May 24, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles, Letters to Congress
Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week! The CPSC this week strode bravely forth to combat pool fatalities in the United States – finally. I have written about swimming pool deaths in the past (as early as May 26, 2009 in this blog and earlier in letters to Congress). They are shocking in number. The CPSC says that deaths in pools and spas AVERAGE 385 children per year from, 2005-1007. Of this average, 299 victims were (on average) YOUNGER THAN FIVE YEARS OLD.
The childhood pool injury count is even more breathtaking. For pools, submersion injuries requiring emergency room treatment averages 4,200 children per year (47% were for two- and three-year-olds), or 46,200 projected submersion injuries to go with the projected 4,235 childhood drowning deaths over 11 years.
Whoa. This is shameful.
In the same 11-year period, CPSC recall data notes ONE death from lead and THREE injuries from lead. You read that right:
- Pools: 4,235 drowning deaths and 46,200 injuries
- Lead: 1 death and 3 injuries
There are no phthalates injuries on record.
The CPSIA addressed pool safety. A highly-publicized section of the CPSIA is known as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Spa Safety Act (the “Baker Act”). This law was implemented in response to the tragic pool drain entrapment death of the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker. The CPSC cites 11 fatalities from pool drain entrapment from 1999-2008. Over 11 years, at this rate, 12 pool drain entrapment deaths would be projected. The Baker Act dictates that pools replace their drain covers to avoid this awful risk. Not an unreasonable approach to a completely avoidable source of injury, at a relatively low cost. Good idea.
It is, however, apparent that the Baker Act does not address the overall massive risk of childhood pool drownings. Of the projected 4,235 deaths in an 11-year period, the Baker Act addresses the cause of only 12 deaths. That leaves the projected deaths of 4,223 children completely unaddressed by our ever-vigilant Congress.
Remember, according to my analysis, compliance costs for the CPSIA are about $10,000 per dollar of avoided lead injury costs. Each death is valued at $6.1 million using EPA estimates. The projected unaddressed pool drownings have a “cost” of $6.1 million x 4,223 = $25.8 Billion over 11 years. At the same rate of compliance costs incurred by the lucky companies attempting to comply with the lead rules, the pool industry would have to spend $10,000 per dollar of injury cost over 11 years, or a mere $257.6 trillion. At this rate of spend, the industry would only have to spend $23.4 trillion per annum which happens to be nearly double the projected 2010 U.S. GDP of $14.8 trillion.
But who’s counting?
And how did our Congress respond to the threat of childhood pool drownings? Surely they really threw the book at this terrible problem – it is literally thousands of times worse than lead. Ummm, well, they mandated a public awareness campaign (see Section 1407 of the Baker Act). The CPSC blitz is the effort to comply with this master plan: a press release, a new website and a “a first-of-its-kind national public education effort”. Apparently, all you need is a few ads and press releases to solve pool deaths.
Strangely, the CPSC is straying from their newly-adopted precautionary principles in this blitz. They actually recommend a strategy of “staying close, being alert, and watching children at the pool”. Huh, you’ve got to be kidding! That sounds a lot like individual responsibility. The CPSC even refers to the need for a “personal system of safety”. Being a good parent and keeping an eye on your kids is so “Old School”. I assumed that the CPSC had moved beyond such shallow advice. They would certainly never do that for lead. Of course not.
I should note that I have long considered the effort to combat pool deaths to be long overdue, so don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that the CPSC is actually doing something. Pool deaths claim WAY too many kids’ lives every year – we need to take a real threat like this very seriously. But please pardon my waves of nausea over the proportionality of the response. Pool deaths are expected to exceed 4,000 over 11 years (including more than 3,000 kids under five), and in response the CPSC puts up a new website and produces public service announcements with Olympic swimmers. Lead deaths are expected to be one or zero in the next 11 years – and we have to spend $5.6 billion every year in compliance costs.
This is terrible government in its purest form. It is indefensible and incomprehensible. I defy the Democrats to stand up and actually defend their policy positions or legislative solutions. They won’t debate the issue because it’s a total loser for them. The children’s product industry is collateral damage to the Dems’ reelection campaigns. Well, I won’t just grin and bear it. Falling on the sword for their ridiculous sound bites and reelection posturing is not how I plan to go out.
This is un-American. Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Some interesting news items relating to tomorrow’s exciting hearings at the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection featuring the testimony of CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum:
a. Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. George Radanovich wrote a letter stating their concern over the lack of small business witnesses at the upcoming hearing. Seems reasonable to me. This letter was highlighted in a BNA article today entitled “Commerce Panel Republicans ‘Concerned’ CPSC Oversight Hearing Lacks Balance”.
George Radanovich wrote another letter in advance of the hearing giving hints about what to expect tomorrow. Rep. Radanovich’s letter sets out a list of questions that he asks Ms. Tenenbaum to be prepared to answer. There seems to be a lot to discuss tomorrow. Watch for the interplay between these questions and previous testimony given by the CPSC to Rep. John Dingell last Spring.
b. We have today submitted more than 110 letters to Reps. Waxman, Rush, Barton and Radanovich submitted by you, the readers of this blog, protesting the incomplete consideration of the issues caused by this law. I have posted these letters here (group letters) and here, here, here and here (letters to individual legislators). This is a great expression of democracy in action. If, by some twist of fate, the Democrats decide to listen for a change, you will know you played an important role in bringing about change. Hopefully, before it’s too late.
c. To complete the sense of circus, our dear friends, the consumer groups, decided it was time to issue some press releases to spread their propaganda. I have posted their pearls here and here plus a letter to Rep. Rush and Rep. Radanovich here. This disturbing set of documents continues to promote misleading notions about the law and safety itself. It is hard to read them and believe protecting consumers is their mission, as opposed to politics.
I frankly don’t have the time or energy here to rebut their many misleading remarks (or worse). Here is a short list of objectionable claims from these documents. The answer to these claims has in many or all cases been discussed in this space previously.
- The CPSIA “equipped the agency with the authority it needs”.
- Children’s products will be “safer” because now they must be tested before sale.
- Children will be “safer” because the use of phthalates in children’s products is now banned.
- The CPSIA empowers “the CPSC to exempt certain materials from the testing and certification requirements, and to relieve those manufacturers of products that are in no danger of violating the new standards.” [Exemptions under Section 101(b) are ONLY possible for mateirals that cannot EVER possibly violate standards. No discretion is possible under the law. This is a FACT.]
- The stay on mandatory testing under the CPSIA allows companies “more time to come up to speed on the new rules”.
- The basis for the CPSIA was “too many dangerous [imported] products . . . on store shelves, some seriously harming, and even killing, their customers”.
- “The CPSC had neither the funds nor the regulatory authority to effectively solve these problems. . . .”
- “Consumers lost confidence in our product safety net because of the many recalls of children’s products and the numerous deaths and injuries posed by those products.”
- “[T]he CPSIA turned voluntary standards for toys and other juvenile products into mandatory requirements which will help to ensure that those products meet safety standards.” [Ms. Tenenbaum has publicly stated that voluntary standards are effective and work well. The statement made by the consumer groups appears to be factual but is actually only their political platform.]
And . . . according to the propaganda sheets, the following items are apparently “myths”:
- CPSIA deadlines were unrealistic
- CPSIA provisions . . . make it harder to do business.
- CPSIA has to be changed through additional legislation to address business concerns about expensive testing and exemptions of certain products.
Finally they cite the AAP’s uncontested but highly misleading testimony about lead. As you may recall, this testimony prompted the assertion that with its “perfect legislative process”, the CPSIA was perfect, too, and thus would not be reopened. I have rebutted the AAP testimony on more than one occasion, most notably here.
You will be able to watch the hearing online at the website of the Subcommittee. Try this link and if it doesn’t work, check out the website of the Subcommittee for a better link.
Catherine sent this letter to her local newspaper on February 1oth. They didn’t print it.
With today being the next deadline for the wide-sweeping Consumer Product Safety “Improvement” Act (CPSIA), I am baffled at the lack of coverage. Where is the outrage over this act — morally and economically? Why is Congress passing a stimulus act – at the same time it is doing so much to harm the economy – small businesses in particular?
I am a small business owner who is hoping to survive the economic onslaught already caused by this bill – and this portion just went into effect! To put this in perspective: Our average monthly sales are approximately $5,000. This weekend we had to dispose of over $4,000 worth of inventory. In one weekend, it is gone. The sad thing is, we’re not even sure we have removed everything. And if we haven’t, we could still be in violation of the law… We’re primarily a children’s bookstore, with over 3,000 square feet, and in the end we were given one business day to find and remove all of the books that had just become illegal to sell.
Why? Because Congress and the CPSC have decided that it is all of a sudden dangerous for our children to read books that were printed before 1985… books that might have small amounts of lead in the ink in their pages. The adults of today grew up reading those same books with no ill effects, but somehow our children and grandchildren might suffer if some of their books were printed before 1985.
Catherine M. Jaime
When Representative Dingell posted his letter to Acting Chair Nancy Nord and Commissioner Thomas Moore, there was a collective sigh of relief that someone not only asked such pointed questions, but also asked for a response. Yes, bills had been submitted to both the House and the Senate, but they were languishing and we needed to maintain our momentum in order to keep this issue top of mind in Congress.
And where many of us viewed these letters as correspondences only between these three individuals and not intended for interaction, Rick Woldenberg saw it as our opportunity.
What was a simple post and a simple request – respond to Dingell’s letter with your own answers to his questions – became an outpouring of letters that would require hundreds of pages of paper in order to hand-deliver them to Representative Dingell.
Many of these letters are included on this site, but they could not be reproduced in their entirety because of their sheer volume.
If you would like a copy of these letters in full for background research on your story, please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. They tell a gripping story of micro, small, and large businesses affected by CPSIA.
March 22, 2009
Dear Commissioner Moore,
I am writing in response to the letter you wrote to Representative Dingell
that was posted to the CPSC website on March 20, 2009.
While I realize your letter was directed to Representative Dingell, I am
writing to share with you my concerns about your letter. I own an organic
cotton baby clothing business that is impacted by the CPSIA. Specifically
in this paragraph I am in disbelief at the way you address businesses
affected by CPSIA, “Congress has entrusted this agency with a large and
important mission. The passage of the CPSIA was a huge vote of confidence
for the agency and despite the hue and cry of some in the business community
who will never be happy with the closer scrutiny and accountability required
by the Act, it is a major accomplishment of the last Congress, and one that
your leadership was instrumental in achieving.”
As a business owner who cares about child safety and who is affected by this
new law I will tell you that I am opposed to CPSIA, but not for the reason
you have mentioned. CPSIA is deeply flawed as Ms. Nord and the CPSC staff
outlined in their comprehensive letter submitted to Representative Dingell
on March 20, 2009. As a business owner and mother, I am constantly
accountable for my actions. We manufacture products that have been tested
in which all of our components test well below 100 ppm but yet this law will
require me to test our product continually for lead. The CPSIA does not
differentiate among the size of business, the materials used, the
commodities, the industries, the accessibility of parts, and so on…the
list is rather endless.
The majority of us in the business community would like to see a smart law
that is focused on products that pose risks and the CPSIA is clearly not the
answer. We are seeing huge losses being reported by small and large
companies and it isn’t because their products are toxic, it is because the
law does not work.
It is astonishing to me that after six months of dealing with this, your
response to Representative Dingell’s questions didn’t even scratch the
surface of the issues regarding this law and instead seemed completely
politically driven. As a tax payer, I resent that you are unable to work as
a team with Ms. Nord. In the private sector we often have to work in
imperfect environments. If we don’t design, create, solve problems and
implement, we don’t produce products, money, or jobs.
Let me reassure you that I would not have spent the past four to five months
of my life and money to figure out why and how to comply with the CPSIA if I
were not accountable. We don’t mind complying with laws that work but the
CPSIA doesn’t work.
I would like to get back to what I was doing five months ago which was
building a business, creating a safe organic product, and employing women in
need. Furthermore, I would rather not be spending my time or money to
travel to Washington on April 1 for the Rally and Congressional Briefing
with my colleagues but, if I don’t, I may not have a business to continue
I mean no disrespect but I would truly appreciate it if you could put aside
your politics and not wait to realize that there are devastating
consequences to this law that aren’t in the name of safety and aren’t a
result of businesses not wanting to be accountable. If our businesses are
forced to wait for your world to be perfect, our citizens lose jobs and
businesses close their doors.
Thank you for your time.
Chapter One Organics, Inc.
Dear Mr. Duncan,
I have just returned from New Orleans where the 2009 National Science
Teachers Association (NSTA) convention was held. Unfortunately, when I
came by the Department of Education booth at 10:30 Friday morning, you
had already been pulled away on other matters, so I was unable to share
some concerns with you.
I am the President of a small company serving not only science teachers
and students, but math, early childhood and literacy users. American
Educational Products (www.amep.com) has been in business since 1986 and
currently has 72 employees in two states. Our products, like all of the
products you would have seen at NSTA, are seriously threatened by
unintended consequences of CPSIA2008, a law passed in August 2008. I am
attaching 3 documents that address concerns about implementation and
specifics of this law, a law that will easily reduce the number of
products available to the American student and teacher by at least half.
All three attachments are in response to a letter from the Honorable
Congressman Dingell to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
regarding ten questions or concerns that Mr. Dingell had with the
legislation and its implementation. One of the attachments is the CPSC
response, the other two are responses from companies in the educational
supplies and materials industry (myself and Mr. Rick Woldenberg who has
provided excellent links within his response documenting the problems).
I cannot convey the urgency with which this legislation needs to be
reviewed and modified if the products that our teachers need and more
importantly, our students need are to continue to be available in the
classrooms of this great country. We need an advocate. Let me say it
again – we need an advocate. I believe that Congressman Dingell is
leaning that way, but he and a very few like-minded representatives are
going to need an ear within the administration. I am asking that you
provide that ear and be our advocate within the administration on this
matter. I do appreciate any time and effort that you and your staff can
direct to assisting the suppliers in the educational products market in
achieving the desired consequences of this legislation while minimizing
the unintended consequences.
I will in Washington late next Tuesday evening (March 31) to attend an
event that I invite you and / or your staff to attend. This event will
provide a forum for presenting concerns and thoughts on this matter as
it applies to many industries. Additional details can be found at
www.AmendTheCPSIA.com. The event is scheduled to begin at 10:00AM on
Wednesday April 1 in Room HVC201 A&B at the Capitol Visitor’s Center.
It would be my honor and privilege to meet with you or members of your
staff either at the event itself or at any time after 12:00PM before
6:00PM that day.
In closing, please accept my many thanks for your efforts on behalf of
all students across this country. I hope to meet you next Wednesday.
American Educational Products LLC
Correspondence is categorized by Organization. Click on the links below to view the entire document.
NAM – National Association of Manufacturers
TIA – Toy Industry Association
Information to come.
HTA – Handmade Toy Alliance
January 19, 2009
Dear Senator Sessions,
I own a small store in Madison that serves the local homeschool community with new educational materials, used educational materials, and much more. In the current economy, we were already struggling to keep our business alive. And then, recently, we became aware of the CPSIA Legislation. At that point, we had 1 month in which to figure it out and figure out how to comply with it.
We have read the legislation, we have read the FAQ on their website, and their response to the publishing industry’s questions about exclusing book. The more we read, the more concerned we become.
We are hoping that you will be able to help us through this legislative maze.
In the first week of dealing with this we have come up with the following questions. There will probably be more:
- Will the lead testing/certification rules apply to our current inventory? If so, what are we supposed to do with anything that we can’t certify? Much of our inventory was bought before this law was ever written.
- Is it safe for us to sell our used books under the current clarification for resellers? The clarification says we don’t have to test, but that we can still be found liable for breaking the law.
- We carry baby slings that have been hand-made by a local mother. She will not be able to certify that they are lead-free. Does that mean we can no longer sell them? (In fact, that she won’t be able to sell them either?)
- Are we correct in determining that items that cannot be certified cannot even be given away after February 10th?
- As a self-publisher of a number of books, am I right in figuring out that anything I write for children under 13 will no longer be able to be self-published? Again, I do not have the means to certify that these books are lead-free.
- Maybe this question should have been first: exactly what determines that something is a “children’s product” under this law? For instance, which books that I carry will be covered by these requirements, and which will not? How am I supposed to determine this?
Thank you for your timely assistance with this problem. We realize that you have many pressing issues to deal with in Congress, but this has become one of the most pressing for us.
Creative Learning Connection
Blog: CLC and CPSIA
Below is the introduction of the letter that Cecilia of Craftsbury Kids wrote in response to Representative Dingell’s letter:
March 17, 2009
Dear Congressman Dingell,
I want to express my gratitude for the letter you sent to Nancy Nord and Thomas Moore, and the important questions you ask regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. As owner of a micro-business serving the children’s industry, I do not have the means to hire lobbyists, and having the support of lawmakers means so much. I have been working on the CPSIA issue for many months, and it encourages me to keep going when I read letters like yours. I would like to share with you, answers to some of the questions you pose, particularly those that affect my business specifically.
The letter in its entirety can be read on her blog Little Ida.