Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Save Handmade Toys

Every year there is an Oktoberfest street fair just down the road from our house. It's small and only stretches for a couple blocks, but it's walking distance and I love strolling past the different vendor's booths with a bag of kettle corn. I picture us walking to this fair as a family in a few years and buying our little girl one of those crowns made of curled ribbon and flowers, maybe letting her choose a small toy or puzzle from one of the booths.

If you've ever bought a child's toy at a fair, from an online vendor like Etsy, or from a kitschy little shop in your neighborhood, you know the value of handmade toys. What if all those unique options were no longer available?? I came across this post on Enviromom a few weeks ago and recently saw a similar article, both urging readers to help prevent the Consumer Products Safety Commission from enforcing an act which would be very damaging to handmade toy vendors. The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act will require third-party testing and labeling of all childrens toys to ensure that they do not contain harmful amounts of lead or pthalates, a problem which has resulted in the recall of numerous childrens products in recent years.

In theory this is a great idea and will help ensure that companies who mass produce toys in foreign countries are adhering to federal safety regulations. However, for the maker of handcrafted toys, this act could essentially force them out of business because of the financial burden of third-party testing. Individuals who make toys from natural materials and have never used toxic chemicals would no longer be able to sell their products under the CPSIA. The Handmade Toy Alliance is proposing changes to this act, which is scheduled to go into effect February 2009, that would allow independent toy-makers to rely on the certification of materials suppliers, rather than testing each individual product.

I know this may sound preachy, but I remember walking through the annual craft fair in my childhood hometown; the school gymnasium packed to the gills with all sorts of little goodies. I can't imagine what that would have been like if half of those booths were missing, simply because they couldn't afford to prove that their carefully handcrafted toys didn't contain toxic chemicals. If you are interested in helping, there are some great ideas found at Cool Mom Picks. Most take less than 5 minutes.

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