CPSC Workshop Day 2

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.

HTA board members present petition of 25,000 signatures to Commissioners Tenenbaum and Adler. HTA members Mary Newell, Cecilia Leibovitz, Dan Marshall, and Kate Glynn.

HTA board members present petition of 25,000 signatures to Commissioners Tenenbaum and Adler. HTA members Mary Newell, Cecilia Leibovitz, Dan Marshall, and Kate Glynn.

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.

CPSC Workshop Day 1

As many of you know, I was to represent RDIA this week in Washington, DC, at the CPSIA workshop on compliance, sampling, testing, challenges, and impact.

Unfortunately, a series of family medical emergencies kept me from traveling at the last minute. The good news is Dan Marshall was already planning to be in attendance representing the Handmade Toy Alliance, and he agreed to represent RDIA in my absence. Dan is an RDIA retailer member with Peapods Natural Toys & Baby Care.

CPSC Workshop on CPSIA

The workshops are broadcast via webcast live throughout the day. Today’s series begins at 9:30am Eastern and runs through 4:30pm. You can view the webcast at cpsc.gov

Thursday, December 10, 2009 Workshop Summary

Attendees were welcomed by Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Inez Moore Tenenbaum and reminded that comments are open until January 11, 2010.

CPSIA Review.

The specifications of CPSIA were reviewed and everyone was reminded that this IS currently the law and compliance is required. A slide show illustrated several types of products which fall within the law and why.

Hazard Reduction.

Differentiations between Reasonable Testing Program and Third-party Testing were clarified and questions posed. General Certificates of Conformity ARE required, and the methods one uses to obtain them vary based of product type, source considerations and more. There will be continued discussion on Third-party Testing and all that in encompasses. (Discussion points: manufacturer’s judgment, historic risk.)

Component Testing.

Component Testing is that testing done when the rest of the product is not needed in the overall determining of compliance. This was a fresh perspective on an old term. It isn’t a new definition, but looking at it this way illuminates different aspects of the law. From all that is being said, Component Testing will “quite likely happen” although to what extent is certainly yet to be determined. (Discussion points: What kind of systems should be in place for suppliers? Who fits the definition of supplier? Where does the ultimate responsibility fall?)

Random Sampling.

Participants discussed random sampling for several hours. There are statistical methods in place which afford a “true random” sample. Such sampling is a business best practice regardless, but making sure those samples are statistically random increases effectiveness of the entire testing process and reduces the impact of “estimates.” (Discussion points: is sampling to be done per lot, production run, day, or month? To what extent can a manufacturer introduce their own responsibility when devising a sampling plan? Is a practical approach enough?)

Cost of Testing.

This section was disturbing in regards to the range considered to be acceptable. Single product testing for lead was quoted as varying from $20 to $100+ with the lower end being testing done in China. Clearly, sending single items to China for testing is neither feasible nor at all desirable for so many small cloth diaper manufacturers. I think we need to be clear about our own testing costs then make sure we tell the CPSC what these costs are.

Design Element vs Manufacturing Error.

An interesting statistic that 2/3 of all products considered unsafe (unsure of reference) were found to be unsafe at the design NOT at manufacture. Toys are legally subject to design safety testing. Implications here could be far reaching and provide some food for thought.

Be sure to tune in for the Day 2 summary to hear about Dan Marshall holding up a pink diaper cover and ask for a full product exemption.

Bamboo gets hot

Bamboo has been, for awhile now, a very hot fabric. Seemingly new, altogether different, and full of remarkable qualities. Turns out bamboo textiles are also hot in terms of being sought after by the FTC for being falsely labeled and a fabric commonly misrepresented to the consumer.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently charged four companies with deceptive labeling and advertising because the bamboo used in their textiles was actually rayon but not disclosed as such. (And getting on the FTC’s radar also landed 3 of the 4 companies with additional charges for violating other labeling/advertising regulations, including failure to note country of origin.)

The rulings are an effort at enforcement but also one of education. The Federal Trade Commission, in working to protect the consumer, wants the general public to know that

“the soft ‘bamboo’ fabrics on the market today are rayon. They are made using toxic chemicals in a process that releases pollutants into the air. Extracting bamboo fibers is expensive and time-consuming, and textiles made just from bamboo fiber don’t feel silky smooth. There is also no evidence that rayon made from bamboo retains the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant …”

(See the FTC’s recent consumer alert: Have You Been Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics?)

The Real Diaper Industry Association has been following these developments for over a year and working hard to educate its members on compliance with federal regulations. Member meetings in Las Vegas last year included a talk on greenwashing, labeling and the use of the term “organic.” This year there will be another session on regulations including CPSIA and more on labeling. (Non-members welcome at this year’s cloth diaper business meetings Sept 14-15 in Las Vegas. Register here.)

So what do you need to know to avoid being Bamboozled by labeling claims on what many thought to be a trendy and totally environmentally friendly fabric?

The Federal Trade Commission has been remarkably clear this time and have published a series of documents which are easy to read, informative and straight to the point.

“If you sell clothing, linens, or other textile products, you’re responsible for making truthful disclosures about the fiber content. If your product isn’t made directly of bamboo fiber – but is a manufactured fiber for which bamboo was the plant source – it should be labeled and advertised using a generic name for the fiber, such as rayon, or ‘rayon made from bamboo.'”

Consumers are urged to educate themselves and know what to look for, what to ask and how to shop for their green goodies with a clean conscience.

Manufactures need to keep themselves educated and seek to help their own customers understand the fabrics used in their products.

Retailers need to understand what they are selling and be clear with customers about products.

The RDIA website is one place to find information and news on cloth diaper industry related topics like fabric, labeling, and laundering. Members can also post questions or news bits to the forum and seek assistance from peers, committee members, and board members. We all have a great deal of information to share and together we can help make sure we are neither Bamboozled nor Bamboozling.