New regulations around the testing and sale of children's toys take effect this week, with predictable confusion. Thrift shop owners and small manufacturers are hollering that the testing costs will put them out of business, mini-bike makers and others are lobbying for exemptions, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued guidelines that, so far as I can tell, fail to answer a simple question like: "Do all children's products require testing?"
What's likely to happen is that the toy megaliths who started this mess by importing toxic junk from China will be able to comply with the new laws, substituting chemicals with as yet undetermined toxicity for chemicals proven to be toxic, while small toymakers -- often those using wood and simple, non-toxic stains, will go out of business.
Check out this story about a family in Columbus, Ohio handcrafting toys from wood and finishing them with flaxseed oil (which is safe, even edible). They can't afford to test all their products, and they were banking on a year's reprieve while regulators sort out the unintended consequences, but a federal judge has nixed that hope. They and a lot of other small businesses are fighting back, but will anyone listen?
It would certainly be ironic if regulations aimed at protecting children cause a decline in safe, wooden toys, and an upsurge in plastic, chemical-laden junk. Then again, Washington specializes in irony, doesn't it?