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CPSIA – Jockeying for Position over the Database

The Washington Post published the latest whitewash on the CPSC public database yesterday entitled “Publicly accessible product safety database hits House roadblock“. In this article, the Post allowed consumer group favorite Rachel Weintraub to publish her own spin of matters: “‘There’s a lot of support for the database, but we don’t know how the dynamic is ultimately going to play out,’ said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety and senior counsel for Consumer Federation of America. ‘This is really a last-ditch effort by manufacturers to hold on to this great situation they have right now, where information is not getting out to the public.’” [Emphasis added]

Of course, Rachel was simply borrowing a phrase from last week’s New York Times (“Emboldened by a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, manufacturers of toys and other children’s products are making a last-ditch effort to quash new safety regulations that they say are unfair or too onerous”). [Emphasis added] When you have a great phrase, why not use it over and over?!

What’s the truth? Does it even matter anymore? Jennifer Kerr of the Associated Press questions the purported (asserted) value of the database, noting:

“Anyone can submit a “report of harm” to the SaferProducts.gov database. They aren’t required to have first-hand knowledge of the alleged injury or potential defect that could lead to injury. . . . The U.S. government has a similar auto safety database, also available to consumers online, that describes people’s safety complaints in extraordinary detail. It is the government’s principal early warning system intended to alert federal investigators to signs of looming safety problems. Yet despite efforts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to review consumer complaints before they’re memorialized in the government’s database, an AP review of 750,000 records last year found that the data included complaints about slick pavement during snow, inconsiderate mechanics, paint chips, sloshing gasoline during fill-ups, potholes, dim headlights, bright headlights, inaccurate dashboard clocks and windshield wipers that streak.” [Emphasis added]

This is just what we in the small business community need – a government-sponsored, funded and promoted accumulation of unqualified miscellaneous gripes about our products. Do you think the media will ever take an interest in this stuff? Nah . . . .

And lest we forget, a familiar criticism of the database is that accusations can take a long time to resolve . . . but once posted to the Internet, can never be truly expunged from the permanent record. The year-long DryMax diapers controversy, not to mention the trashing of Toyota braking systems, demonstrate the severe risk U.S. manufacturers and importers face under the database. Imagine the long term damage to those brands if the accusations (subsequently proven false) never died . . . . Notably, Wayne Morris of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers called the new database nothing better than a “blog” because of these design defects.

The Washington Post failed to mention this nuance. Rachel must have forgotten to point it out.

I think it’s also worth considering the gap in how the CPSC describes the purpose and function of the database. Thanks be to Congress, is it clear WHY we have this database? Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel of the CPSC, says it’s a “complaints” database, NOT a “causation” database. She is pinning her interpretation on the disclaimers all over the website that the information on the site has not been proven and may be wrong. In other words, the postings can’t be relied upon. They are only “complaints” under this view. Ms. Falvey used this reasoning to dismiss complaints about process raised by pesky last-ditch manufacturers at last week’s ICPHSO.

Of course, if the postings are really just “complaints”, why did the CPSC name the site “SaferProducts.gov”? Doesn’t sound like a complaint website, does it? A long time ago, I complained about the website name to the person who claims to have coined it. I did not win that one, obviously. The URL includes the media-friendly term “safer” and makes an inescapble connection to Ms. Tenenbaum’s famous remark on website trustworthiness: “Well, to all of you here today, I say don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, except what you read on Web sites that end in dot gov.”

I may not be the only one who thinks this, despite the website’s disclaimers.

This impression is reinforced by Chairman Tenenbaum’s own description of the ideal workings of the database in her keynote speech at last week’s ICPHSO: “I also envision the site empowering consumers to make independent decisions that further their own safety and the safety of their family. If a mom uses the search function on the site, sees a series of reports of harm about a product she bought for her child, and decides to take the product away from her child, while behind the scenes we are working to finalize a recall—that is a good thing in my opinion.

That sounds like a “causation” database, doesn’t it? The implication is that the mom can rely on the information (it must be true) and besides, doesn’t an injury “incident” mean that a recall is coming soon? My immediate concern is that Ms. Tenenbaum is right – unqualified and unverified complaints on SaferProducts.gov WILL induce consumers to take our products away from children – whether or not a recall is forthcoming. We also know that Ms. Falvey is right – no one knows if the complaints are true – but who will reimburse our losses when the government convinces our customers that the safest course of action is to stop using our product pending a decision that may never be forthcoming . . . because nothing’s wrong.

The Chairman is encouraging consumers to rely on this information – to draw conclusions on the likelihood of future injury. This is even more alarming, given that Ms. Tenenbaum said in Congressional testimony last week that the agency will likely post unverified or inaccurate information to the database. She knows that this information will be faulty. As she said in testimony, “that’s what the rub is”.

That’s the rub, indeed.

I am tired of the rub, indeed.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Jockeying for Position over the Database

CPSIA – Fun with Lead!

Hey kids, don’t try this at home! Discovery Channel’s MythBusters Show plays with molten lead.

Lead is a neurotoxin, in case you forgot. Molten lead is soluble lead, very dangerous if ingested. Of course, molten lead presents OTHER risks if ingested. We need a law against molten lead now!

Check out their experiment. It’s completely irrelevant to the CPSIA but then again, my sense of humor has been underserved for a few years now and I love a good if pointless experiment.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Fun with Lead!

CPSIA – Fun with Lead!

Hey kids, don’t try this at home! Discovery Channel’s MythBusters Show plays with molten lead.

Lead is a neurotoxin, in case you forgot. Molten lead is soluble lead, very dangerous if ingested. Of course, molten lead presents OTHER risks if ingested. We need a law against molten lead now!

Check out their experiment. It’s completely irrelevant to the CPSIA but then again, my sense of humor has been underserved for a few years now and I love a good if pointless experiment.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Fun with Lead!

CPSIA – Fun with Lead!

Hey kids, don’t try this at home! Discovery Channel’s MythBusters Show plays with molten lead.

Lead is a neurotoxin, in case you forgot. Molten lead is soluble lead, very dangerous if ingested. Of course, molten lead presents OTHER risks if ingested. We need a law against molten lead now!

Check out their experiment. It’s completely irrelevant to the CPSIA but then again, my sense of humor has been underserved for a few years now and I love a good if pointless experiment.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Fun with Lead!

CPSIA – My Testimony at the CPSC Hearing on 100 ppm Lead Standard 2-16-11

Here are clips from my testimony at the CPSC Hearing on 100 ppm Lead Standard on February 16, 2011. As noted in previous blogposts, there’s much more to see and hear in this panel discussion. The clips focus on me and my testimony. I admire the testimony of the other panelists and especially the quality of the dialogue after the testimony under questioning by the Commission. If you want to see it unedited, check out the full video at the CPSC website.

I have already published the links from the morning session. Viewing those clips before watching these clips may help you understand the flow of the argument better.

My full testimony:

[Notably, Ms. Tenenbaum cut me a break and let me go over my 10 minute allotment. I appreciate that courtesy.]

Commissioner Bob Adler questions me on the future of small business under the CPSIA and the need for the Commission to “follow the law” and implement the new standard despite the known consequences. This may be the most interesting interchange on the troubling issues under the CPSIA that I have participated in over the past four years. Check it out!

Commissioner Anne Northup asks about the ability of small business to obtain exemptions from the lead standard:

Commissioner Nancy Nord questions me about recycled materials, the cost implications of the new standards and injuries:

My call for a Five Year Stay on the new lead standard to allow for development of real injury statistics:

Read more here:
CPSIA – My Testimony at the CPSC Hearing on 100 ppm Lead Standard 2-16-11

CPSIA – Consumer Group Testimony at CPSC 100 ppm Lead Standard Hearing 2-16-11

I have prepared some clips from the CPSC hearing on 100 ppm Lead Standard on February 16, 2011. I have not prepared comprehensive clips on every presentation. For instance, I omitted the testimony of the testing companies from the second panel (here’s a hint – guess what they are ready and willing to do?). If you want to see video that I have not delivered to you on a silver platter, check out the CPSC video of the Morning Session (consumer groups and testing companies) and Afternoon Session (industry representatives, including my testimony).

There is a lot of interesting testimony not in my clips, in particular in the afternoon. Although I think I am giving you a lot of relevant information in the clips I prepared, you are always welcome to check my work. I was quite impressed by the other presenters in the afternoon session, and the vigorous and interesting discussion that followed, but anticipated that you would not likely spend 4-5 hours watching the entire thing. If that floats your boat, please enjoy the links above.

In this post, I am embedding several clips from the morning session where the consumer groups stated their “case”. I hesitate to characterize the testimony as “tall tales” but watch for yourself and see what you think. I have come to believe that the consumer groups will say ANYTHING to prop up their beloved CPSIA. [Consider the laughable "consumer poll" prepared by the Consumers Union promoted by Henry Waxman on the eve of the House Hearings on February 17, 2011. CU shamed themselves with this pathetic effort to "win" the debate with garbage polling data.] This may include the remarkable hyperbole in the clips below. We can speculate among ourselves whether Don Mays really shakes with fear at the thought of his daughter playing a brass instrument (he says he would be “very concerned”).

Likewise, does Dr. Dana Best believe the nonsense statistics she flung around last week, like the one about ingesting an object with 300 ppm lead costing a child four IQ points? Please, dear G-d, that statistic is absurd on its face. The assertion that children are losing four IQ points from swallowing objects with trace levels of lead is irresponsible and misleading at a minimum, and something much worse if done with understanding or intent. The spectacle of Ms. Best’s testimony included calculations of the “cost” of 1 million injured children DESPITE the inability of any consumer group to produce the case history of a single child injured from lead-in-substrate in children’s product EVER. [I replied to Dana Best in my testimony.]

We must hold Dana Best responsible for the words that came from her mouth. Interestingly, Dr. Best was the only nominal author of the seminal testimony on lead in the CPSIA debacle. According to her colleague Cindy Pelligrini, Dr. Best didn’t write her 2007 Congressional testimony (Pelligrini told me in a phone interview in 2008 that she wrote it for Dr. Best to deliver). Did Dr. Best write last week’s testimony or was it another Cindy Pelligrini job? One can’t help but wonder, given the shocking assertions based on misleading and garbled data. The AAP should be ashamed.

Dr. Dana Best (AAP) on losing IQ points and “millions” of victims:

Dr. Dana Best worries about children licking their bicycles . . .

My 17 year old daughter came along on this adventure and at breakfast the next morning, asked me why a child would like their sibling’s bike rather than their parent’s? After all, the adult bike is not regulated. I thought that was a good point, and added that if we posit that the child was going to lick something inappropriately, why would they lick a bike – why not the family car, which is coated with lead paint? Of course, I got it wrong. I was later corrected by someone who, after listening to this story, reminded me that the two year old wouldn’t lick either bike or even the car – they would play in the pool of oil under the car. You can take it from there . . . .

Don Mays (Consumers Union) and Dana Best (AAP) on the frightening prospect of children playing in brass bands:

Read more here:
CPSIA – Consumer Group Testimony at CPSC 100 ppm Lead Standard Hearing 2-16-11

CPSIA – House Hearings Questions about Rock Labels

Rep Butterfield questioned me about whether we REALLY needed to place labels on our rock kits indicating that our rocks might contain lead. As you may recall, I wrote about this last week and provided the clear explanation that the CPSIA bans the sale of any children’s product which has components that may contain lead. That includes rocks in rock kits. Oops. I have embedded the clip of his query below, followed by a clip where Rep. Cassidy (a medical doctor) attempts to clarify the situation further.

I think it is important to note that Mr. Butterfield was making a point he believed in. He was gracious to me and my children before the hearing and I don’t wish to question his intelligence here. I mean no insult or disrespect. Actually, the implication of his question is significant. He had days to study up on this question (he had a copy of my remarks in advance) and relied on Democratic counsel to the committee to analyze this legal point. He and his lawyers got it plainly wrong. As you will see below, Nancy Cowles also fumbled this same ball. The law CLEARLY requires this label of me, and it’s THEIR law (the CPSIA). So what do I conclude? The Dems and the safety zealots don’t understand the workings of the law they so vigorously defend. I believe this speaks directly to the challenge operating businesses face. If the authors don’t get it, how are we supposed to? The answer is self-evident.

The question of WHY they continue to push so hard for a law they don’t understand remains open. I don’t think we can assert that they are bad people or dumb. If that’s the case, and it is, what are they up to? I will chip away at this point in coming days.

Rep. Butterfield on rocks:

Rep. Cassidy on rocks:

Read more here:
CPSIA – House Hearings Questions about Rock Labels

CPSIA – House Hearings Clips of Questions for Both Panels

A few select clips for you from last week’s House Subcommittee hearings. I will provide just a bit of commentary to accompany the clips. I will also be posting two other clips in a separate blogpost to follow.

Questions by Rep. John Dingell for Inez Tenenbaum and Anne Northup:

This clip features John Dingell trashing the CPSIA and pushing HARD for change. Listen to him BASH the Senate for mucking up his law!

Clip of Inez Tenenbaum and Anne Northup arguing about what the public injury/incident database cost – $3 million or $29 million.

The bickering over this critical point reflects a real misunderstanding on the CPSC Commission. What explains this? Not sure, really. Jennifer Kerr wrote about this topic today for the AP and noted that she had previously been quoted at $20 million by the CPSC. Oops. . . .

Clip of Inez Tenenbaum admitting that the CPSC will likely post INACCURATE information into the database . . . .

Shocked?! She also admits that only 723 companies have registered in the “soft launch” of the new database. Is that a lot? We registered seven brand names, so count me for 1% myself. I cannot say we control 1% of the economy. Draw your own conclusions . . . .

Clip of Rep. Jan Schakowsky questioning me!

Smackdown! I ran the Finance Committee for Ms. Schakowsky’s opponent in the 2010 midterm elections. She gave the quote above to the Wall Street Journal in a profile of my role in that campaign. Have fun!

Clip of Rep. Olson questioning me about the 15 Month Rule and destructive testing.

Check out how many units the CPSC wants me to destroy in testing EVERY year!

Clip of Rep. Marsha Blackburn questioning Nancy Cowles of Kids in Danger on the sources of lead poisoning in America.

Clip of Rep. Blackburn questioning me about our testing costs.

Clip of Rep. Harper questioning me about testing standards.

Read more here:
CPSIA – House Hearings Clips of Questions for Both Panels

CPSIA – House Hearing Testimony of Jolie Fay and Wayne Morris

Testimony of Jolie Fay, HTA Board Member:

Testimony of Wayne Morris, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM):

Read more here:
CPSIA – House Hearing Testimony of Jolie Fay and Wayne Morris

CPSIA – House Hearings Testimony of Richard Woldenberg 2-17-11

I have created some clips from the hearing on CPSIA and CPSC Resources held before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade on February 17, 2011 in Washington, D.C. I have not prepared every single clip from the hearing. If you want to see the entire thing, click here and enjoy! Otherwise, I am going to post numerous clips and you can pick and choose as you see fit.

My testimony at the House hearing:

Read more here:
CPSIA – House Hearings Testimony of Richard Woldenberg 2-17-11

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