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January 2009
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New Safety Regulations Expected to Hurt Mom Based Garment Industry

New federal requirements will take effect in February 2009 that are intended to make children’s products safer and lead-free.  In response to recent problems with alarmingly high levels of lead in imported products, Congress has mandated the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

These new rules apply to retailers, manufacturers, and importers and most of them are easy to support, including the lowered amounts of lead allowed in children’s products, and the near ban of phthalates, plasticizers used in everything from fingernail polish to shower curtains.

Kathleen Fasanella, on the other hand, has been up in arms over the CPSIA.  Fasanella has written a book and has a website that help entrepreneurs to get started in sewn product manufacturing.  She’s been in the garment industry for 30 years and enjoys helping others launch their clothing lines.  Fasanella does not support the new rules because she says that most apparel startups are run by stay at home moms or have less than 20 employees and she believes that the majority of them will have to close their doors due to the CPSIA changes.

Children’s “sewn products” include stuffed animals, books, bedding, diapers, slippers, shoes, pajamas and clothing.  Traditionally, all the components that make up these items – buttons, fabric, sequins, grommets and the like – are all tested before a finished item is produced.  The new law requires that each finished item be tested by a third party verifier.  So if you’re creating a line of diapers in five different fabrics, some with snaps and some with hook and loop closures, you could potentially be required to have testing done on ten different styles of diapers, rather than just on the components.  Obviously, this change would make it cost prohibitive for the typical mom and pop (or mom and mom) operation to launch any new products.

Fasanella’s argument that products won’t be made any safer without component testing at the supplier level is receiving lots of online support.  In fact, many sellers of handmade items on sites like eBay.com and Etsy.com have banded together and are protesting the CPSIA.  For more information on how you can get involved, visit BuyHandmade.org

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