Dan Marshall of Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care traveled to Washington DC this week to represent Handmade Toy Alliance and Real Diaper Industry Association at a Consumer Product Safety Commission workshop on CPSIA. Seeing him hold up a pink diaper cover for the CPSC commissioners to see was a moment we can all be proud of. This is when we know we have been noticed and heard. You can watch the videos of the workshop on the CPSC website.
I have just returned from two intense days at the CPSC headquarters, where I represented small batch manufacturers who are struggling to comply with the requirements of the CPSIA on behalf of both the Handmade Toy Alliance and the Real Diaper Industry Association.
I feel very strongly that we accomplished a lot at these workshops, much of it behind the scenes. This was primarily a CPSC event, so we didn’t get a lot done on the Hill, although several HTA members had good meetings with their representatives while they were in town.
The workshops themselves were interesting. It was a very good thing we were there to counter YKK, who was there in force to oppose component testing, mostly because they don’t want to pay for it. HTA Treasurer Mary Newell of Mary’s Soft Dough and I argued in the Friday morning session that small batch manufacturers need to be treated differently and need component testing in order to survive. I used a diaper cover to illustrate how RDIA members would benefit from component testing because we could share the costs of certifying snaps, velcro, polyurethane laminate, etc. It was made clear to us in a number of ways that component testing will be approved but that CPSC staff are working on the details.
We also got some agreement from some surprising sources, including Dr. David Pittle, a longtime consumer advocate and one of the first CPSC commissioners, who said during the Friday morning session:
“There is something I’ve heard over the last few days, which I’ll never be the same on because it was new to hear it all. , , and that is the important distinction between large batch manufacturers and small batch manufacturers. . . . The small batch manufacturer almost needs like a section of the regulation. . . they need a very careful and judicious way of making sure they can do it and survive.”
These comments were extremely encouraging.
We had the opportunity to speak at length with Pittle and several other consumer group representatives, including Rachel Weintraub of Consumer Federation of America. They were cautiously sympathetic to our position. We shared the HTA Seeds of Change document with many of them, and I think we truly conveyed that we are very different from mass market producers. I think we also finally laid to rest with them the idea that we might be astroturf. We made the point that we’d like to fix this law sooner rather than later.
We presented our petition of 25,000 signatures to Commissioners Tenenbaum and Adler yesterday morning in a formal reception. Tenenbaum was courteous and said she reads all of our emails. We also got a chance to discuss many issues with Commissioner Adler, including that we need more time for component testing and ASTM requirements to be worked through.
Above all, I got the sense that the CPSC Commissioners are concerned for our businesses and are truly interested in our input. We are being heard and we are clearly influencing how this law will be enforced. Hopefully we will soon be able to influence the way it is written as well.