Small toymakers fighting testing for lead, other hazards

Toymakers are upset over a federal law that takes effect Feb. 10 requiring strict testing for lead and other hazards in toys or anything aimed at children, according to BusinessWeek.

They're rallying for changes that would exempt small businesses, saying that the statute, the Consumer Product Safety Consumer Act, would put them out of business.

I'm all for small businesses thriving, and I can understand their point, but as a parent of a 4-year-old daughter, I prefer that all toys be tested for lead and other hazards. Even something coming from a mom-and-pop store. Granted, the majority of toy recalls are probably from big, far-away companies, but when it comes to a child's safety, no one should be exempt.

As I reported on WalletPop about two weeks before Christmas, toy recalls increased by 19% in fiscal year 2008. And with Christmas now over and toy buying down, the recalls continue, many related to lead paint. There must be job safety working for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Many of the recalls look related to lead paint, which in even small amounts of exposure can cause delayed speech, delayed development and loss of IQ points in children.

Recalls of millions of lead-tainted imports in 2007 led to the new law, which Congress passed last summer. Small businesses are fighting it, calling for exemptions for them just as certain small-scale growers are exempt from food labeling laws. One idea is to exempt producers who use materials tested by their suppliers.

"Do we need the same level of diligence with somebody who makes two dozen of something as we do with somebody making 12 million of something?" asks Dan Marshall, co-owner of Peapods Natural Toys in St. Paul, Minn., in the BusinessWeek story. Marshall's company buys from small manufacturers and crafters.

The story says that more than 46,000 businesses that have no paid employees made apparel or sold children's toys or clothes in 2006, with average sales of $40,000. Olivia Omega Logan, who runs the Baby Candy T-shirt company from her home in Aurora, Colo., said it would cost her $50 to $100 to test components of her shirts by a third-party lab, which the law will require in August. Testing each part, such as snaps, tags and fabric, would cost between $18,000 and $37,000 for each run, she estimated. Her total revenue in 2008 was $38,000.

How serious are these small businesses about fighting the law? They have a Facebook page devoted to it with 13,463 members and counting. Don't count on having your kids' toys totally safe just yet.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at

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