March 2, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles, In the News
Senator Jay Rockefeller issued a press release today to slam the Pompeo Amendment de-funding the CPSIA database. Mr. Rockefeller apparently feels that the legitimate concerns of American manufacturers and retailers pale against the need for consumers to make product judgments based on unfiltered hearsay, lies and nonsense:
“’This database will provide important safety information to American consumers,’ Chairman Rockefeller added. ‘A mother will be able to check the CPSC database to see if there are complaints about a crib model. A young couple will be able to see if a certain microwave has a history of safety complaints or if there are complaints about a coffee maker shorting and causing fires. I will fight this ill-informed proposal to undermine such an important consumer protection tool. It’s a bad idea and a bum deal for American consumers.’” [Emphasis added]
Consumers will also be able to decide to stop driving Toyotas because of accusations borne of driver error, or drop DryMax diapers over discredited claims of diaper rash.
True story – last year, stopped at a stop light, my car was gently rear-ended by an elderly lady driving a Toyota. As I approached her car after inspecting the minimal damage, she expressed “shock” at the accident and informed me that it was “sudden acceleration” just like in the newspapers. Who could see such a calamity coming? I noticed a little dog on her lap, jumping up and down, trying to get out of the window to sniff me. Let’s just say that I didn’t immediately side with her “explanation” of the accident. Nice doggy! That incident could have been reported under the current terms of the new database (were it a consumer product). Who would pay the price for that kind of baloney assertion? The manufacturer – with no defenses whatsoever.
Nothing surprises me anymore BUT Senator Rockefeller’s denials fly in the face of House testimony given on February 17th, not to mention the outpouring of testimony, data and legitimate procedural complaints by industry. In the hearing on the 17th, Inez Tenenbaum ADMITTED that the agency will be posting information that may be inaccurate or false. To quote Ms. Tenenbaum, “that’s what the rub is”.
I cannot overstate how frustrating it is (remains) to see Democrats stick to the script notwithstanding data and testimony that directly undercuts their position (and their credibility). Either they think we are morons, or else they must believe the government is something SEPARATE AND ABOVE the people. President Lincoln took a different view, stating in the Gettysburg Address:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
It is hard for me to believe Mr. Rockefeller believes what Mr. Lincoln instructed on that day. The testimony on the database is not a farce, and our concerns are legitimate. If the concerns for consumers are actually so urgent, why not hit the “pause button” to fix the issues affecting those of us stubbornly trying to provide jobs in this country? Talk to the Pompeo staff – they want to FIX the database, not kill it. Is it really necessary to trash the economy out of pure stubbornness?
The time to genuflect to the holy CPSIA and its misguided almost-unanimous passage through Congress is OVER. Senator Rockefeller, please pay attention to the legitimate needs of those who provide JOBS to your constituents and de-fund the CPSIA database until it can be fixed. You represent the many millions of people who are still working in this country, too. It’s time to remember EVERYBODY’S interest in this matter, not just the left edge of the left wing.
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CPSIA – Senate Dems Try to Line up Against Pompeo Amendment
February 17, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
There’s a lot happening! Here are a few highlights:
a. Fox News is reporting that today’s hearing is the beginning of an effort by House Republicans to restore common sense to the CPSIA. Be still my heart! Of course, readers of this space knew that the cavalry was coming. Lots of good people are pulling for change right now but the path forward will not be easy. On the one side, we have Republicans: “‘There are parts of (the children’s product safety law) that need to be peeled back and thrown into the trash,’ said one Republican source close to the process.” And on the other side, you have the fear mongers: “‘When the first children get sick from using a product with lead, it will point out the folly of their ‘common sense,’ said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Chicago-based Kids in Danger, who is testifying at Thursday’s hearing. ‘It’s common sense to most people not to have lead in their products.’”
b. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is introducing (or introduced, not sure) an amendment to the Continuing Resolution currently on the floor of the House to DE-FUND THE DATABASE! Hurray for Mike Pompeo. This move is garnering strong public support from other Republican leaders in the House. Cross your fingers. Again, there’s a long road ahead. Here is the amendment:
AMENDMENT TO H.R. 1
OFFERED BY MR. POMPEO OF KANSAS
At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:
SEC. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to carry out any of the activities described in section 6A of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2055a).
c. The Democrats are going away meekly on the CPSIA. Yesterday, Henry Waxman together with Subcommittee Ranking Member G.K. Butterfield put out a press release entitled “New Poll Shows “Very Strong” Support for Federal Consumer Product Safety Efforts“. Bringing to mind popularity polls released by Idi Amin back in the waning days of his Emperorship, the poll commissioned by Consumer Reports indicates that 98% of consumers “agreed strongly or somewhat that the federal government should play a prominent role in improving product safety”. If they included my vote . . . . The Waxman/Butterfield press release references three Pompeo amendments but it is my understanding that only the database amendment above will be introduced.
The Pompeo amendment and this absurd push poll are related events. You can examine how “out of touch with reality” we apparently are by checking out the amazing poll details at this link.
d. Inez Tenenbaum has also been commissioned to push back on Pompeo. Yesterday, she posted a joint blogpost with U.S. PIRG on the topic of the database. As Carter Wood of NAM’s Shopfloor blog pithily tweeted: “Hard to imagine #CPSC Commissioners Nord or Northup ever co-blogging with NAM or Rick Woldenberg the day before a cmte hearing.” Carter makes an interesting point. I am not hurt, by the way . . . . He also notes: “Tenenbaum’s co-blogging at the site of a leading left-leaning activist group immediately before the hearing almost looks like a conscious poke in the eye to committee members.”
Should be another interesting day today!
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CPSIA – News Round-up Ahead of Hearing
July 1, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Dastardly Daiso, the hapless Japanese chain of dollar stores that probably regrets the day it first heard of the U.S., has been forced to recall yet more items. This recall, their sixth in recent years, involves five items for excessive lead. They are currently under injunction by the CPSC and the U.S. Attorney. Uh-oh.
Excessive lead in kids’ products – that sounds AWFUL, doesn’t it? In the tradition of most modern commentators, I thought I’d write this blogpost without reading the recall notice. After all, I know what it says without reading it, right? Well, at THIS blog, we have standards, you know. My editor INSISTED that I read it.
So I read it, and here are the details. You better sit down . . . the horror of it all . . . there are five items involved: one cloth purse, two pairs of earrings and two necklaces. The total number of units, across all five items, is 190 pieces, or less than 40 per item. And how did dastardly Daiso endanger kids THIS time? “The surface paint on the zippers of the coin purses and the clasps on the jewelry contain high levels of lead.” Whoa! The retail price of these items is about $1.50 each, so the total value of this recall is $285. There were no injuries reported. The CPSC put out a press release so all of America could know how safe they were.
SCIENCE TIME: The presence of lead in the zipper paint and in the clasp does not itself cause any harm. Lead is a neurotoxin, true, but lead must enter your bloodstream to do harm. And if it does manage to get in there (through inhalation of dust or through ingestion of bio-available lead), blood lead levels must rise to a certain point before any harm can possibly occur. Since we all consume lead every day in our food, water and air, the human body clearly can process some lead without harm – it does not simply accumulate. The amount (mass) of lead in these items is probably close to nil. I assert that if you chose to have a meal comprised of only the zippers and clasps from the 190 recalled units (ALL of them), you could not raise your blood lead levels high enough to do damage. AND the impact of lead in blood varies by the age of child. As the child ages, the impact from lead dramatically diminished. This is why Congress chose not to protect my blog readers – they are all adults and out of harm’s way. Lead is principally a problem for the “under 3′s”. The Daiso items are not for children under three, so the odds of harm are excruciating low. And it is utterly inconceivable that one person would eat all of the zipper paint and clasps in this minuscule recall. So, is this a public health crisis? You decide!
Back to Blog Time: Now, let’s think of Daiso and its sorry tale. They have previously been the subject of five recalls of 19 items, totally 698 units, over two years. For this series of “transgressions”, they were whacked with an injunction by the U.S. Attorney against further importing of toys (Tenenbaum: “Now the fine was large, but that wasn’t the big news . . . . We worked closely with the Justice Department on this case, and Daiso has a very high hurdle to jump over to EVER get back in the import business again”). Daiso also was hit with a “get the message” penalty of $2.05 million. This is about $1,000 per unit in penalties for items with a retail value of between $1 and $4 each. That’s gotta get your attention.
So now that Daiso has stepped across the line again, what will the CPSC do? This kind of transgression can’t go unpunished, right? Don’t we live in a society based on retribution today? [We learned it from the Taliban.] Having hit Daiso with a $2.05 million penalty last time, the agency has to set this penalty higher since Daiso obviously is so incorrigible. If the last penalty was $1,000 per unit, maybe the agency should hit them with a penalty of $100,000 per unit to get them to take our laws seriously. Darnit, they CAN’T – that exceeds the maximum penalty of $15 million. Now what?
There’s always jail time. Somebody needs to pay, of course. How can the agency ignore an offense of this scale? 190 units is unforgivable. That’s almost $300 in value! That’s like one iPhone (with a two-year phone contract). We can’t let the people be endangered like that!
They were really good at torture in the Middle Ages – maybe something gory would get Daiso’s attention this time. Capture a manager and have him/her drawn-and-quartered in the public square? The agency could webcast it! There are so many options. The agency needs to do whatever is necessary to keep American kids safe, so I certainly hope they will use their entire arsenal. Waterboarding?
Personally, I am grateful to Congress for not giving the CPSC nukes.
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CPSIA – What Will CPSC Hit Daiso With This Time – Nukes?
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.
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CPSIA – Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week!