After scouring the internet, making phone calls, sending emails, and talking to lots of people, I don’t feel as if I’m any closer to launching this business. Sometimes it appears that I have made progress, but usually the feeling is quickly diluted due to additional unforeseen obstacles.
I have received quotes from two different third party labs, and they have a $2,500 difference between them. Why the discrepancy? I wish I knew. One lab proposes many more tests than the other – but what’s most frustrating is that I have no idea what tests are even necessary for my toy. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that “small batch manufacturers will ALWAYS be required to third party test for compliance with certain children’s product safety rules,” and when I look at the tests that are in this mandatory list it appears that I would only have to have lead tested (Lead-in-paint and other surface coatings, 16 CFR §1303). So far so good; I also don’t want lead in the toys. But then it gets tricky:
Qualifying small batch manufacturers are NOT required to third party test for compliance with certain other children’s product safety rules (Group B, on the right hand side of this page). Note, however, that all manufacturers, even those that are small batch manufacturers, must ensure that their children’s products are in compliance with the underlying children’s product safety rules in Group B and issue a general certificate of conformity (GCC).
So, while I’m not required to third party test the toys, somehow I have to make sure that YoBlocks are still “in compliance” with all of the safety “rules” in Group B of that webpage — and I need to be able to issue a general certificate of conformity. The CPSC does have a sample general certificate of conformity posted on their website, but don’t get too excited, because it includes this disclaimer:
This form of certificate and instructions are staff interpretations and do not replace or supersede the statutory requirements of the new legislation. They were prepared by CPSC staff, have not been reviewed or approved by, and may not necessarily reflect the views of, the Commission. They may be subject to change based on Commission action.
I’m not really sure how to “ensure” that my children’s products are in compliance with the other safety rules posted on the CPSC webpage. I have twice written to the Small Business Ombudsman Neal S. Cohen, but haven’t heard anything back yet. My guess is that his office is being completely bombarded with people trying to understand this complicated mess. I thought I might be able to rely on this seal (see right), found on the packaging of all the craft materials I am using in YoBlocks. I thought it meant what it said: non-toxic. Rather disappointingly, I can’t figure out if this seal actually means anything or not. Take, for example, the phone conversation that I just had with a customer service representative at Plaid, a craft material manufacturer. I was excited to learn that the company manufactures their materials in the US, and made a cheerful call to them to ask for their certificate of compliance (which they are required to give out, if I understand correctly) specific to the Lot # for the products I would be using in the production of YoBlocks. More than one customer service representative firmly insisted that the response they were supposed to provide when asked this question is that their products are craft products, and not intended for children’s toys. I explained that I myself might be testing the products at a third party lab (if I can afford it), that I wasn’t asking that they do the testing, just provide the certificate. Both representatives inflexibly denied my request, one of them telling me that I should be using commercial paints made for use on children’s toys, not craft materials. What about that “non-toxic” seal — doesn’t that mean something here? She told me that the seal should not be read that it is safe for toys. ??? I wonder what the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute would say about that statement. According to the ACMI, “Of the 60,000 art and creative material formulations evaluated to date, 100% of the children’s products and 85% of those meant for the adult artist are certified as non-toxic.”
Frustrated, but not discouraged, I still have a lot of ideas for how to move forward on this. The lab quotes need further investigation; I wonder if they might ultimately prohibit me from pursuing this entrepreneurial endeavor. The ACMI seal demands more attention, and I am determined to connect with Neal S. Cohen. And the list continues…