You’d think new product safety laws would benefit eco-conscious companies that shun pesticides and dangerous chemicals. However, a new law going into effect next month could do just the opposite.

After the many lead-tainted toy scares last year, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. On the surface, the new rules created by the Act sounds great. Starting Feb. 10, products made for kids under 12 — toys, clothes, etc. — have to be tested for lead, hopefully eliminating all those scary recalls of children’s products. Unfortunately, this Act’s now creating unintended problems that threaten fledgling green businesses!

How? Basically, testing for lead’s super-expensive — which puts many small businesses in jeopardy. Many of these small businesses include fledgling organic baby clothing and handmade toy companies!

Already, the proposed regulations have been relaxed a bit due to numerous complains. Many thrift and consignment store owners argued that they couldn’t afford to pay the steep testing fees, so the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which enforces these regulations, exempted sellers of used children’s products from lead testing.

Still, small eco-conscious companies could go out of business due to this new law. The L.A. Times reports on one such green company:

Stephanie Wood of Ojai, who owns a clothing line called “Can You Dig It? Organic Apparel,” says she will be forced to close shop. Wood’s line is made from organically grown cotton and dyed with eco-friendly fiber reactive dyes, but she’ll still be required to pay $15,000 to test her line, a cost she can’t afford in the current economy.
The same would happen to small-scale toy makers. “A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $300 - $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA,” argues The Handmade Toy Alliance. (via Treehugger)

The irony of this situation is that laws set to prevent problems created by big companies could instead hurt small businesses. The lead scares that led to this new regulation were caused by toys made in China sold by large companies. Yet while “most big merchants and manufacturers say they can handle the cost of compliance” according to the L.A. Times, small companies that never created anything remotely dangerous could go out of business.

Many groups are still pushing the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make further changes before the law goes into effect. The American Apparel and Footwear Association, for example, wants the commission to allow components to get tested, instead of the finished product. And the Handmade Toy Alliance wants products made in the U.S., Canada, and Europe to be exempt from the lead testing requirement.

Want to get involved? You can write your congressperson to request changes to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, or sign a petition put together by The Handmade Toy Alliance to “Save Small Businesses from the CPSIA.”

Photo: U.S.-made, organic cotton onesie by Can You Dig It? Organic Apparel

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