CPSIA Rant: Blame Special Interest Groups

On January 7, 2009, the Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Kids in Danger, National Research Center for Women & Families, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) sent a letter full of assertions and half-truths to the Honorable Nancy Nord, Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission with what can only be interpreted as having the intended effect of marginalizing the effect of this law on our businesses. Frankly, since these special interest groups are the ones who are responsible for passing this law, I think it’s time we start writing to them rather than Congress, particularly since they are now pushing back insisting on full implementation of the law as it stands. Follows is a rough draft of a message I’d like to send them in response to “the Nord letter“.
From: Kathleen Fasanella, Fashion-Incubator.com & NationalBankruptcyDay.com

Contrary to oft-repeated assertions in the Nord letter and comments published by yourselves (see comments by David Arkush) on sites on the internet, the protest against CPSIA was not organized at the behest and influence of “large toy companies”. If you had to blame one single person for having caused the ruckus over CPSIA on the web, that would be me. I don’t even know any toy manufacturers much less large ones. In fact, not only do I not have any connection to the toy industry, I don’t even make children’s products. Persistently repeating I am or we are, tools of multinational corporations could be seen as an attempt to marginalize and deprecate our objections.

I run Fashion-Incubator.com as part and parcel of my business providing goods and services to people who want to start a clothing line. I am author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing, the most highly rated book in the garment industry. It’s been awhile but the last time I checked, I had over 8,000 unique daily visitors to my site with roughly 30% of them producing children’s wear. Being the leading site on the web, I felt it was my responsibility to advise my visitors of the pending devastation known as CPSIA. As such, I began publishing on the topic and the members of my forum (nearly 1,000) went out onto the web in innumerable forums and blogs to get the word out. You are right in that it was organized deliberate strategy and effort; it took time and no one believed it at first. I reiterate, none of us have any connection to the toy industry. Frankly, we were too inwardly absorbed with our own problems that toys did not enter our heads. That toy makers discovered how the matter affected them and ran with it to increased effect and benefit to us all, is merely a happy accident.

In keeping with the misgivings you state in your letter, I am similarly concerned about misinformation of testing quotes being propagated across the spectrum. However, contrary to your assertions, we are not the parties doing it. I have been collecting estimates for testing for some time. These are actual forms sent to customers by labs on corporate letterhead. Today I received a price estimate from a work at home mom who makes hair bows that exceeded $125,000.00. That’s right, one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. In light of that, your repeated assertions that lead testing amounts to a minuscule $25 is offensive. Tell me, which lab is this? I can send them a lot of customers. While you look for that name and number in your Rolodex, I’d be delighted to send you a very large file containing all of these reports.

Contrary to claims from some opposed to CPSIA, I do not believe that the passage of the law was a nefarious plot by large corporations to reduce competition in the market place. Whether it was an orchestrated effort by singular individuals employed by non profit special interest groups is a matter worth discussing another day but suffice to say, I believe that this law was intended to increase the safety of children’s products. However well intentioned, it will not have the desired effect of making products safer. Insult to injury, it will dramatically reduce the range of products available to consumers. Likewise, I must admit there have been unsupported claims coming from “our” camp; specifically the repeated assertion that CPSIA will “decimate” the children’s products industry. The definition of decimate is to kill one in ten and CPSIA is a far more effective killer than that. You couldn’t even describe CPSIA as “deadly as plague” since that only killed 30%-50% of infected persons. Based on the results of the Economic Impact Survey I’ve conducted, over 70% of businesses say CPSIA represents the last nail in their coffin.

Now since I don’t imagine anyone will actually read this letter, I won’t bore you with the details of how I -as an expert in production process management- think this law could be amended. I’m preparing a response to the RFC with respect to component testing that I will forward at a later date. I will tell you though that without component testing at the supplier level, it will literally be i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e to buy inputs and produce prototypes for sale in time for Market based on trade show schedules alone. Trade show dates are locked in for two, three, even four years in advance. It’s one thing to legislate manufacturers; how will you exercise influence over trade shows to reschedule events in keeping with the new, much longer production time line this law creates? Trade shows are held in convention centers owned by municipalities and it will be impossible to reschedule those dates to permit the necessary extension of time needed to permit repeated testing in product development. The unavoidable result is that trade shows themselves will be going out of business and affecting revenues of cities across the nation. The implications of this law are far greater than many imagine.

With all due consideration, I reluctantly concede that some products produced by the smallest of enterprises are not as safe as they could be and it is not difficult to find violations of existing regulations. For this reason, I agree there should not be exemptions based on company size. However, the structure of the CPSIA will not eliminate these problems either. Unlikely as it may seem, there are better solutions to increase product safety with lower enforcement costs and lower costs to consumers that will also retain the vibrancy, innovation and viability of independent businesses. Just as it was not the lack of regulation on companies regardless of size that caused defective products to enter the market in the first place, augmented regulation cannot be the panacea either.

There are two unavoidable conclusions represented by the CPSIA. The first is, products will not be safer. The Commission will be tied to never ending, ever increasing enforcement demands. The second unavoidable conclusion is that we will not give up. Not because we’re a quarrelsome lot of malcontents but simply because we cannot. We don’t have a choice. Therefore, the most pragmatic solution is to revise and assess proposed solutions from people who know how to make products so we can help you write regulations that are enforceable and result in the intended result of safer children’s products.

Most Sincerely,

Kathleen Fasanella
Apparel Technical Services

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  1. Mark Riffey says:


    Very well said.

    It is indeed interesting to hear the reaction when I talk to some about my prognosis for the impact of this law as currently written: Chicken Little comes to mind.

    Like you, I have nothing to do with the toy or apparel industries, in fact, not a single client is in *any* children’s products industry. NOT ONE.

    So why did I start singing in tune with you last year? Because I see the impact spreading far beyond the industries that create children’s products.

    My clients are small businesses all over this country. When considering the number of small homemade products businesses affected by this so far, it’s hard not to see the ripple effect stretching far beyond them.

    I see seamstresses (yeah, I know – an antiquated term) no longer buying cloth from a local cloth store or a factory. That has an impact.

    I see toy makers, diaper makers and makers of little cuddly handmade bears who no longer spent the money their businesses earn on local services such as accounting, web sites, graphic arts, printing and so on.

    All those businesses whose sales are reduced in an already stretched economy now have another source of reduced revenue – the ripple effect of CPSIA.

    Small business will take a bullet on this one, and in many cases, it is going to be fatal. The count of moms and dads who lose jobs will not be small. The number of families whose incomes drop substantially due to the loss or substantial reduction of income will not be small. All of this will roll downhill in their community.

    I hope the Congress members who voted on this law (all but 3 of them) without considering the law’s impact on small businesses are proud of their achievement. The number of people who remind them of it will not be small.

  2. Connie says:

    For any one or any business that thinks thank goodness it’s not me, just remember, you may be next. If a few special interest groups can cause what’s being called National Bankruptcy Day, what will these people do when they realize the power their now wielding?

    Voices of all, not a few, should determine such important decisions

    Thanks for pointing out the core of the problem, Katleen. You’ve been so fabulous in being a leader in the voice of reason.

    I thank you.


  3. Myrinda says:

    Well put Kathleen and very well written. Please DO tell me where they are doing testing on the multiple component products for only $25 and I’ll send everyone I know there as well.

    And like Connie points out-you might be next. If I, as a parent, am not regarded by the government as an adequate keeper of their safety, they might as well just come take them away now…and that will give me more time to write letters and fight this ridiculous legislation…

    C’mon now, even CARS without seatbelts and airbags are allowed on the road, never mind that cars have killed and injured FAR more people (including children) than toys or clothes ever have…this is so broad, it’s scary!

  4. sari says:

    I’m disabled, I don’t have the option of going out to get a “normal” job.

    Though it’s also be significant to ponder:
    Many families are very low income, and rely on 2nd hand shops an charities to clothe their kids,
    the current “exception to testing” really isn’t an exception in this case.

    When I was raising my daughter there were times when if it weren’t for the Salvation Army store, or the Coats for Kids programs, my daughter would have been naked or insufficiently dressed for the weather…for no other reason but POVERTY. (and YES I was working FULL time.)

    I’ve since become disabled from an accident that was NOT my fault, without my craft income, I’d have to choose between paying for rent or heat… or rent and medication…

    When Feb 10th rolls around, and I’ve lost my microbusiness, my family will have to apply for foodstamps, energy assistance and/or rent assistance. My Disability check won’t cover much.
    My daughter might have to quit school before graduation and go to work.

    During the Great Depr

  5. Julia says:

    Fabulous letter!

    Do we not have ANYONE in government on our side?!? What on earth are these groups trying to do?

    I see and hear friends with children’s wear apparel and other product lines just shrugging their shoulders and seeing all their hopes and dreams go up in smoke. My own freelance design business, of which it is 95% children’s wear designs, is being threatened.

    I have passed out numerous copies of information to colleagues and students; I have sent emails galore; spoken to people about it until I am blue in the face, and I know the fight has just begun.

    With what we are going through as a country in these economic times is one thing; but to have this thrown at us on top of everything else is unbearable.

    Please everybody, keep hounding these so called know-it-alls-who-know nothing until they can come around to see the truth in what they are trying to do with the CPSIA.


  6. I’ve been up reading this &%$# law all night, and I’m about ready to cry. Not only won’t I be able to sell kids powwow regalia in the US, it also makes it a felony to ship regalia to customers in Canada. Their laws have nothing to do with this lead testing. But if they don’t change this law, I’m going to have to inform customers on the waiting list in Canada that I can’t make regalia for their kids either.

    In fact, it looks like I can’t give the outfits away to kids in our commumity (legally) after Feb 10. So I guess that unless something changes before Feb 10, I’ll pack up my kids dance outfits, finished & non-finished, and drive to the Indian Health Services Clinic over in Pawnee OK and give away all of our kids dance outfits and pieces. I guess my kids patterns too, since I don’t think I’ll convince my husband to move to Canada. It will be a cold day in &%$# before I burn kids dance outfits. Much of my joy in life, my husband’s too, come from watching the little kids dancing like happy little spirits in the powwow arena in their clothes. Kids come to visit our booth at powwows year after year, and some of those “kids” have been visiting us for so many years, they are now bringing us kids of their own to dress. How terrible it’s going to be to tell customers that I won’t be able to dress their new grandchildren for Osage Ceremonials this coming June. Our traditions have been going on in the country for longer than there has been an country. My family, both white and Indian, have been involved in Indian Trading since before there was a country. Now it all ends with me. This is not at all unlike a death to us, and it will surely be the final death blow to what little is left of our culture, after forced relocations, boarding schools and years of arresting our people for practicing carrying on our cultures. Please forgive me for wishing those responsible a special place in history, in the “infamous failures” list in the chapter about “the 2nd Great Depression Beginning in 2009”

  7. Sue T. says:

    “Persistently repeating I am or we are, tools of multinational corporations could be seen as an attempt to marginalize and deprecate our objections.”
    The letter is terrific but I’m a bit unclear what this sentence means (particularly the first section). But it could just be me and the cold weather.

  8. colleen says:

    What percent of businesses will continue to operate, test or request test results from suppliers to show good faith in producing a safe product, and put the responsibility on the CPSC to prove the product isn’t safe? It’s an ill conceived requirement and I agree that it should be modified. I disagree that people should stop conducting business out of fear that this requirement will be enforced. What’dya think? Will I be the first F-I’er with a prison tattoo?

  9. Kathleen,

    Great post! Thank you for everything that you are doing to fight this law. Your efforts and everyone else’s help to keep me writing, calling and fighting about it too. Hopefully, we can get this changed!

  10. Tonya says:

    Which entry should I move up on the Obama-Biden Transition Team’s Citizen’s Briefing Book? I searched CPSIA yesterday and several entries came up. If everyone moves up the same one it should get noticed.

  11. marian says:

    Kathleen, is the letter or letters that the groups you mention in your opening paragraph posted anywhere so we could see what they sent to Nancy Nord? Thought is would be helpful to be able to read if a response was going to be sent these groups?

  12. Kitty says:

    Great letter!

    My question is: Is there anything us Canadians can do to help? Anyone we can write to? We can’t stand by and watch this happen, not to mention it’s going to be a blow to any of us who sells to the USA as well!

  13. Kathleen says:

    Btw everyone, I’m being trolled on this CPSIA issue and frankly, I’m sick of it. Here’s just the latest comment I’ve had to put up with:

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009 8:56 PM
    From: michaelATcaffeineindustriesDOTcom

    Subject: More CPSIA?

    Keep up the good work!!! Meanwhile, on planet earth;

    Although the Census Bureau reported that nominal retail sales decreased 10.2% year-over-year (retail and food services decreased 9.8%), real retail sales declined by 11.3% (on a YoY basis). This is the largest YoY decline since the Census Bureau started keeping data.

    Many of us have told this guy that we know the economy is in the toilet and just what are we supposed to do about it particularly when this disaster is less than a month away but he’s not listening. Maybe he’ll listen to you?

  14. Maura Townsend says:

    I thank you for your well written and persistent efforts regarding something that you are not directly affected by. My rant is in reference to this passage of the Nord Letter:

    However, to be clear, exemptions should not be made to the law’s requirements based upon the size of the product maker or seller (e.g. based upon production output or numbers of products imported). To the contrary, there are many reasons to include such entities. As evidenced by many product recalls, there have been dangerous or toxic products recalled involving manufacturers who produce less than 50,000 units per year.

    They go on to list the specific examples of recalls of imported products and those involving products made in the United States which you can see in the Nord letter. I did a little research myself. Their examples are apples and oranges, and I think it might be worth mentioning it to them. I’ll go by order as they are given in the PDF you linked to. All are short-run bulk subcontracted manufactured items, not artisan or cottage industry products.

    Imported products: ALL are lead hazard recalls:
    Example 1: short run or low number of sold units, MIC, imported by an off-label variety toy importer
    Example 2: short run or low number of sold units, made in Korea, imported by an import-goods variety store chain, possibly a private label
    Example 3: short run or low number of sold units, MIC, imported by a specialty seasonal gifts imports company

    Domestic manufacture: all are STRUCTURAL, i.e. manufacturing or design flaw recalls
    Example 1: short run or low number of suspect sold units, manufacturing or design flaw, should have been caught in use testing or manufacturer’s quality control.
    Example 2: short run or low number of suspect sold units, manufacturing or design flaw ON THE PART OF THE MANUFACTURER’S PART SUPPLIER, should have been caught in use testing or manufacturer’s quality control.
    Example 3: short run or low number of suspect sold units, manufacturing or design flaw, should have been caught in use testing or manufacturer’s quality control.

    NO amount of testing of the final prototype of any run will predict quality control issues, random manufacturing errors, etc. The recall process AS IT EXISTED BEFORE CPSIA addressed that, and the new law will actually make it harder to catch this stuff in time because of the sheer volume of new paperwork. It’ll get lost.

    It’s completely ridiculous for the interest groups to pretend that it does not work that way.

    The CPSC didn’t have enough personnel or funding to keep up with enforcing the old rules. The Act really only gives them funding and personnel to catch up with where they should ahve been before – it actually builds a bigger, better funded, equally overwhelmed CPSC.

    Who thought that this would work?

  15. Marian says:

    Does he have blog or anywhere is also posting? Keep your chin up as there are many,many who appreciate the efforts you have made on this issue!

  16. Kitty says:

    What does this Micheal @ CaffeineIndustries guy have against small businesses trying to not go out of business? If he’s really all that concerned about the economy, he’d think people trying to keep their businesses afloat would be a GOOD thing!!

  17. Jody says:

    From the Nord Letter:
    “The CPSIA passed after lengthy and careful deliberation by Congress, with many hearings and extensive input from all stakeholders.”

    Kathleen, if there’s any way to get transcripts or reports of these hearings, I’d be willing to bet that “all stakeholders” didn’t include small businesses, apparel manufacturers, book publishers, or any of the myriad of manufacturers (other than the toy manufacturers) that were caught by surprise by this law. Contrary to what the Nord letter asserts, this legislation was neither well conceived or well informed. It might lend additional credibilty to our industry-specific assertions if we can show that they didn’t even consider us in the equation…

    Also, don’t know who you plan to send it to, but I would definitely CC the same parties as were sent the Nord letter….this will lend some balance.

    BTW…you ROCK!

  18. sfriedberg says:

    How can USPIRG et al. claim in their letter to Nord that there was “lengthy and careful deliberation by Congress”? This was put to Congress as a “feel good” measure, as the 106 co-sponsors (can you say “bandwagon”?) and the totally unbalanced vote in the US House (407 for, ZERO against, 25 abstentions) clearly indicate. There was almost nothing in the way of deliberation.

    And on a related note, it is politically pointless and probably counterproductive to engage in a rational discussion of risks and benefits with either the special interest groups that pushed this legislation or the Representatives and Senators who went along with it. Instead, focus on how the full protections of the Act can be more practically and reliably achieved by amending the Act to allow different solutions to the same problem. We will never be successful in a head-on fight against well-organized pressure groups who wail “You are poisoning our BAAAYbiieesss!”. No politician will stand up to that, no matter how spurious, blatantly manipulative or inaccurate. Success lies in emphasizing the flaws in the Act’s required methods not its desired ends, and by proposing clearly superior and more practical methods.

  19. Lesley says:

    I really hope you send them this letter – it says it all. I already hit all their websites and jotted down the addresses. I will do my part and bombard every single one of them PLUS Rep. Nord with a copy of the 4-page letter that I sent my House Rep. If nothing else, they’ll get paper cuts!

  20. SFriedburg, that is absolutely true about it not being politically expedient to attack the law in this way which is why Kathleen and many others have said that that is where our focus should be, and has been all along; trying to come up with a workable framework so that everyone can stay in business.

    Kudos Kathleen, as usual your letter is right on the mark.

  21. Eric H says:

    Stu, perhaps we should give special-interests a name like those they use to marginalize us, say “Big Lobbying”?

    Maura, I’m glad I’m not the only one who checked their “facts” and found that inconsistency.

  22. Michael says:


    Wow, no response from you via email, but this? Ok. My point, as I said before I was banned, is CPSIA is a minimal issue (at best) compared to the problems we face economically. You all seem to think that this economy is at a normal bump in the road, its not and its getting worse.

    I sent the message in hopes that you might begin to focus a little more on the economy/business side of sewn products rather than CPSIA. Without an economy or ways to survive a horrible economy, CPSIA is irrelevant. I’ve been dismissed as a hack on the forum, but that does not make me wrong. We’ll see which matters more in the coming year; CPSIA or Economy.

  23. Eric H says:

    But Michael, if we’re out of business on 10 February, what the hell difference does it matter what happens in the next few months?

    Also, I posted these links before, but you failed to respond to them:

    Now there are more for you not to read:

    Could it get worse? Sure. Could the deck chairs on the Titanic have been arranged nicer?

    Michael, you’re a one-track troll. You got banned from the forum because of your comment in which you said, “I’ve tried to get behind the fight here, but I can’t. I don’t disagree with the legislation, partly because I think the reaction here is overblown (to say the least).” You tried and tried and tried to pick a fight on the issue for no good reason. Kathleen has no obligation to spend another 4 hours a day on *your* off-topic topic after spending 16 hours a day on a real, immediate, pressing, huge, dramatic, sweeping problem that will impact manufacturers, retailers, vendors, reps, and consumers, and that we might actually be able to do something about.

    The forum is for people who want to make sewn products, not for people who want to conduct pedantic rants on macroeconomics about which we can do nothing. Kathleen’s book is about how to make good products efficiently (i.e. low total cost), and if you had actually *read* it after you bought it, you might have been able to make a useful contribution to the discussion instead of coming up with useless and uninformed suggestions like doing without hang-tags. Go take that to one of the unmanaged, free-for-all forums that are the internet equivalent to angry letters to the editor from one-topic cranks.

  24. Kathleen says:

    Michael, you have no idea what I think about how to manage a business in tough economic climes from reading on the blog, nor have you read the book (why did you bother to buy it) so you have NO idea what I think about the economy and I don’t know why you continue to presume that having failed to read any of this, that you presume you do. Moreover, just how many times do I have to say I do *not* think “this economy is at a normal bump in the road”? If you don’t respect me sufficiently to read what I’ve already published, why would I clamber after your approval or demands to write it again, just for you? How do I owe you something? You know, you’re in an enviable position. You can go back and read my oldest material from ten, twelve years ago and tell me how I’m wrong in today’s economy. But guess what? You can’t because I’m not, especially in a bad economy and also, I don’t think you even have the book anymore but in any event, there is little doubt you never read it.

    I told you to go start your own blog and pillory me there for my failures. For now, I will continue to focus on CPSIA as it is an affect that can still be avoided and there is little I can do about the economy overall. Those designers who have read my book and follow the advice in it, will not have the same issues that the typical designer who hasn’t read it has. Again, if you’d ever read the book, you’d know that.

  25. EJong says:

    Eloquent and poignent- thanks Kathleen for all the work you are doing and advocating for appropriate and reasonable measures that will truly result in safer products.

  26. I come from an extensive background in Information Technology and communications, and would still be out there on the bleeding edge if lifelong health problems didn’t finally force me to leave life in the fast lane. From my contact & conversations with Kathleen and others in the industry, I know her to be highly intelligent, an expert in her industry and very sharp in business. I’d put her up against anyone I’ve ever worked with in the computer industry.

    Go back and read history, the Depression didn’t last a decade because of the Stock Market crash of ’29, it was caused by layer upon layer of mistakes by the government over a period of time. Back off, she knows what she’s talking about. We’re trying to prevent a train wreck here.

  27. Heather says:

    Since I assume that you are over the age of 12, I would like to make you a cape. And a scepter. (you can use it to ward off trolls). I think you’ll find your crown in heaven ;)
    Let me know if you decide to just start a new country where reason applies. *sigh* Is that our only hope at this point?
    Don’t let the turkeys (or trolls) get you down.

  28. Kathleen,

    Thank you for investing your time so endlessly to this issue. It is such a shame that such a needed protection is so wrecklessly written. I for one will be so delighted when my clients and I are able to get back to our organic responsible business as usual w/o fear of retroactive fines.

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