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CPSIA – CPSIA Casualty of the Week for January 25

The Alliance for Children’s Product Safety’s “CPSIA Casualty of the Week” highlights how the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is disrupting the U.S. marketplace in order to draw attention to the problems faced by small businesses, public institutions, consumers and others trying to comply with senseless and often contradictory provisions of the law. These provisions do nothing to improve product safety, but are driving small businesses out of the market.

Congress and the CPSC need to address the problems with CPSIA implementation to help small businesses by restoring “common sense” to our nation’s product safety laws.

CPSIA Casualty of the Week for January 25, 2010

CPSIA Means No Bling for Baby

When Elementary School teacher Marcy Cohen had her first baby girl, she and her sister Lori Rockoff, a social worker, started making tiny accessories for the newest addition to the family. With only a few strands of hair to adorn, the sister team developed “no slip” clips and bows. Soon, their sparkling rhinestone creations were catching the eye of friends and strangers, prompting them to launch Pea Soup Accessories for Kids, which quickly became a leading manufacturer of hand-made children’s products. Their trendy product line includes a wide variety of accessories from embellished headbands to ornate socks.

Yet, while the sisters behind Pea Soup were busy supplying hundreds of high-end boutiques, Congress was working on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) to devise new testing standards of the metal and crystal embellishments that give Pea Soup accessories their unique flair. While none of Pea Soup’s products ever had any safety or lead problems, the confusing nature of the CPSIA forced the sisters to make substantial changes to much of their line.

“We did not want to take any chances with violating the new law,” says Marcy. “In order to avoid any risks, we scrapped many of the products in our line and had to manufacture new ones with different and compliant materials.”

As a result of the law and the cost of the required testing, Pea Soup was forced to significantly change their product line, eliminating much of the creative embellishments that made their accessories distinctive and leaving them with thousands of dollars worth of perfectly safe (and adorable) unsalable inventory.

For more information about Pea Soup visit, http://www.peasoupaccessories.com/about_us/

For additional information on the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety and CPSIA, and to view previous “Casualties of the Week, visit http://www.AmendTheCPSIA.com/

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CPSIA – CPSIA Casualty of the Week for January 25

CPSIA – In Defense of Lead

Perhaps you have been expecting it. After all the “heat” in this blog over the past year, finally, my defense of lead. Hope you’re happy now. . . .

Last Friday, Commissioner Bob Adler posted his long-awaited position paper on lead and related CPSIA issues. Weighing in at 21 pages and 89 footnotes, Mr. Adler’s paper includes a thorough recitation of facts as well as his recommendations about the law. Among other things, he recommends making the lead exemption process more flexible and allowing clothing to be sold through charity resale shops. He also left the door open to changes that would ease the economic burden of the CPSIA on small businesses and low-income consumers. I agree with all of these changes – but I also think many other and more extensive changes are needed, too. I do not agree with the basis of Mr. Adler’s reasoning, however, and that makes all the difference.

Mr. Adler devotes about half of his statement to a detailed analysis of lead safety, reciting many facts not in dispute. Unfortunately, he then leaps to familiar conclusions that we have seen in recent Commission meetings and which are also found in many of his written statements. He does signal some extremely limited flexibility on lead, more or less hewing to the line put forth by Central Casting.

Ironically, Mr. Adler’s statement sometimes leaves you wondering where he stands, since he seems so sympathetic to both sides. It is frustrating to not have a clear picture of how he really sees the world. I fail to find persuasive his argument that the lead rules are good for us when they lead to ridiculous results like the banning of brash bushings on toy cars. Mr. Adler himself noted in the Learning Curve hearing that the brass bushings pose NO risk to children at a hypothetical tipping point with blood lead levels (in other words, the toys were incontrovertibly safe) – and then voted to ban them because the law compelled it. This should trigger a sense of outrage in the Commissioner . . . but it doesn’t.

To me, as an ex-lawyer, the illogical results documented in the Learning Curve case are intolerable. It is proof of a defective law and a defective system. Banning acknowledged safe products is a SIGN of problems, not something to rejoice in. As you know, it costs money to toss away perfectly good product. It also costs a lot of money to employ CPSC staff and Commissioners to decide silly cases like the brass bushing case. Something’s quite wrong if we are celebrating a system so obviously broken.

i believe there are fundamental flaws in Mr. Adler’s views on lead which prompt him to make recommendations basically defending a broken, illogical and self-destructive legislative system. Let me start by stating what I considered to be incontrovertible facts:

  • Lead is bad
  • Lead can be dangerous to children
  • Harming children is bad, and unacceptable if reasonably foreseeable.
  • Lead poisoning in children is largely if not entirely the fault of lead house paint and leaded gasoline

Mr. Adler makes the latter point in his footnote 83: “Clothing is not a significant source of lead poisoning. Far and away the greatest source of lead poisoning is lead paint in older housing, lead-saturated soil from gasoline emanated over the years from automobile exhausts, and lead-saturated dust (both from paint and gasoline).” [Other citations omitted] It is important to remember that Mr. Adler KNOWS that blood lead level problems stem from house paint and the long term consequences of years of leaded gasoline use (particularly in the inner city).

Mr. Adler tries to prove that lead is bad – but that fact beyond dispute. He goes further and builds the case that there is no “safe” level of lead, providing citations. Thus established, he then seems to justify the legislation’s strict terms based on the logic that if science hasn’t identified a safe level for lead, every instance of lead is therefore dangerous: “We may have currently reached the outer limits of our ability to measure negative effects of exposure to small amounts of lead, but that does not mean that no adverse effects are occurring. It basically means that we do not know.” Scary stuff. . . but what does he really think?

It’s hard to tell. Notwithstanding his assertion that no level of lead is safe, Adler seems oddly reassured by the permitted levels set by Congress: “[Given] that lead remains ubiquitous and often unavoidable, policymakers who are fully aware of lead’s risks, have sought to determine some level of lead that would be acceptable – at least until new information becomes available.” And these all-knowing policymakers (Congress) set a retroactive scheme of rapidly declining permitted lead levels. In other words, what was considered “safe” (meaning legal) on February 9, 2009, was “unsafe” on February 10, 2009, and what was considered “safe” on February 10, 2009 became “unsafe” on August 14, 2009, and what was “safe” on August 14, 2009 promises to become “unsafe” on August 14, 2011. Mr. Adler analyzes retroactivity under the CPSIA in his statement and then endorses it. Huh?

I fail to grasp the logic of either Congress or Mr. Adler here. Is lead in substrate dangerous or is it not? Is there a safe level for lead or is there not? Is lead safe on one day, and not safe on the next day? If so, can someone explain the science of that safe/unsafe trigger to me? I believe Mr. Adler’s accommodative attitude toward the lead standards and retroactivity is best explained by politics than by any notions of safety or risk.

It is even harder to take Adler’s stern tones on lead seriously when you consider the volume of lead elsewhere in a child’s life. Will regulation of lead in substrate in children’s products have any material impact on blood lead levels? Can anyone prove that it will, or that the cost of getting rid of all the lead is worth the cost? Remember that we could redeploy the same money for more impactful projects, like eliminating high lead levels in drinking water in schools or remediating soil contaminated with lead. We have already covered the fact that Mr. Adler knows that blood lead levels are fundamentally tied to exposure to leaded house paint and contaminated soil. It is also well-known that cars are coated in lead paint, legally under our laws. Lead is also in our food chain, is found in nature – and enters our bodies every day. [For data on this topic, see "Eat My Dust".] By obsessing on children’s products in the face of these facts, Congress ensured that its new legislation would fail to deliver measurable results.

In essence, the slogan “no safe level for lead” connotes a risk-free condition. “Risk-free” is an unrealistic standard and FAR too expensive as public policy. Mr. Adler uses this formulation in his lengthy analysis of used clothing sales: “In sum, I cannot state with certainty that a “safety” threshold of, say, 1 µg/dL blood level change would never occur from zipper sucking. . . . The fact that I cannot say there is no risk is why I characterize the choice [between allowing and banning resale of used clothing] as between bad and worse.” [Emphasis added] Mr. Adler is not following a legal principle here, he is asserting one. This is the precautionary principle, the famous Nanny State being implemented before your very eyes.

It is difficult to diffuse an argument based on the elimination of all possible risk. If we wish to organize our society around the elimination of risk, rather than the management of risk, we are doomed. All of us, not just the children’s product industry. The sad truth is that no one in the Federal government can prove that the policies of the last 35 years on lead caused injury. Mr. Adler implicitly asserts that our inability to prove that it DIDN’T is enough justification to throw the old system out. This is a belief system, not science.

The fear of risk is fanned by the threat of undetectable dangers. Mr. Adler notes: “To say the effects [of lead on healthy children] are not directly observable is not to say that that they are minor.” He amplifies this point by implying a link to children’s products to lead injuries without any proof of a relationship: “[MRI] technology has permitted us to identify permanent damage in adults stemming from childhood lead exposures.” Exposure to what, precisely? ABC blocks or the soil next to an inner-city apartment building in the leaded gasoline era? Mr. Adler’s assertion that we just don’t know what the harm is dodges the real question – how do you know there is any harm resulting from THESE USES OF LEAD? No answer is supplied because no one can answer that question.

The Adler statement paints a pretty compelling picture and the 89 footnotes were presumably intended to add academic gravitas to his arguments. However, not all academics agree with Adler. Here are videos of the presentations of two Ph.D.s who specialize in risk assessment in children’s products and lead issues taking an opposite view: Richard Reiss of Exponent and Barbara Beck of Gradient. They both note that the dose makes the poison and that only through true risk assessment will a sensible safety system be possible.

A couple brief notes:

- Mr. Adler talks a lot about retroactivity in the CPSIA. At the end of the day, he comes down . . . get ready for it . . . in favor of retaining retroactivity, but also for the recommendation of the Commission to make the pending 100 ppm lead standard prospective. I am not commenting on his arguments other than to say that I think relaxation of this provision would bring considerable economic relief without any possibility of physical harm to anyone. That’s enough reasoning for me.

- In calling for change to the lead exemption process, Adler is apparently willing to support only “a modest expansion in the amount of discretion granted to the Commission”. I find this rather curious and unexplained – he only wants a little discretion. Why? Does he worry that the Commission can’t handle the responsibility for full discretion? Again, why? I wonder if greater powers suggested this very limited recommendation out of a lack of “trust”, namely trust of future Commissions not hand-picked by this Dem-dominated Congress. No matter the explanation, it is curious indeed to see a Commissioner ask Congress to extend his Commission limited discretion.

- Adler devotes considerable space to sale of children’s clothing at resale shops. He ultimately recommends that charity resale shops be allowed to sell children’s clothing (possibly subject to posted Proposition 65-like warnings, see footnote 88). Adler’s logic in this section is puzzling to me. Is Adler trying to defend children or defend the CPSIA? He concedes that clothing has no history of causing injury from lead but is apparently troubled that it cannot be proven that a child couldn’t be harmed by clothing. Incredibly, he resolves the dilemma by distinguishing between resales made by charity shops and by for-profit shops, leaving the latter out of his proposed exemption. So is he approving the sale of unsafe products by charity resale shops to poor people so they can stay warm? Or is he saying that the clothes are probably safe, but can’t be sold by for-profit stores for . . . what reason? If the clothing is safe to sell, sell it . . . and if it isn’t, don’t. WHO sells it shouldn’t matter. But apparently it does.

An aside: Mr. Adler uses some strong language to discuss those of us who have pushed back on this law: “As I have waded into the debate, I have encountered many thoughtful, sincere, and anguished concerns about the CPSIA. I have also heard numerous overheated arguments, scanned many bloviating blogs, and read great numbers of error-laden emails (and letters) commenting on the law.” For those of you who don’t know this SAT word, “bloviating” is defined as “[to] discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner” on dictionary.com. I wish our government officials would stick to the issues and avoid attacking the exercise of Free Speech by U.S. citizens. This is particularly the case here, since after a long fight, many of those bloviaters have been proven right. I don’t expect thanks, but I think this is out of line.

I could go on, but I won’t. Mr. Adler’s voice in the debate is an important one and I appreciate his efforts to set the record straight. I don’t agree with him and appreciate the opportunity to reply.

You be the judge!

Read more here:
CPSIA – In Defense of Lead

CPSIA – Massachusetts Speaks . . . Will Congress and the CPSC Listen???

On Saturday, the Washington Post published a poll indicating that three-quarters of Massachusetts voters wanted newly-elected Senator Scott Brown to work with Democrats to get Republican ideas into legislation in general. This note was picked up on Face The Nation yesterday, leading to very strong words from host Bob Schieffer:

“My own take is the vote for Brown was not so much a vote for or against policy or party, as it was a vote against the process itself. People don’t like the political games, and they’ve lost confidence in a bumbling bureaucracy that since Katrina can’t seem to get out of its own way. Why trust the government with a complicated health care proposal, when it can’t catch a terrorist whose own father tried to turn him in? It will take the perseverance of Job and a lot of political courage, but if the two sides could somehow pay less attention to the voices on the fringes of the left and the right, take the Massachusetts voters’ advice, and sit down together to see what they could agree on, who knows? They might get something done! They couldn’t do worse. They might even like it – and I don’t need a poll to tell me the rest of us surely would.” [Emphasis added]

Hmmm, Mr. Schieffer has a point. I hope that Congress and others are not so myopic to believe that this message is just about health care. The daily stress event of reading the front page of the paper confirms that vitriol is the new drink of choice for the Obama Administration. The CPSIA saga is another one of those acidic partisan divisions that led to voter revolt. It’s time to recognize that the process is a big part of the problem here.

The Brown election can be seen as a direct rebuke to the CPSIA process but the risk remains that the point might be missed by You Know Who, the CPSC Commission and other parties at interest. There is little sign of any contemplation on this point yet. The stridency is still there. For instance, BNA reported that some consumer advocates were jolly satisfied with the secrecy of the process to prepare last week’s report to Congress: “Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel at Consumer Federation of America (CFA), told BNA Jan. 7 that a public meeting is not necessary since the recommendations were made public once they were submitted.” I guess sunshine doesn’t work for consumer advocates all the time, especially if it might weaken their powerful grip on the CPSIA.

If the parties supporting the CPSIA have no room to compromise on anything and will twist into any pretzel-like shape to prop it up, we’re not going to get anywhere . . . and the anger of the voters will mount. The message from Massachusetts was loud and clear – to those that aren’t deaf.

Now we will see who was listening.

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CPSIA – Massachusetts Speaks . . . Will Congress and the CPSC Listen???

CPSIA – Congressional Eager Beavers Push Anti-Cadmium Law

Congress’ Junior Scientists Club (Senators Klobuchar, Schumer and Nelson) sprung into action Tuesday to solicit co-sponsors for CPSIA knock-off legislation to ban cadmium and various other materials in jewelry. The delicious irony here is their choice of day to launch this effort, namely the day that Massachusetts elected a Republican to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate, an election result widely interpreted as a firm rejection of this Administration’s government intervention, you know, like this bill.

Let’s not forget that in 1972 the Federal Government created a little known agency to handle “threats” like this, namely the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Congress gave the CPSC the authority it needed to do its job. Oddly, today our Democratic-dominated government seems to think that only it can solve safety problems and further must LEAP into action to save us. I question this. Perhaps the CPSC even questions this.

Even more remarkable is the Dems persistence in pursuing a CPSIA strategy to “stop this cold”. Have these Senators learned nothing from the last 18 months of CPSIA chaos and pain, preferring instead to continue legislating without research, hearings or contemplation? Well, the approach “worked” once before and they did read an AP story about it. . . .

Someday these Senators will be up for reelection. Mark your calendars!

Here’s their letter for your reading pleasure:

Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 12:16 PM
Subject: Cosponsor the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act – keep cadmium out of children’s jewelry

Senators Schumer, Nelson and Klobuchar are seeking cosponsors of the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act. A copy of the draft bill is attached. Please let Stacy Ettinger in Senator Schumer’s office know, this week, if your boss would like to cosponsor the bill or if you have any questions about the bill.
Also, appended below, please find the January 10, 2010, by Justin Pritchard on the Associated Press’s investigation into use of cadmium in children’s jewelry and the adverse health effects of cadmium exposure (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34793600/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/print/1/displaymode/1098/ ).

SUPPORT THE SAFE KIDS’ JEWELRY ACT
Protect Children from Exposure to Cadmium and Other Toxic Heavy Metals in Children’s Jewelry

Dear Colleague,

We write to request that you consider cosponsoring the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act. We believe that this bill is vital to protect children from exposure to cadmium and other toxic heavy metals in children’s jewelry. The legislation would prohibit the manufacture and sale of children’s jewelry – including charms, bracelets, pendants, necklaces, earrings, or rings – containing cadmium, barium or antimony.

Cadmium is a soft, silver-white metal that typically is used to manufacture pigments and batteries and in the metal-plating and plastics industries. Cadmium is a known carcinogen and studies show that direct exposure has adverse developmental and reproductive effects and can lead to kidney disease, among other health problems. Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to the dangerous effects of cadmium and other toxic heavy metals. Children’s growing bodies absorb these metals at much higher rates than adults and long-term cumulative exposure increases toxicity.

This legislation is needed because test findings show a growing presence of cadmium in children’s jewelry as foreign manufacturers switch from lead – now banned in children’s products – to cheap substitute metals. In lab testing for a recent Associated Press investigation, chemists found significant use of cadmium in a variety of charms, bracelets and pendants sold at several popular retail stores.

In addition to banning children’s jewelry made with cadmium, barium or antimony, the legislation provides for enforcement of the ban, as well as further study on whether other heavy metals should be banned for use in children’s jewelry or other children’s products. Specifically, the bill —

· Protects children. Children are most vulnerable to the health risks from cadmium and other heavy metals. The bill bans the manufacture and sale of children’s jewelry containing cadmium, barium or antimony marketed for children ages 12 and under. Products covered by the ban include charms, bracelets, pendants, necklaces, earrings and rings. The ban would take effect 90 days from enactment of the legislation.

· Gives the CPSC flexibility to designate the most effective testing and certification requirements. The bill gives the Commission authority and flexibility to set stringent, effective testing and certification requirements for manufacturers to ensure the safety of children’s jewelry.

· Sets criminal and civil penalties for violations. Children’s jewelry containing cadmium, barium or antimony would be considered a “banned hazardous substance” under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (“FHSA”). The bill mandates application of criminal and/or civil penalties under the FHSA for any violations of the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act. The bill requires the Commission to report annually to Congress on its actions to enforce the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act, as well as whether the Commission imposed any criminal or civil penalties for violations of the Act.

· Does not preempt State or local law. A significant number of States and localities across the country are now considering enacting laws to ban sales of children’s jewelry containing cadmium and other heavy metals. The bill makes clear that the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act would not preempt State or local laws relating to regulation of products containing cadmium, barium or antimony. The bill also clarifies that the Safe Kids’ Jewelry Act would not affect any enforcement action or liability of any person under State law.

· Requires CPSC to report to Congress regarding heavy metals which should be banned from children’s products. The bill requires the Commission to study and report to Congress within one year on whether other heavy metals should be banned from use in children’s jewelry or other children’s products.

We hope you will join us in supporting this bill. If you have any questions about the bill or would like to cosponsor the bill, please contact Stacy Ettinger in Senator Schumer’s office (4-7945 or stacy_ettinger@jec.senate.gov); Clint Odom in Senator Nelson’s office (clint_odom@billnelson.senate.gov); or Jonathan Becker in Senator Klobuchar’s office (jonathan_becker@klobuchar.senate.gov).

Sincerely,

/S/
Charles E. Schumer
Bill Nelson
Amy Klobuchar

Read more here:
CPSIA – Congressional Eager Beavers Push Anti-Cadmium Law

CPSIA – Commission Report to Congress on CPSIA Changes

The CPSC Commission issued its January 15 Congressional report on recommended changes to the CPSIA last Friday. As promised by Inez Tenenbaum, the Commissioners were afforded the opportunity to present individual statements to accompany the Commission report. Four of the Commissioners (Tenenbaum, Adler, Nord and Northup) chose to present their own statements. Adler also promised a supplemental statement on the subject of lead, which has not been released yet to my knowledge.

The Report and the accompanying statements make interesting reading. I do not propose to summarize the documents here, but have set out a few thoughts:

a. The Commission’s Consensus is Important. The Commissioners made a big effort to speak with one voice in the report. While they certainly did not agree on everything, their effort to achieve bipartisanship agreement in the report sends a good message. The Commission needs to work harder to find this middle ground more consistently and less fractiously. There is NO JUSTIFICATION for turning safety into a game of political football. If the Commission can work better together, confidence in their administration will grow and extremes will be avoided.

The prohibition against full Commission meetings in private (the Sunshine Act) is a hidden factor in the report. Since the Commission ill-advisedly voted down a public discussion of the report, the Commissioners were prevented from meeting in groups of three, four or five. When you read this report, imagine how it might have read if the five Commissioners were allowed to sit in a room and duke it out. It might have been a better document, more complete and more prescriptive.

b. Where’s the Functional Purpose Exception??? The report is as interesting for what it DOESN’T say as for what it does say. Most importantly, the functional purpose exemption is GONE. Rumorville has it that the functional purpose exception became more and more ornate and complex as the Commissioners struggled to write a recommendation until even its most ardent supporters had to concede that it wasn’t going to work. This was set up to be Waxman’s excuse to do nothing or nearly nothing. It’s not there anymore.

Too bad for Henry, huh?

c. The Commissioners’ Statements Reveal that Common Sense is Divided on Party Lines. The Commissioners’ statements reveal a lack of communication within the Commission. I know they were talking but it appears that some messages weren’t being heard. The statements of the two Democrats (Moore apparently did not prepare a statement) were straight out of Central Casting. Disappointingly, Ms. Tenenbaum chose to repeat a fairy tale about the law’s origins:

“In response to the flood of dangerous imported products, which were involved in tragic fatalities, poisonings and injuries involving children, Congress closely examined the needs of the CPSC and the statutory changes necessary to enhance the regulatory safety net maintained by the agency. Congress spent considerable time reviewing these needs and continually consulted with the agency’s leaders, staff, consumer groups, and the regulated community in order to carefully craft the proper legislation to achieve this end. Seeing a clear need to reauthorize and reinvigorate CPSC with new energy and purpose, Congress passed a sweeping law.” [Emphasis added]

The re-characterization of what was essentially an anger-fueled legislative mania into some sort of group hug is apparently the Democrats’ effort to justify a passive or inert approach to fixing the law. In addition, both Tenenbaum and Adler repeated the misleading togline about the dangers of lead, although I don’t think that’s news anymore. It’s also not really relevant to discussing the issues under the law – and their persistent refusal to acknowledge this is disappointing.

The Republicans (Nord and Northup) delivered rational and balanced statements that calmly and appropriately diagnosed the issues with the law. They are cognizant of the excesses of the law, the dramatic impact on both the regulated community and the hobbled agency itself. The Reps make no effort to prop up the CPSIA – you know, the law passed by REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS ALIKE. There’s no pride of authorship by the Reps – to their credit, these Commissioners seem to be trying to restore a rational system of law and regulation designed to provide appropriate levels of safety at an affordable cost.

I am tired of the Dems on the Commission simply being good Dem soldiers rather than committed stewards of safety. The ANGER expressed in Massachusetts today is a strong message to the Dems – America is sick and tired of government aggressively inserting itself into every aspect of our lives, including by way of the CPSIA and its precautionary principle. See tonight’s Wall Street Journal for more details. It will be interesting to see if Massachusetts impacts the CPSIA amendment process.

d. Does it Matter What’s Safe Anymore? I am struck again by the absurdity of the debate over lead. As I see it, the debate is over which incidents of lead that are illegal should be permitted. This is different from defining what constitutes safe lead. This used to be a simple decision. Now the premise is that there is NO safe level of lead. Is that really TRUE?

Think of ALL cases where lead is found in children’s products. Now separate them into two piles, one that is labeled “safe” and one that is labeled “not safe”. How do these piles compare to the piles made by the CPSIA, FHSA and CPSA? Well, that question never comes up in the debate. The big question is about compliance with law, not safety.

This is not a rational system for administering risk. First of all, if lead were so deadly that it needed to be eliminated in all cases in all children’s products, then presumably we would be even MORE motivated to remove it from our food, water and air (not to mention dirt). After all, we consume food etc. and the lead in the food gets into our bloodstreams. But this isn’t an issue today because the CPSIA didn’t make it illegal – and apparently the CPSC does not feel lead is dangerous in food, water or air (or else it would have acted on the threat under the FHSA). It gets worse – consider that lead paint is illegal on children’s products but not on cars. If lead is so dangerous and mere contact with lead-in-substrate is so dangerous that it is utterly intolerable in a modern, sophisticated society likes ours, then why does the CPSC permit kids to touch or even ride in cars? After all, the zipper pull on a kid’s golf bag is illegal if it has a dot of lead paint on it. But a whole car dripping with lead paint, that’s fine.

The answer – it doesn’t matter what’s safe when it comes to lead, it only matters what’s legal. The Dems prefer to portray what’s illegal as unsafe, and imply that what’s legal is safe. [Call this the All-Knowing Congress argument.] It’s hard to take this seriously. It’s time for them to drop the precautionary principle pretense and start being accountable for the rationality of their regulatory positions. If lead is a crisis as they say, then please ban everything with lead in it, including our entire food chain. I am ready to be safe, finally.

e. What Has Been Accomplished in the Last 18 Months??? Does it bother you as much as me that so little has been accomplished by the last 18 months of chaos? The many steps and achievements documented in the report and statements might make a bureaucrat blush with pride but how have injury statistics changed? [Recall statistics are a poor measure of the effectiveness of safety rules.] How much did we pay as a society for these extremely meager achievements? If you add in the cost to our society of a crippled safety agency, the price we paid is staggering. The waste is sickening. It’s not possible for me to read the recounting without a sense of loss.

f. Does Anyone Else Want An Exemption? Umm, Yeah! It’s important to note that the low number of exemption requests does not reflect a lack of interest in exemptions. Exemption requests are very expensive to prepare and are complex. In many cases, the exemption request will obviously be rejected or is too broad to state in any compelling way. For instance, educational products span so many categories that it is impossible to state a coherent exemption request. More importantly, the real inhibition to filing is a fear of losing the request. For many companies, it just doesn’t pay to ask for permission – they prefer to beg for forgiveness if a problem ever arises.

Anne Northup correctly notes in her statement that it is bad law to require that regulated companies line up for exemptions. She is not arguing on behalf of the companies – she focuses on the huge burden these requests place on the CPSC and the Commission. She is TOTALLY correct. The idea that we should have a safety system based on exceptions would only appeal to the IRS. Somebody needs to listen to Northup on this point.

g. The Report Whitewashes Ineffective Help for Resale Shops. It is a sad joke to assert that coaching resale shops with the CPSC’s guidance document and a few workshops is somehow a solution to the massive problem caused by the CPSIA. For one thing, it is quite clear that this message has not reached its audience. The CPSC’s approach is inherently inefficient and unlikely to bring relief to many affected stores. A better law is the necessary solution. Second, it is apparent that the CPSC’s efforts did not relieve anxiety – the stores are still dropping children’s items. This lack of accountability begins to look cynical when you consider that only last week, Scott Wolfson was warning people not to sell cheap jewelry on auction sites or in resale shops. Hmmm, that sounds very reassuring, doesn’t it? Problem solved!

If the Commission truly cares about resale shops, then a more effective approach (including a communication strategy) needs to be implemented.

With the issuance of the report and statements, the shuttlecock has been batted back to Congress. The next step is to work on a long-needed amendment of this awful law. Stay tuned.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Commission Report to Congress on CPSIA Changes

CPSIA – Washington Post Says Cadmium Issue is Overblown

Tell me it’s not true – we can’t panic about cadmium anymore?! The Washington Post thinks the CPSC may have gone a bit too far in demanding that every American throw away all their children’s jewelry based on a newspaper article they read somewhere: “Very little is known about cadmium’s potential health effects on children, [Dr. John Rosen, chief of environmental sciences at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx] says, because it’s never been known to be a problem, ‘Pediatricians don’t look for it, they aren’t knowledgeable about it, and there are not any particular concerns about it.’” [Emphasis added]

The Post concludes: “So, while this is certainly no matter to pooh-pooh, and it’s important for the government to take whatever steps it must to keep poisonous metals out of the marketplace, it doesn’t sound like occasion to panic, either.” [Emphasis added]

We knew that Senators are absolutely ignorant of science so their foolishness can be understood, but what about the CPSC? Aren’t they on a different level? In the olde days, the CPSC used its professionals for their highly-refined expertise. Today, the staff brainiacs are used to bureaucratically shovel paper from one end of their desk to the other, or to practice falling in line. The folks at the top, the (Democrat) politicians, seem to have the same mastery of science as their Congressional overlords and a similar disregard for the consequences of their actions.

So Inez Tenenbaum went on a media blitz, ably assisted by her associate Scott Wolfson, and SLAMMED the jewelry industry. They had seemingly done virtually no homework (if reading an AP story doesn’t count as “research”), neglecting to take advice from the many Ph.D.s that they employ, and went ahead with an astoundingly irresponsible spree of rulemaking on the fly. And the consequences to them?

There’s the rub – there won’t be any. But there should be. This kind of tort is remediable in the private sector with lawsuits and damages. Not sure how easy it would be to prosecute such high ranking public officials for their conclusion-jumping. We can certainly count on our fearless leader Obama to COMMEND them for their precautionary actions. Surely by putting the jewelry industry out of business, they must have saved lives . . . somewhere. The nice thing about these folks, if they can assert it, it’s “true”. Or true enough.

What a sorry episode, and even with the Post on record with a calming and balanced summary of cadmium’s risks, the train already left the station. Expect the next attempt at an amendment to the CPSIA to include dramatic restrictions on cadmium. Congress will save us, don’t worry.

Hey, science is overrated. Trust me.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Washington Post Says Cadmium Issue is Overblown

CPSIA – Keeping Government Out of Children’s Products May Require Toxins

The Cadmium circus rolled on today with Senator Amy Klobuchar rushing to save America by calling for hearings on cadmium. Ms. Klobuchar must have been in quite a hurry to save America:

Jumping on a report about toxic levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry from China, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pushing for a hearing on the issue. Klobuchar, D-Minn., sent a letter Tuesday to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., that says, in part, ‘this metal has no place in children’s toys.’” [Emphasis added]

Jewelry . . . toys . . . it’s all the same, isn’t it? Heck, when you’re saving children’s LIVES, these piddling details are merely the hobgoblins of little minds (Ralph Waldo Emerson must have been from Minnesota). If her heart is in the right place, who cares if she has any idea what she’s talking about?

Not one to let down her adoring public, Ms. Klobuchar shared some of her expertise on the CPSIA and toxins: “Citing [the CPSIA], Klobuchar wrote that although there are ‘currently no cadmium restrictions on toys and jewelry, cadmium is a poison and if ingested, can hinder brain development and lead to other health problems in children.’”

This is, strictly speaking, not true. Well, how can you expect Klobuchar to actually check a factual statement like this? She is one busy Senator, there’s no time for dilly-dallying. It’s not like she’s a lawyer (oops, she is!) or actually participated in writing the CPSIA (oops, she did!) and voted for it (oops again, she did). She probably even read the law at one time (oops . . .).

One of the brilliant changes put through by Ms. Klobuchar and her Congressional brethren in the CPSIA was the codification of ASTM F963 (Section 106 of the CPSIA), the formerly-voluntary standard of the toy industry. This document (it’s really long, don’t blame her for not leafing through it) imposes a requirement of not more than 75 mg/kg of cadmium in toys. The CPSIA even required the CPSC to examine the effectiveness of the ASTM standard within a year . . . and they did it without changing any requirements relating to heavy metals. But that was before the latest headlines.

Of course, Ms. Klobuchar was simply joining the fun along with Senator Schumer who introduced anti-cadmium legislation to save us, and Chairman Tenenbaum who encouraged people to rip jewelry off the necks and wrists of their kids: “We have proof that lead in children’s jewelry is dangerous and was pervasive in the marketplace. To prevent young children from possibly being exposed to lead, cadmium or any other hazardous heavy metal, take the jewelry away.” [Emphasis added] Joe McCarthy would have loved this free-for-all.

Even the AP is now scratching their collective heads. The same AP reporter issued a new article today puzzling over the panicked regulators: “When pressed, Tenenbaum’s spokesman Scott Wolfson explained parents should grab the trinkets and toss them. Just be sure to ‘safely dispose’ of the merchandise under applicable state and federal environmental law.” [When I read quotes like this, I think if there wasn't a Scott Wolfson at the CPSC, we'd have to make one up.]

The AP article carries on: “So what are America’s Moms and Dads to do? While neither Tenenbaum nor Wolfson would outright say not to buy cheap children’s jewelry, that inference was clear, too. A tough conversation around the kitchen table: don’t buy any new stuff, don’t give out any new stuff, don’t play with the old stuff. In fact, get rid of the old stuff, but in a manner that doesn’t risk putting toxins from the jewelry into the environment. And make sure you don’t go out and resell the jewelry through online auctions or to a thrift store, said Wolfson.” [Emphasis added] Wolfson has a way with words, doesn’t he? Reporters must love him . . . .

The AP sums it up: “So instead of focusing in on specific items, as a recall would do, the CPSC officials are taking on an entire industry. . . . [The testing for AP] only looked at 103 pieces of low-priced children’s jewelry — finding 12 items with cadmium content above 10 percent of the total weight. . . . Clearly, the CPSC is worried beyond those limited test results. Even during the height of product recalls from China several years ago — when millions of items of jewelry or painted toys with high lead levels were taken off store shelves — the CPSC did not issue such a public warning. Under the administration of President Barack Obama, and with Tenenbaum replacing commissioner Nancy Nord atop the agency, the CPSC is projecting a much more aggressive image.” [Emphasis added]

Cooool under fire! I think the CPSC isn’t going far enough. It is clear that we in industry do not measure up to our leaders’ high standards and expectations. Imagine having to wonder what will be in the paper every morning, the pressure, the angst. [If it's in print, it must be true - just ask the Zhu Zhu Pets folks.] So, to avoid all that stress, I recommend that the CPSC take the bold step to make everything illegal. We should be required to turn over all of our possessions to the government for safe disposal according to applicable environmental protection laws and then move, naked, back into the caves where things will be much safer. This should make things simple and besides, the enforcement and legal staff create NOTHING BUT WORK for the Commission. My heart bleeds.

But wait, that won’t make us safe just yet. Cadmium is in our food, in our water, in our air, in cigarettes, in batteries and fertilizers, in our workplaces – horrors! I just had an epiphany – Cadmium is so ever-present in our environment that it must be the cause for human mortality. There, I put that sentence in writing and published it – so it must be true. The CPSC therefore should ban food, water and breathing. It’s the only thing they can do to save the human race.

And I used to think we had too much government. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, baby. . . .

Read more here:
CPSIA – Keeping Government Out of Children’s Products May Require Toxins

CPSIA – Regulation by Newspaper Headline

There was once a time when newspaper headlines did not immediately become law. Those golden days are seemingly a hazy memory, to judge from the swift and judgmental reaction to a recent AP story on cadmium in children’s jewelry.

PLEASE NOTE – This essay is not a defense of cadmium. That’s becoming a tiresome objection, frankly. Cadmium is bad, okay? Back to the story . . . .

The AP story, backed up by test reports that AP will apparently not release, prompted Senator Chuck Schumer to introduce legislation on Wednesday, two days later, to “stop it cold”. After an equally lengthy deliberation and careful consideration of the flimsy facts of this case, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum of the CPSC made this astounding announcement today:

“Because of these recent developments, I have a message for parents, grandparents and caregivers: Do not allow young children to be given or to play with cheap metal jewelry, especially when they are unsupervised.”

Whoa! Tenenbaum is saying that consumers should boycott ALL “cheap” metal jewelry now? Is she trying to put Claire’s Boutique and countless thousands of other small companies out of business entirely, all because of the unconfirmed accusations of an AP reporter about a handful of pieces of jewelry from a tiny number of sources? Within 48 hours, too? I think that’s irresponsible.

Yes, it’s irresponsible, but that’s the way this populist government of reactive politicians wants to govern. The Obamites are apparently shocked to discover that anything ever goes wrong, and if they ever find a single fly in the ointment, they then assume they are facing a broad scale assault. Hence, the immediate action to implement bans and cessations of trade.

Stop it cold, indeed – but what exactly is being stopped? Trade. Jobs. Futures.

Even worse, frankly, is the notion that this problem must be “solved” by legislation. While Senator Schumer was simply doing the usual, pandering for votes, where is it written that this problem is best resolved by Congressional action? [Let's put aside the niggling detail that some further assessment of the nature of this "dire" threat is appropriate before we take ANY action whatsoever.] Apparently, Mr. Schumer believes it’s his job to fix this problem and that in the absence of his decisive action, the rest of the government would fall on its face.

Umm, well, we used to have a federal agency for this very task, the CPSC. Okay kids, gather ’round, let me tell you about a long ago time when the CPSC has actual authority to assess risk and depending on its independent judgment, was entitled to draft and implement rules governing safety in the marketplace. Wasn’t that a wonderful time, kids?! Well, not anymore. Nowadays, apparently only Congress can exercise judgment. And that judgment is best exercised without the use of any scientific advice or reliance on the agency charged with the responsibility for safety administration.

Courtesy of the CPSIA, the CPSC is now a bureaucracy designed to serve the will of the politicians – determining what is safe (and what is not) is not their primary job anymore. Congress has no use for Ph.D.s or other people that actually understand science. With folks running the show like Chuck Schumer who apparently believe that an AP story is a perfect substitute for expert advice, there is no need for the CPSC to do anything other than fuel panic for Congress to assuage. Hence Ms. Tenenbaum’s shocking announcement today.

This is completely wrongheaded and will damage markets almost immediately. It’s all the more amazing because we have been here before, and paid the price with two years of chaos, misery and pain. The lessons of the CPSIA apparently weren’t learned, and to judge from the knee-jerk reaction to the AP story, it appears unlikely that this group of politicians (Democrats) and administrators are capable of ever mastering them.

Remember, I think cadmium is bad. But bad is no justification for legislation or rulemaking on the fly. This is not a sudden and life-threatening crisis. This metal, while undesirable, was probably in the market for years, all without poisoning large swaths of American children. The story of the little boy in Minnesota who swallowed a jewerly bangle and died (monotonously repeated by Senator Amy Klobuchar and now by Inez Tenenbaum), sad as it is, should be retired. I have no interest in seeing the children’s product industry put out to pasture just because of one accident.

Someday I hope we can restore some sense of proportion and restraint in safety administration. It can be done. . . .

Read more here:
CPSIA – Regulation by Newspaper Headline

CPSIA – Report on the CPSC’s Recommended Changes to the Law

There has been an eery silence emanating from Bethesda over the upcoming report due to Congress on January 15 listing needed changes to the CPSIA. As you know, last week the Commission voted 2-2 to NOT discuss their report in front of you. So we’ll get to see it when it’s final, done and cannot be changed. The People Have Spoken!

Late last week, I published my recommended changes to the law and my list of other changes to process and procedure at the CPSC that I believe are necessary to restore rationality to the safety law governing children’s product safety. It is important that you also express your views on this topic to the Commissioners. There isn’t MUCH time left to influence the Commissioners but it’s worth a try. You are welcome to use my list for inspiration or as a shortcut.

The Commissioners’ email addresses are:

Inez Tenenbaum: itenenbaum@cpsc.gov
Robert Adler: radler@cpsc.gov
Thomas Moore: tmoore@cpsc.gov
Nancy Nord: nnord@cpsc.gov
Anne Northup: Commissioner_Northup@cpsc.gov

Thank you!

Read more here:
CPSIA – Report on the CPSC’s Recommended Changes to the Law

CPSIA – CPSIA Casualty of the Week January 7

The Alliance for Children’s Product Safety’s “CPSIA Casualty of the Week” highlights how the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is disrupting the U.S. marketplace in order to draw attention to the problems faced by small businesses, public institutions, consumers and others trying to comply with senseless and often contradictory provisions of the law. These provisions do nothing to improve product safety, but are driving small businesses out of the market.

Congress and the CPSC need to address the problems with CPSIA implementation to help small businesses by restoring “common sense” to our nation’s product safety laws.

CPSIA Casualty of the Week for January 11, 2010

NEW SAFETY LAW CLEANING OUT “THE KIDS CLOSET”

Kitty Boyce worked for 18 years to build her resale shop, The Kids Closet, located in Rochester, IL, into a well-known resale shop. With its colorful signage, brightly decorated interior and whimsical whale logo, The Kids Closet built its reputation on offering customers quality second-hand children’s products at great values.

Shortly after being voted the “Number One Place to Shop Resale” by the Illinois Times, Kitty announced that because of CPSIA she was converting her store to sell predominately teen and adult clothing, home accessories and furniture, and changing its name to Remarkable Resale. The loss of revenue in her shop due to the changes in inventory forced her to lay off several employees.

“CPSIA has been devastating for us,” said Kitty. “We just decided to get rid of all the toys and furniture. It’s just not worth the risk.”

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission has temporarily stayed requirements for testing and certifying products, all resale shops still must comply with the new lead and phthalate standards. Realistically, resale shops cannot be 100 percent certain that the used items meet the new requirements.

Due to the over-reaching law, Kitty Boyce’s dedicated attempts to provide children and families with reasonably priced, gently used baby equipment, furniture and toys have been shut down. For Kitty and others, the risk of enforcement action by state attorneys general or private groups is too great. The result is that during one of the worst economies in decades, resale shops around the country are avoiding selling winter clothing for kids and other children’s products.

This winter, ask Congress how denying a perfectly safe used winter coat to a child whose parents can’t afford to buy a new one is protecting that child’s health.

For more information about Kitty Boyce, visit http://www.thekidscloset.net/closet.htm

For additional information on the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety and CPSIA, and to view previous “Casualties of the Week, visit http://www.AmendTheCPSIA.com/.

Read more here:
CPSIA – CPSIA Casualty of the Week January 7

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