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An Unlikely Victim of CPSIA, Heathrow Scientific LLC

March 30, 2009 by Dana  
Filed under BLOG

My name is Jim Woldenberg and I am CEO of a Small Business called Heathrow Scientific LLC (“Heathrow”).  Heathrow designs and manufactures items for use by trained laboratory technicians.  Heathrow products are in use at the NIH, CDC, Pfizer, Merck and most of the major research universities and institutes in the U.S.  Heathrow’s products are also sold around the World, with more than 40% of their sales outside the U.S.  Heathrow does business in more than 80 countries.  Heathrow directly employs 13 individuals in Vernon Hills, Illinois and 1 in Great Britain.

Heathrow recently received a request from one of its U.S. customers to certify that its products meet the standards set forth in the CPSIA.  Why, you may ask, would a company that designs, and manufactures, products for use by trained laboratory technicians, in professional labs, be asked to certify that its products meet standards set forth in a law that deals with safety standards for children’s products?  The answer is that there are many uses for products and this particular customer of Heathrow sells the Heathrow product range into the middle school science classroom marketplace.  Therefore, some of the kids that touch the Heathrow products this company sells may be younger than 12 years of age.  Therefore, they think they need to have on file certification from their suppliers that these products meet the CPSIA standards.

Our products are not designed for use by children.  Heathrow’s sales into the middle school science classroom market are not sufficiently large to pay for us to have our products tested, and in any event, if products are not designed for use by children, they are not subject to the CPSIA.  However, many companies are spooked by the fact that this law has mandatory $100,000 per occurrence fines and felony criminal sanctions.  They do not want to go to jail for selling products that violate the CPSIA, nor can they afford to risk $100,000 per occurrence fines.

So, they will either get their certifications or drop the products.  This means that our products will no longer be available for use by middle school science teachers (who apparently found a use for them in teaching biology, chemistry and other sciences).  Not only will this hurt our company by denying us some sales (which are small but not zero, and clearly more important in this economic environment).  But, eliminating these items from middle schools will not enhance the ability of teachers to help our kids learn.

The shame of all of this is that, despite the price being paid by many actors in this scenario, no one is being made safer.

This law needs some sort of gauge.  A materiality test.  A release valve to ensure that not everything that gets swept up by the overly broad language is criminalized.

We are but one small actor in the saga of the CPSIA, but our story is an important one.  We know of other laboratory supply or equipment manufacturers who have been financially punished by the CPSIA.  And, the laboratory supply industry is relatively small.  There are many other industries being affected by the law, with many more jobs at risk.

Amend the CPSIA and save U.S. jobs.


Jim Woldenberg

Heathrow Scientific, LLC


17 Responses to “An Unlikely Victim of CPSIA, Heathrow Scientific LLC”
  1. My company also sells science related items but ours are geared toward elementary age. We are in jeopardy because of the CPSIA and basically we just sell simple rock kits. Our suppliers have assured us that our items meet the CPSIA criteria but their assurance will do us no good once the manadatory testing requirements begin. This law is not based in science or reason. Yes, this law hurts, and may eliminate my company, but it also hurts the children who love science but will no longer have quality products with which to learn.

    Tracy Barnhart

  2. Chris says:

    That’s too bad…I really enjoyed looking at those catalog’s made specifically for middle school science. It made it easier to find products that were age appropriate for my students. I’m sure those will cease to be published. It will be a lot of fun trying to make those AP science kits appropriate for my students…

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  1. [...] not well suited to amortize the costs of a testing program, are the suppliers of equipment for school science programs. Is there a “Teachers Against CPSIA” group yet? And if not, why [...]

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