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CPSIA – Why Hasn’t Data Changed Opinions at the CPSC?

I have recently published numerous blogs on CPSC recall data documenting the dearth of injuries and deaths from lead in the past decade. I am certainly not indifferent to the suffering of any victim, however, I note that data on injuries is a way to measure the urgency of the threat. There has been one death and three asserted injuries in the last eleven years from lead. We are a country of 300 million-plus and have a $15 trillion dollar economy – presumably, we need to prioritize.

I have also provided CPSC data on injuries and deaths from other hazards, such as cadmium (zero), pool drains (very low, but greater than lead), phthalates (zero) and pool and spa (extremely high, more in an average day than in a decade for lead, phthalates and cadmium put together). In fact, I documented the distribution of injuries and deaths among all recalled children’s products over an 11-year period. At one death and three unverified injuries, lead comes in last among all recall categories with more than eight recalls over 11 years (lead and lead-in-paint accounted for 248 of 899 total recalls in the surveyed period of time). Literally every significant hazard facing children in consumer products is worse and much more dangerous than lead according to the CPSC’s own data.

I have also shown that the data on recalls publicized by the CPSC tends to magnify the scale of lead recalls, making the recalls seem more threatening and the implied hazard more urgent than they really are. Among other things, the quantity of recalled products typically (if not always) includes inventory in the possession of the manufacturer. This inventory NEVER MADE IT TO THE MARKET. In addition, recall data also includes product still on the shelf at retailers. This inventory, which was sold by the manufacturer to the retailer, was never sold to consumers. Inventory in the possession of the manufacturer, its factories or its retailers has no conceivable potential to harm a child. The amount of product in the hands of consumers could be tiny. Please consider these facts when evaluating the claims of consumer groups on the “poor” effectiveness of recalls. The math gets all tangled up, doesn’t it?

Call me crazy, but this seems like some rather shocking data. The deaths and injuries from lead and phthalates are so small that they are trumped in a single day by pool and spa deaths and injuries. [The reported deaths and serious injuries from pools and spas since Memorial Day, at least 210, are AT LEAST FIFTY TIMES THE NUMBER OF DEATHS FROM LEAD IN THE LAST ELEVEN YEARS. In other words, it will take more than 500 years for lead to produce as many deaths and serious injuries as the last 53 days from pools and spas (if the lead death and injury rate doesn't taper off).]

And yet the CPSC seems to have no interest in this data, their OWN data. Why? Well, the best I can say is that they believe every life is precious and thus, economics cannot be considered when designing a response to the hazard. I did not invent this view of the consumer group-dominated Commission – I asked this very question of a person in a position to know, and got this answer. So there you go.

Does this hold water, that economics are irrelevant and should never be considered? First, on the relevance of economics, I think that’s a silly proposition. Of course economics matters. Please don’t feign shock or disgust. Let’s do an exercise: How much shall we spend to save a life? A child died from swallowing a lead charm on a single bracelet several years ago. This is the lone reported death from lead or lead-in-paint from a consumer product in at least 11 years and has been cited as a justification for the CPSIA maelstrom. In this space, I have adopted a proxy estimate of $5.6 billion in annual CPSIA compliance costs for the children’s product industry (based on a submission of the HTA to support their Congressional testimony).

So, is $5.6 billion the “right” amount to spend annually to prevent the next loss of life? Sure, you say, spend the $5.6 billion each year, every life is precious. Okay, does the cumulative spend of $61.9 billion over 11 years (to match the period in which the one death occurred) sound a bit extreme? Can you think of anything else that might be a better use of $61.9 billion? [Like a new national highway system? A new electrical grid? A few more cruise missiles? A few months of national health care?] I would note that $62 billion is double the provisional losses of BP from the Gulf oil spill. That’s a lot of coconuts, if you ask me.

Should we spend $61.9 billion on every cause of death? What about causes of death that are “worse”, meaning that loss of life is greater? Should we spend proportionately? If our resources are limited (I used to think that was relevant but lately, who knows?), how should we allocate our limited dollars? Is it okay to prioritize? Does lead make the cut if we try to allocate rationally?

It is worth noting that the value of a life or an injury is a heavily-litigated subject. It is a staple of tort litigation to estimate damages by assessing the economic value of a life or an injury. The U.S. government also engages in the same analysis. Certain agencies are forbidden by law to issue regulations that do not show an economic profit, that is, the cost of the regulation must be outweighed by its economic benefits. [Money spent or saved by the public versus the government is not relevant to this analysis - a dollar's a dollar no matter who spends it.]

The benefits of the regulation are calculated by assessing the economic value of lives and injuries. To regulate otherwise is economically irrational – which is where the CPSC seems to be. More to the point, economic irrationality is against the weight of U.S. jurisprudence, not to mention laws limiting the ability of the government to issue regulations. Hate to sound trendy, but it is Big Government completely out of control to contend that lives are “priceless” and to assert that the cost to avoid injury or death should not be limited by economic considerations. Please note that the EPA assesses the economic “value” of a life at $6.1 million. For even more perspective, the EPA says that one IQ point lost to lead is worth $8,346. CPSIA compliance costs are not less than $5.6 billion EACH YEAR. Do the math.

Okay, this is bordering on insulting your intelligence. Yet, astoundingly, the CPSC doesn’t get it. What about the behavior of the CPSC itself – do they ever consider economics? Again, at the risk of insulting your intelligence, of course they do. For one thing, they themselves have limited resources. They can’t do everything they want, and have to make choices. They have a BUDGET. They can’t hire everyone they want, can’t inspect everything, can’t process every claim immediately and so on. They also make practical judgments on some things. I reported recently the tarring the Commission received for making a practical judgment about how to implement the pool drain law. In that case, they chose to agree with the recommendations of industry, which is heresy in some circles . Certain members of Congress live in those circles . . . . No doubt the savaging of the Commission over that minor practical judgment will have the intended effect of eliminating whatever shreds of common sense or backbone extant at the CPSC and the Commission. Perhaps this is the end of their consideration of economics . . . .

Where does this leave us? Come on, guys, right where we were for the last two years! We continue to rail against this awful law, and the CPSC gets progressively more and more stone deaf. I feel increasingly like I am mumbling to myself, especially when they won’t respond to their own data or other data-driven rational arguments. Given that the Dems have made their name by being totally deaf to the legitimate concerns of industry, what choices are left to us? I am turning more of my energies to the 2010 Midterm elections. I hope you will also do what you can to change the dynamic in Washington. You’ve seen what these people have done in the last 18 months. Ready for more?

I’m not. And I am doing something about it.

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CPSIA – Why Hasn’t Data Changed Opinions at the CPSC?

CPSIA – I’m Back!

I am back in the saddle and wanted to thank our Guest Bloggers for their contributions in my absence. Likewise, I really appreciate the support and creativity of the staff of the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety in their administration of the blog while I was gone.

I find that the passage of time has not brought us any relief. With the newly asserted need to test carpets for lead and recalls of lacrosse gloves for lead-in-ink, the goofiness that had us in its grip when I left still has us in its grip today. I will comment on these and other matters in the coming days. In the meantime, I prepared a blogpost before I left and will post it shortly.

I liked the work of our Guest Bloggers and want to encourage the submission of other guest posts in the future. I would be happy to continue to post the views of market participants on the topic of the CPSIA in the future.

Rick

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CPSIA – I’m Back!

GUEST BLOG – Bill Chiasson: To the Media, CPSIA problems are spelled B-O-R-I-N-G

You all probably heard the philosophical question, “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” You can ask a similar question in regards to the impact the CPSIA has had on small and medium-sized businesses – “if another U.S. worker loses his or her job due to the unintended consequences of the CPSIA, will anyone hear about it?” The answer is – only if you are reading this blog site. That’s because the media prefers only sensational headlines. The headline, “200 more workers lose their job due to the economic impact of the CPSIA” just doesn’t have the same panache as a prime time news show teaser like “Toxic Toys – No child is safe – tonight on ___________ news!!”

Sadly, most television viewers don’t know what C-P-S-I-A stands for. Chances are they will press the fast forward button on their Tivo remote faster than you can say CPSC in order to skip to the latest news update on the “Octamom” story.

I have come to the conclusion that the major reason this law will not be fixed to tolerable levels is because the general public takes what they hear from consumer advocates, government officials, and the media as gospel. There has been no public debate; no investigative report; no public outcry to get to the truth. Think about last Christmas season when the popular toy, Zhu Zhu Pet, was MISTAKENLY reported on every evening news program and in every major newspaper to contain unsafe levels of antimony in violation of the CPSIA. This report was released BEFORE the CPSC actually reviewed the case brought forth by the overzealous consumer advocate group, GoodGuide. Within about 24 hours after the story was released, the CPSC declared that the Zhu Zhu Pet was not in violation of any federal laws and was, in effect, safe. Do you think all the news outlets retracted their story? Did anyone offer an apology to the maker of the Zhu Zhu Pet? Do the Cleveland Cavaliers have a prayer to win a championship next year?

How can misinformation regarding lead in children’s product continue to spread and be consumed by the public while the truth is buried and ignored? How can painfully obvious common sense be trumped by outlandish, unfounded claims by the non-scientific community? Consider the audience.

According to a new survey released by the legal information website Findlaw.com, two-thirds of 1,000 American adults polled could not name a single current Supreme Court justice, and just one percent were able to name all nine sitting justices. I must admit, I am one of the 99% of Americans who could not name all nine without the help of Wikipedia. Now, here’s a stunner. From the 1,000 people polled, which justice was named most often? If you guessed Clarence Thomas, congratulations! If you are over the age of 40, there is a good reason you remember Clarence Thomas. The media made sure you wouldn’t forget about his confirmation hearings that took place 20 years ago. If you are under the age of forty, Google it.

The same thing is happening with the media coverage of the CPSIA. The facts are overlooked and only news-worthy sound bites are publicized.

The point I am trying to make is that as responsible, informed, voting Americans, we should not exercise blind faith as if our Congress always has our best interests in mind and the media is reporting the absolute truth. We owe it to ourselves to be informed citizens by doing our own research and reading a variety of media sources so that we may elect government officials into office who use common sense (and scientific facts) to make informed legislative decisions.

We must get Congress and the CPSIA to realize the damage the CPSIA is causing and fix it once and for all.

Please, do your research, GET THE FACTS, and spread the word!


Guest Blog by Bill Chiasson, Executive Vice President, COO of ETA/Cuisenaire, a division of A. Daigger & Company. ETA/Cuisneair has over 8,000 manipulative-based educational and supplemental materials for PreKindergarten and grades K-12 that enrich teaching and engage students in math, reading/language arts, and science.


Posted by the Staff of the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety

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GUEST BLOG – Bill Chiasson: To the Media, CPSIA problems are spelled B-O-R-I-N-G

Lenore Skenazy has a Few Things to Say about All Those CPSC Recalls

Lenore Skenazy who writes the Free Range Kids Blog, has an op-ed on Forbes.com about all those CPSC recalls (previously covered on this blog here and here).

She doesn’t mince words.

Money quotes:

“And so it goes in the unbrave new world, where nothing is safe enough. It’s a world brought to us by the once sane, now danger-hallucinating Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

and

“[CPSC] actively engages in fear mongering, perhaps to give it something to do. After it rid the world of leaping lawnmowers and exploding frying pans, it turned its sights on the also-rans of corporate reprehensibility. The tricycle with a protruding screw. The stuffed animal whose button eyeball contains lead paint. And to remain relevant, it acts as if there is really no distinction between a bucking chain saw and a Little Tykes “choking hazard” the size of a salt shaker. And it just keeps getting more irrational.”

Read the entire op-ed: “Students Aren’t Allowed to Touch Real Rocks.”

Posted by the Staff of the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety

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Lenore Skenazy has a Few Things to Say about All Those CPSC Recalls

GUEST BLOG – Bruce Lund, Lund and Company Invention, L.L.C. on the Cadmium "Crisis"

When we put the call out for Guest Bloggers a couple of weeks ago, we received this post from toy designer and inventor Bruce Lund. While he originally posted it on his own blog several months ago, it’s still relevant today.

Cadmium in Children’s Jewelry

By Bruce Lund

Knee jerk responses, ill considered opinions, and unsupported positions based on hearsay or questionable sources are all what led to the CPSIA legislative insanity that continues to grind on and grind up small companies with regulations that are expensive, onerous, and simply wrongheaded. Although well intentioned, the results are not those intended.

On the issue of cadmium levels in children’s jewelry, something which has always been in jewelry of all kinds, and has never been identified as a health risk, the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned against allowing children to play with inexpensive jewelry. That, along with state level legislation may well remove jewelry for kids from the marketplace altogether – all without any science and . . .
“without the benefit of a review of the test data, which AP and its testing partner have not made public or shared with the companies whose products are named in the story. The CPSC subsequently issued a recall for one jewelry item with “high levels of cadmium,” but also did not share data – even with the company itself.”
(quoted from the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety and CPSIA, and to view previous “Casualties of the Week,” visit AmendTheCPSIA.com)

Were cadmium to be a health problem, it would have manifested itself as kidney disease, which is virtually unknown in children. The result is the toy industry and other related industries being ruled on and regulated on the basis of unsubstantiated claims in the media and politicians’ knee jerk legislation, not on the basis of fact, scientific risk analysis, or sound judgment.

That almost sounds like craziness to me. Where is the voice of reason? Could it even be heard over the din of today’s media-saturated world?

Blog post by Bruce Lund, Founder, Lund and Company Invention, L.L.C.

Bruce’s blog can be found here. The blog above was originally posted here on March 30, 2010.


Posted by the Staff of the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety

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GUEST BLOG – Bruce Lund, Lund and Company Invention, L.L.C. on the Cadmium "Crisis"

GUEST BLOG – American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Urges You To Participate in Survey on Impact of CPSIA-Mandated Testing


The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Wants You!

Many have pointed out to the CPSC that the additional testing costs mandated by the CPSIA have been extremely burdensome on companies and have even caused many to either shut down or abandon the children’s product market.

This blog has provided concrete examples with its Casualties of the Week (for example see here, here and here).

Some are still not convinced. CPSC Commissioner Adler made the point at a recent CPSC briefing that “anecdotes are not evidence.”

The AAFA has been collecting information (“evidence”) from companies to see exactly how the testing rules have impacted their businesses. This information is important to help document to CPSC and Congress the economic impact of CPSIA.

To continue gathering data, AAFA recently published two surveys online to gauge the impact of consumer product testing. One survey is for manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers and the other is for retailers and licensors.

If you are (or were) in the children’s product business, we strongly urge you to fill out this survey online. It only takes a few minutes.

The surveys are especially geared towards assessing the impact on businesses, and business awareness of, two proposed rulemakings that are due August 3, “Conditions and Requirements for Testing Component Parts of Consumer Products” and “Testing and Labeling Pertaining to Product Certification,” as well as how the stay of testing and certification requirements impact companies’ testing protocols and costs.

To access the survey for manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/D6S3D7N

To access the survey for retailers and licensors please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/D668GJT

Thank you for your participation.

Guest Blog Posted by the AAFA

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GUEST BLOG – American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Urges You To Participate in Survey on Impact of CPSIA-Mandated Testing

GUEST BLOG – The Solution to Too Many Warning Labels….More Labels!

Rick has blogged several times about the new Illinois lead law (see here, here and here) and predicted that the resulting labeling requirements would result in only confusion for consumers.

In one blog, Rick stated “Consumers will not ignore these labels and will treat your product as though it were poisonous or radioactive.”

We are letting Rick pick our Lotto numbers next week.

A faithful reader of this blog brought to our attention this article from the Channel 9 News website in Denver, Colorado.

The article, “Confusing warning tags on toys spark concerns for parents,” (Did Rick write that headline?) reported that consumers are shocked, SHOCKED, by a tag on a small toy in a Babies R Us store that read “Warning: Contains Lead. May be harmful if eaten or chewed. May generate dust containing lead.”

The article goes on to quote the consumer who tipped off the station of the “dangerous” stuffed animal stating “We couldn’t believe our eyes when we read the removable paper label . . . I can’t imagine anyone buying this product.”

Is the toy toxic? Nope.

The story goes on to report that a Toys R Us statement to the TV station explains that the products with these tags “meet or exceed federally mandated requirements for children’s products.” and says the tag “is related to more stringent laws passed in Illinois and California. The Illinois law, for instance, requires a warning label if a material exceeds a limit of 40 ppm, in essence the amount of lead found naturally in the environment.” (emphasis added)

The company spokesperson said “it would be too difficult for the company to maintain a separate inventory for those states.”

“To comply with Illinois law, these labels have been placed on the required items that are carried in our stores in all states,” the Toys R Us statement read.

Thanks, Illinois.

Don’t worry readers, CPSC has a solution.

CPSC Spokesperson Scott Wolfson (who would be a wealthy man if he received $5 for every mention in this blog) says “even if a toy doesn’t conform to California and Illinois’ limits for lead, as long as a toy meets federal guidelines they are extremely safe. . . The agency is now considering adding new tags to all toys which meet federal standards, in hopes of relieving their fears.”

That’s right. The CPSC’s solution to too many warning labels? More labels!

We found an Illinois license plate fitting for this situation:




Posted by the Staff of the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety

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GUEST BLOG – The Solution to Too Many Warning Labels….More Labels!

GUEST BLOG: Etienne Veber – Learning the CPSIA Civics Lesson…the Hard Way

Five years ago, I joined Learning Resources eager to leverage my previous experiences for the benefit of a small business that makes a positive and lasting impact on our society. Little did I know then that this decision (one of the best in my life) would totally change my view of our government.

This past week-end my wife and I visited our older son who is currently working as a summer intern for a Member of Congress. We indulged in a personal tour of the Capitol (a pretty amazing working environment if you ask me…). As we went thru the various halls of our legislative branch, we stumbled upon this quote from Louis Brandeis: “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding”. Of course, he was not thinking about our current CPSIA situation when he wrote these words in 1928. However, if the combination of good intentions with a lack of understanding is not a main source of many unintended consequences in our laws, I do not know what is.

Our Constitution was built to protect us against these types of situations by encouraging all sorts of meaningful dialogue between various opposing groups, and by establishing good science as the foundation to make sound and nonpartisan decisions. Then, why after so many months – with the overwhelming market evidence, the many companies “going under”, so many jobs lost, so many voices shouting for reasonable adjustments, so many questions still unanswered- why has the myriad of unintended consequences of the ill-fated CPSIA still not been addressed yet?

Sadly, the answer has become all too clear.

The Democratic leadership in Congress has consistently refused to have any meaningful dialogue with the various groups involved in this issue, unless they agree with their point of view. I do not need to remind the regular readers of this blog how long it took to have a proper hearing on the CPSIA! And, what has happened since then? NOTHING, absolutely nothing. Obviously, this lack of action demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Democratic leadership in fact does not intend on making any adjustments to the law. It does not matter that the CPSIA does not make our products safer, but simply more expensive, effectively destroying an entire portion of our economy (the small/medium companies who cannot afford all these senseless compliance activities).

What really matters is that the Democratic leadership and other CPSIA-supporters look like they are protecting our children in front of a camera. After all, who can argue against more safety for children products? So, while we are at it, let’s have lots of recalls to make people feel that the situation is really dire and that the terrible cost of this legislation (hundreds of thousands of lost jobs) is a necessary consequence!

However, the absurdity of some of the recent recalls and their numbers have reached such proportions that even consumers are now simply tuning out. Did you not hear growing up that one should not cry “Wolf!” too many times, or risk finding oneself without support when it is really needed? This fast evolving situation is the direct result of the political decision from leading Democrats (Waxman & Co.) to strip the CPSC from any true independence. The Commission has stopped using sound judgment and making decisions strictly based on sound science. By playing along with a populist political agenda, the CPSC leadership is responsible for creating a situation that is out-of-hand. The separation of power between the legislative and executive branches was created for a reason!

So what does this means for me? As the president of our company, I have had to eliminate jobs, terminate projects, stop investments in our future growth, and reduce the number of new products we develop each year. Why? Simply to pay for all the incremental and constantly increasing costs of complying with the CPSIA. With new revisions constantly being added to the law and some retail customers “pouring oil on fire,” we may not be done cutting our workforce and stopping investing in the future!

Our products help children engage and develop an early passion for math or science. I think we can all agree that these are the kinds of children’s products we need right now.

Over the last 25 years we have built one of the most prolific innovation engines in the education market. So, the real “losers”, thanks to the CPSIA and the Democratic leadership, will be our children and with them the future of our society!

Did I mention that all these incremental costly requirements will result in absolutely ZERO incremental benefits in terms of safety for our children? Surely you have seen the compelling and comprehensive set of data that Rick has documented so diligently over the last 18 months in this blog. Did I also mention that for more than 25 years our safety record has been impeccable? This situation is absolutely maddening.

I have now learned a civic lesson that I will not forget for a very long time. I want these “well intended ” leaders out the door! I owe it to my co-workers, the teachers that we serve, and to the children that need our products. I can accept a misguided law, but I cannot accept continued intolerance and ignorance from our leaders.

Being on the frontline of this battle, as the president of a small business, has opened my eyes and I am better off from it. Our country needs jobs, lots of them right now, and it is the small businesses – that this wrongheaded Congressional leadership is working so hard at destroying – that can provide them.

Do not close your eyes. Speak up against this CPSIA absurdity and those responsible for its awful implementation!

Etienne Veber is President/CEO of Learning Resources, Educational Insights & Northpoint Horizons

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GUEST BLOG: Etienne Veber – Learning the CPSIA Civics Lesson…the Hard Way

GUEST BLOG – Jolie Fay’s Story

I was not sure what all to tell. Narrowing down the story to a blog, or even a short conversation has been a challenge.

Do I mention that we are not “unintended consequences” but rather, “collateral damage”?

Do I bring up the seniors I help who are so old they do chair Tia-chi, who can afford lunch only when they can make it to the senior center, but have made wooden trucks for 40 years?

Do I bring up the fact that with NO notice to this cottage industry we are forced in the middle of the supply chain to test our products because large toy companies were breaking an already existing law?

Too much…too much to tell, so this is what I wrote. Just my story.

In November 2008 I learned about the CPSIA.

I thought that was the beginning of my journey with this law, but I realize now that my journey began when I was seven years old and participating in my first craft show with my mom. I was selling anything I could make, mostly small animals I had made from pom-poms, felt, glue and little googley eyes. Before age 12, I added to my “line” a small army of “pet rocks,” cats cradle kits, quilt patches, purses, and many, many other kids’ crafts.

When planning my family, I decided to start a business that would allow me to stay at home with my children. I started with what I knew, crafty-ness, sewing skills and some of my favorite memories of my childhood, reinvented. One thing lead to another, and before my daughter was a year old I had a business that would eventually help us buy a house in San Francisco.

Time passed, my business grew and so did my family. It was amazing being there to watch both of my daughters take their VERY first steps on their own, to be the one they turned to when they got hurt, to be their mother. I loved being there, and I knew I would not be in that situation without the money from my little on-line business.

We sold our house in San Francisco and moved to Portland, Oregon in March 2008. At the time, my business was strong. My line was growing and investing in my business seemed like the right move. My husband agreed and we invested a large portion of the profits from selling our house into my business.

I bought supplies and began production. When I bought the supplies, what I was making was legal to sell, but in August 2008, unbeknownst to me at the time, my life was taking a U-turn.

By November 2008 we felt the effects of the sluggish economy, but my business was still surviving and I felt optimistic about our future

Then I got the email: “if you make ANY products for kids, this law [CPSIA] affects you!”

I have to admit I ignored the first 20 or so emails, because I could not believe that my little sew-in-my-basement business was being forced into the same regulations as Mattel without any warning. As the days went on, and the number of emails I received grew, I realized my dream was crashing around me.

I called the lab, got the quote and did the math. CPSIA-mandated testing costs for my little product line was over $27,000 for just over $30,000 worth of product. I cannot express the horrible feeling I had when I realized that I had made a mistake that was going to cost my family all of our money. In the business world, companies recover. In my case, I WAS the company and what family can recover from a loss that huge? I was not only losing my investment, but I was also losing my source of income.

With the February 10, 2009 deadline to comply with the new lead standard only weeks away, the panic took over and I was fighting with everything I had to reach someone who would help make this nightmare go away.

I found a group of people nearby who were renting an XRF scanner, and I rented it for 24 hours. I tested every single item, every color way, every button style, every fabric piece, every color and style of trim…I tested in my tiny basement, next to my washer and dryer, for 15 hours. I was driven by a fear that I cannot describe. I needed to know that when I called every person in DC that I could think of, I could be certain that I had a product that was safe in March 2008 and continued to be safe, even though I did not have $27,000 to test my products to prove it.

I would wake up at 5am Portland time, to begin calling everyone imaginable in Washington, DC — any number I could find. I had never been politically active before and had NO IDEA how things worked. I genuinely believed that some Congressman would take my call and realize that a mistake had been made. I would start to tell my story, pacing between my washing machine and computer, crying to these aids who would reply “Thank you for your call. I will pass your message on.” I could just feel the rolling of their eyes and bored posture as I was begging them to let me talk to someone who could help me.

By 8 am, when my girls were up, I would be so emotionally drained and my spirit was crushed. I did this for weeks and it was truly one of the most painful times of my life.

The days passed, the fight went on. I would ask these aides and CPSC staffers “what do I do? Should I just throw it all away?” and their response would be “I cannot tell you what to do.” I was begging for help and they would only give me “I cannot tell you what to do.”.

Eventually the CPSC did issue some rulings that prevented my having to throw all my products in the garbage. However, these rulings were to few and too infrequent. CPSIA is going to doom my business. The testing costs, the paperwork, the liability and for what? Will my products be
any safer? No, instead there will be no products.

I have invested thousands of hours in trying to get the CPSIA changed to allow crafters – young and old – to continue their craft. The time I spent trying to bring common sense to the CPSIA was time I was not investing in my business. I was afraid to let up the fight because I was not seeing anyone else fighting for ME.

Where was my Senator, who told the crowd “folks, we did this for safety”?

Where was the ombudsman to help guide the way at the CPSC? (Surprise! There STILL is not a position at the CPSC to help the crafters, the stay-at-home moms who use skill and time to help feed their kids).

Where were the Congressmen who represent me and the seniors who have made SAFE children’s products for 50 years, and who can barely afford lunch and would NEVER be able to afford testing?

Who is looking out for the children who will learn from their mothers how to nurture their entrepreneurial spirit?

Last July I hit bottom. I had to turn my children over to daycare workers and join the work force just to keep us in our tiny rented house. My little business that helped us buy a home, that kept me at home with my kids to help them learn and grow, was no longer a safe investment of my time.

This is happening all across the county; women just like me, who are making safe kids’ products, are being forced to end their stay-at-home businesses. Mothers who want to obey the law, who are afraid of the consequences of NOT obeying the law, are making the choice to give up their dream to keep their children warm and fed.

We need a law that does not make us criminals. We MUST have a law that does not criminalize the old, young, and poor because they make safe products that they cannot afford to test.

On the second day of after-school care, I went to pick up my 5 year old daughter from school and the “teacher” pulled us aside as we were leaving. She said, “Jane had a tough day today, she did not want to be here. She wanted to be with her mom.” The “teacher” continued, “I am a grandmother and I know how to deal with this, so I took her by the hand and walked her to the mirror and said, ‘Jane, look at your face. Look at how UGLY you look when you cry.’”

I blame every one of the Energy and Commerce legislative staffers for the emotional injury to my daughter that day. She should be home with me, being raised by a mother who believes in the American spirit of hard work, integrity, and honesty.

She should be home with me while I continue my business of making safe children’s products.

She should be home with me, making pet rocks (illegal to sell today) and having fun making pom-pom animals with her mother – like the ones we used to sell at the local Saturday market.

My daughter is the CPSIA casualty of the week.

Blog post written by Jolie Fay, founder of Skipping Hippos clothing (www.skippinghippos.com) in Portland, OR and a
Board Member of the Handmade Toy Alliance

Read more here:
GUEST BLOG – Jolie Fay’s Story

GUEST BLOG – Congressional Office of Compliance Confirms: Congress is Dangerous to Your Health

Okay conspiracy theorists. Do you think the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico held this story until Rick was out of town? In a front page story today “Dangers on the Hill” Politico reported that Congress’ Office of Compliance have found an estimated 6,300 safety hazards that are “potentially fatal or could leave victims with serious injuries.”

That’s right, Congress is dangerous to your health.

Here are some of the juiciest excerpts from the story. In Rick’s honor, we provide commentary after each excerpt, Woldenberg style:

“Workplace safety experts say that if Congress were a private-sector business, it would be at risk for massive fines from government regulators.” (oh, the irony!)

“But Congress has exempted itself from key parts of federal workplace law.” (Without even proving it was impracticatable for Mr. Waxman to comply?)

…the latest study offers arresting detail. Investigators estimate there are 1,742 electrical hazards, 1,058 fire-safety hazards, 102 storage shelving issues, 61 first-aid emergency-care lapses and 70 machine-guarding problems, to name a few found so far.” (Hey, no lead violations?)


The report divides the hazards into categories, with some more routine and others potentially life threatening. (Wait a minute, that sounds like risk assessment!)

“Furthermore, the report makes clear that the hazards may prove dangerous to Capitol Hill visitors, including constituents and lobbyists.” (in other words, visiting Congress is hazardous to….people)

“This measure was inspired by that year’s new Republican majority and some Democrats who were aggrieved by what they saw as supreme hypocrisy: Congress and regulatory agencies imposed all manner of rules on the private sector and the states through laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act, but lawmakers themselves did not have to obey those rules.” (Can anyone think of another law that they could have included – hint –it rhymes with SHEE SHPEE SHESH SHI SHAY)

The compliance office cannot issue investigative subpoenas to Congress and its entities, even to seek information that could solve a workplace hazard. (Call in the AGs!)

Whistleblower protections for staffers who report hazards are essentially nonexistent, leaving aides responsible for their own litigation costs if they are fired or an office retaliates against them. (C’mon, the Onion couldn’t write a better article – oh the hypocrisy!)

“It’s hard to defend Congress when things are this bad,” said Center for Progressive Reform board member Sidney Shapiro, … But if Congress is going to insist on running its own safety regime, then it ought to do it the right way.” (Are we sure they’re not talking about CPSIA?)

“Congress faces a major challenge in trying to fund fire- and life-safety projects, historical preservation and deferred maintenance campuswide, all within very limited resources,” said a congressional aide familiar with the blue-ribbon panel. (Hey, they told us safety at any cost – even if the costs don’t improve safety)

“On the upside, a number of offices have become more proactive about protecting safety by voluntarily requesting inspections ahead of the compliance office’s regular schedule; 154 offices in the 111th Congress achieved hazard-free status. “Over the years, we’ve found that working cooperatively with employing offices to reduce hazardous conditions in the Capitol complex can be more effective than a confrontational approach. The statistics bear this out by showing remarkable progress in reducing hazards.” [Working cooperatively? What a novel idea! Nah, we say use the CPSIA model – enforce, enforce, enforce, treat every risk equally, discourage cooperation and levy huge fines!]

We couldn’t make this stuff up. To read the entire article for yourself, click here. (warning it’s about 1800 words).

Posted by the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety Staff

Read more here:
GUEST BLOG – Congressional Office of Compliance Confirms: Congress is Dangerous to Your Health

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