"Once again, here's a situation where it's the small business that suffers the most," says Kathryn Howard, an environmental and consumer expert with the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology. "Mattel can easily afford to test every one of their Barbie dolls. The smaller guys are the ones that manufacture in the US – as opposed to China and other parts of the world.
"I see the environmental benefit," she says. But she suggests that the government explore ways to make the testing more affordable for small companies and phase it in over a longer period of time.
Testing costs can start from $400 to $500 and run into thousands of dollars, according to some estimates, depending on the complexity of the item. Each unique product has to be tested – meaning that small, medium, and large shirts must be tested individually. In a line of stuffed toys birds, for example, the chickadee, robin, and eagle all need a separate test.
The prospective bill is causing sticker shock and cries of outrage from small US-based artisans and manufacturers, independent toy shops, and baby boutique stores.
"We need an outcry from consumers: 'Wait we asked for safe toys, we didn't ask you to put the industry out of business,' " says Kathleen McHugh, president of American Specialty Toy Retailing Association in Chicago, which has 1,000 members.
She says that independent toy stores have two alternatives, neither of them good: They can have all their products tested or throw all their untested inventory out. Either scenario would put them out of business, she says.