Monday, December 15, 2008

Mothering Magazine article on New Toy Legislation

Toy Safety Legislation: Good Intentions Lead to Catastrophic Results for the Natural Toy Industry

Imagine Christmas morning without Selecta, Haba, Sarah's Silks, Etsy toys, or American toys from small, creative mom-and-pop natural toy companies. It reminds one of the Grinch who stole Christmas—and unfortunately, it is days away from coming to pass. That's why we desperately need your help to contact your representatives in Congress and share your concerns.

Parents everywhere have been deeply concerned and up in arms about the unsafe state of toys in the USA. We've been happy to see laws formed to ensure more safety for children everywhere. It's been disappointing to find out that the law is not retroactive—but now, there is even more disappointment at hand. The new testing protocols will ironically hurt and undermine the one group that has been a toy safety advocate for children all along: safe, principled, small and independent toymakers and sellers.

The new toy safety law, if not amended, will require every toymaker (including the ones we love so much on Etsy) to test each toy at a cost of $500 to $1500 per toy. European toy companies will also have to retest their toys, at the same expense, with a company that tests to American standards. This sounds fair, until you consider that Europe has an established, exceptionally thorough and successful testing system in place, and the tests would be redundant.

Increased toy safety is absolutely the right direction for our country; however, a poorly nuanced law like this one, as it stands, will devastate the very best parts of the toy industry and leave only companies like Mattel and Fisher Price standing. Please write and/or call your representative to share your concern.



Here's an example: Holztiger is a beloved German toy company that produces wooden animals and figures, painted with clean, non-toxic paints. If they were to meet this new law's testing requirements, instead of only having to test a vat of paint, which could be applied to 300 different animals, they have to test each animal or figure individually. A small company like Holztiger would have to spend $150,000 to $450,000 to test 300 toys. And this would need to be done on a regular basis—at least annually, but possibly with each production run.

Sarah's Silks is a beloved and popular source for playsilks, canopies, and more. They produce their silks in a Chinese village within a program that allows mothers to be work-at-home-moms. Sarah's Silks also runs a Waldorf school in China with the proceeds from its business. They would need to test each color silk four times, given the four components of the playsilk.

Yesterday, Selecta, a German natural toy company, announced that they will no longer sell their toys in the USA. "This is just the beginning of the disappearance of natural toys in the USA," said Rob Wilson of Challenge and Fun, an online natural toy store.

Says Adam Frost of, "We are very selective in the manufacturers we work with. In our discussions with these workshops, we've been told by many that they are satisfied that their toys and stuffed animals meet or exceed all safety standards, and that they would not be able to bear the expense of testing. (The same of course is true for small American manufacturers who produce their goods in this country.) This would in effect cut off the supply of all those toys that have been held up as exemplars of good craftsmanship, the imaginative and natural toys to which many parents have turned since the lead scares began to happen a year or more ago."

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