost expectation created a perverse incentive for contractors to try and “cheat the system”. These are the factors that not only led to lead tainted toys but to other tragedies such as the toxic pet food and, more recently, dairy products.

The bottomline is that the violation of the public trust was not made by domestic manufacturers as well as companies in Canada and the EU that source all their materials, have full control of every step of the manufacturing process and are fully responsible for it. The CPSIA is a response to legitimate safety concerns but the fact that many small, responsible companies will end up paying the price for the “mistakes” made by Chinese manufacturers is more than ironic, it is a downright tragedy.

There is a path out of this regulatory mess. The handmade toy alliance and others have put forward solutions that will enhance safety in the marketplace without eliminating craft-industries and small and mid-sized enterprises from store shelves.

How can you help? We thought you would never ask :)

Here are some ideas on what you can do to help in order of relevance in our opinion:

Thank you for your support!

The Fuentes Family

Milagros Boutique

Comments (6 so far)

  1. Thank you for your write up. It is everything that I think. I agree we need to protect children, but this law goes too far without having thought about the consequences. I,too have seen some amazing small businesses close shop and it greatly saddens me. Besides the fear of closing my own business I look for locally handmade items for my own family and fear my options will become very limited. Thank you for voicing this issue on your blog.

  2. I do hope that makers of children’s clothing and toys do not give up there businesses in a panic, as there is some good news on the horizon. According to the LA Times on Feb. 7, the Commission members have “voted tentativley to exempt:
    * Items with lead parts that a child cannot access;
    * Clothing, toys and other goods made of natural materials such as cotton and wood; and
    * Electronics that are impossible to make without lead.
    The commission also tentatively approved a rule that clarifies how it determines exclusions from the law.”

  3. milagros
    January 10th, 2009
    10:15 am

    Yes, there is a measure of fear out there on this issue that we are trying address. It seems that things are beginning to move in the right direction but we need to push hard to ensure we get there.
    For any local retailers, crafters, manufacturers, etc. who want to get informed on this issue as well as join in some collective action to improve the CPSIA, please join us at Spielwerks Toys on N. Williams on Monday, 1/12, at 9 AM.
    Milagros Boutique

  4. thanks for hosting a meeting, though i’m confused… is it on the 22nd or is it on wed? i’ll gladly be there!

  5. milagros
    January 17th, 2009
    7:32 am

    The next meeting of what is now know as the Northwest Children’s Business Alliance is at Milagros – 5433 NE 30th Avenue – on Wednesday, January 21 at 9 AM.

  6. [...] We have posted about the Consumer Product Safety Improvment Act (CPSIA) before. This legislation was passed last year with good intentions. The influx of tainted toys from overseas deserved a response. However the CPSIA has created a regulatory environment that is poised to strangle thousands of small, ethical manufacturers and crafters with red tape. [...]