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Minnesota toy manufacturers say new law could shut down Santa’s workshop

A consumer-protection law meant to keep toxins out of children’s toys could end up having an unintended consequence of shutting down Santa’s workshop, according to a group of small manufacturers.

The Handmade Toy Alliance, a new St. Paul-based organization of independent toy makers and retailers, says certain requirements in the law will be too expensive or onerous for its members to meet.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act goes into effect Feb. 10. Congress passed the legislation in August after a flurry of high-profile toy recalls during the previous year.

The law bans lead and phthalates from toys and other products that could easily wind up in children’s mouths. What the alliance objects to is a requirement that companies pay for third-party lab testing to certify that lead or other toxins are not contained in their products.

That could cost several thousand dollars per toy — an amount many small manufacturers wouldn’t be able to afford. The Handmade Toy Alliance is asking that “micro-businesses” and toys made from natural materials such as wood, silk, cotton and wool be exempt from testing.

“If this law were applied to food, almost every farmer at the farmers’ market would be out of business,” said Dan Marshall, co-owner of Peapods Natural Toys in St. Paul and a member of the Alliance.

Marshall will host a press conference at his store at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. He’ll be joined by representatives of Minnesota children’s product manufacturers Fairy Finery, Kangaroo Corner, Sassy Knitwear, Doodletown Toys and BEKA Natural Wooden Products.

BEKA was included in a Washington Post article on Sunday about toy manufacturers’ objections to the law. Owner Jamie Kreisman described paying $500 to a lab to confirm his natural, unfinished wood block toys were indeed natural, unfinished wood blocks.

“There was no lead to test, no surface finish to test,” Kreisman told the Post. “They wrote us a formal report and gave us a bill.”

In an interview, Marshall told the Business Agenda he doesn’t see any conspiracy. Congress and the large toymakers were working quickly to respond to the recall scare, and the needs of small toy manufacturers were simply overlooked in the process.

The Alliance has been in contact with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a key supporter of the law who helped push for the inclusion of the lead ban. A spokesman in her Minnesota office said she is aware of the concerns and plans to work with the Alliance to see if they can be addressed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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