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Ask MAKE is a weekly column where we answer reader questions, like yours. Write them in to becky@makezine.com or drop us a line on Twitter. We can’t wait to tackle your conundrums!

Bill writes in:

Last year I built a Kid Wash and my kids have loved playing in it. We brought it out again yesterday with the great weather we had over the weekend and my son (age 12) came up with the idea of earning money over the summer by building and selling them locally. It’s an easy enough project that I figure he can handle it and it is popular enough with the neighborhood children that he could also have some success in selling it.

However, the new CPSIA regulations have me worried that such a project (however small) will never get off the ground or we’ll just be setting ourselves up for legal problems down the road. How do makers who build and sell toys deal with such regulations? Obviously if he was trying to make and sell something hazardous I wouldn’t allow it, but how do we encourage such entrepreneurship without exposing ourselves to liabilities.

There was a huge outcry over the CPSIA regulations when they were announced because of their lack of consideration of the costs they would impose on small manufacturers, especially handmakers of one-of-a-kind toys and clothes. The CPSC voted to impose a stay of one year for testing and certification requirements, which expires February 10, 2010. These folks clearly realized there needs to be more thought put into the wide-sweeping rules that would devastate many small businesses. So you still aren’t allowed to sell toys with lead paint, small choking-sized parts, etc., but you don’t have to have your KidWash tested by a third party for lead and phthalates before selling them to your neighbors. Not until next year, at least.

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Becky Stern

Becky Stern is head of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site: sternlab.org


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