May 24, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, CPSIA Updates, Featured Articles
In the sad, pathetic CPSIA saga, several players have taken up their chips and moved on. Some, like David Strickland, found other industries to prey upon and destroy (good job with Toyota!). Others have just disappeared in the mist. I have not heralded the departure of Congressional staff who have played a role in ruining our businesses – they were just doing their jobs, if incompetently. But now one of the true movers and shakers behind the CPSIA has chosen to find other things to do. And I am speaking of the notorious Cindy Pelligrini of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Cindy’s last day to create havoc at the AAP is June 3rd; after that, she takes her act over to the March of Dimes. [What is the lead content in dimes anyhow?] Cindy deserves special mention, right up there with the Queen Bee herself Rachel Weintraub, as responsible for the mess we all find ourselves in. I have discussed Ms. Pelligrini in this space numerous in the past. - Here is Cindy Pelligrini ghosting federal testimony and intercepting questions for its purported author, the estimable Dr. Dana Best. Dr. Best is a real live doctor. Ms. Pelligrini told me she holds a degree in political science. . . . - Here is Cindy Pelligrini arguing against risk assessment because it would be too BURDENSOME on the CPSC . I practically weep over her compassion for the regulators! She also is the one who promoted the notion of background “contamination” of lead at 40 ppm (as if the presence of a naturally-occurring element is contamination), lower than the lead content of the dirt in Mr. Obama’s garden. [ Ibid .] - Here’s Cindy Pelligrini and the AAP misquoting or misstating the data from their own cited sources on lead poisoning . I guess the truth is what you make of it. - Here is Cindy Pelligrini admitting that she is using the CPSIA strictures to achieve a different end that has nothing to do with lead poisoning , namely the tacit ban of youth model ATVs. Is manipulation and distortion less offensive if you brazenly admit it? Wow, that’s a hard act to follow! The pressure’s on Rachel now . . . . As a fitting tribute to Ms. Pelligrini, I offer up quotes from scholarly articles cited in a May 11, 2011 lead scare email she authored with an AAP associate. Most of the citations were not provided with links, perhaps to make this exercise more difficult. Sorry, Cindy, I cracked the code! Here are a few nuggets: a. “Multivariable analysis indicated that residence in older housing, poverty, age, and being non-Hispanic black are still major risk factors for higher lead levels. . . . Risk of lead exposure by year housing built defined as follows . . . 1999–2004: low risk, built 1978 and later; medium risk, built between 1950 and 1977; high risk, built before 1950.” Jones RL, Homa DM, Meyer PA, Brody DJ, Caldwell KL, Pirkle JL, Brown MJ. Trends in Blood Lead Levels and Blood Lead Testing Among US Children Aged 1 to 5 Years, 1988–2004 . Pediatrics, Mar 2009; 123: e376 – e385. [Apparently, old homes come equipped with children's products with dangerously high lead content. How could there be any other possible explanation for this data?!] b. “CDC is conducting several activities to focus efforts on preventing lead exposures to children. First, beginning in 2003, CDC required state and local health departments receiving funding for lead poisoning prevention activities to develop and implement strategic childhood lead poisoning elimination plans. Second, CDC and its federal partners, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, launched new initiatives to control leadbased paint hazards in the highest risk housing, addressing where successive cases of lead poisoning have been identified. Third, CDC and other federal agencies are developing a systematic and coordinated response to identify and eliminate nonpaint sources of exposure (e.g., lead jewelry, food and traditional medicines, and cosmetics). . . . The most common high-dose sources of lead exposure for U. S. children are lead-based paint and lead-contaminated house dust and soil.” Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention. Preventing Lead Poisoning in Young Children. A Statement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . August 2005. [What, no reference to children's products?! Does the CDC know what it's doing? Come on, there's no safe level for lead . . . .] c. See my blogpost of May 11 for an analysis of this article. Self-selecting factors may explain the data on lead poisoning, not the hazard itself. Hmmm. Chen A, Dietrich KN, Ware JH, Radcliffe J, Rogan WJ. IQ and blood lead from 2 to 7 years of age: are the effects in older children the residual of high blood lead concentrations in 2-year-olds? Environ Health Perspect. 2005;113(5):597-601. d. “Lead can be found in high concentrations in three media to which children may be directly or indirectly exposed: paint, interior dust, and exterior soil or dust. This section discusses the distribution of lead in these media and their relationships to one another and to blood lead levels (BLLs) in children (Figure 2.1). Lead in tap water, generally a lower dose source of exposure, is also addressed.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Managing Elevated Blood Lead Levels Among Young Children: Recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention . Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.; 2002. [Again, the CDC screws up - no apparent awareness of the plague of contaminated children's products. So dopey, good thing we have the AAP and CFA to ensure that the 100 ppm lead standard is imposed on lead-in-substrate in children's products. It's a mere detail that no one has EVER produced a single victim of lead poisoning linked to lead-in-substrate in any jurisdiction at any time anywhere in the world.] e. Article discussing the later consequences of lead poisoning. Does not discuss sources of lead poisoning. “Residual and unmeasured confounding are always of concern in observational studies where all possible covariates cannot be assessed and those available are not measured with equal precision. . . . The inclusion of neuropsychological variables examined in this sample such as measures of executive functioning, attention, and IQ may have amplified the predictive vigor of the models. . . . The possibility that early exposure to Pb may lead to a higher risk of antisocial behavior in later life through its effects on neuropsychological functions is interesting and will be the subject of future analyses of these data. Variables independently associated with measures of antisocial behavior included maternal intelligence and lower birth weight. The association with lower parental IQ was not unexpected and a few studies suggest that delinquency is related to medical complications at birth.” Dietrich KN, Ris MD, Succop PA, Berger OG, Bornschein RL. Early exposure to lead and juvenile delinquency. Neurotoxicol Teratol. Nov-Dec 2001;23(6):511-518 [Emphasis added] [In other words, lead might explain the social dysfunction of some kids. Then again, so might many other uncontrollable variables well-beyond the ability of this study to analyze or even detect. Clear as mud . . . .] f. A classic “garbage in, garbage out” study, this article argues that a loss of an IQ point results in a corresponding loss of about 0.1 years of schooling. If, however, you note the conclusions or suspicions in the article referenced above in par. c above, you may conclude there may well be other factors at play, such as family income or poverty, age of housing, neighborhood setting, other family dynamics (such as educational background), and the basic intelligence of the kids affected by lead poisoning. Kids presenting as lead poisoned may be the least likely kids to be successful in school for other reasons separate from lead poisoning – in other words, lead poisoning might be a symptom of a larger problem, not the problem itself. The article does not sonsider this possibility. Salkever D. Updated Estimates of Earnings Benefits from Reduced Exposure of Children to Environmental Lead. Environmental Research , 70:1-6: 1995. I could go on and on – Ms. Pelligrini and her associate provide bundles of citations all making similar points. Ms. Pelligrini leaves behind a record replete with misleading conclusions and head fakes. In the process, she accomplished little for kids but managed to ruin many businesses, drive entrepreneurs into other markets, kill jobs and eliminate valued products that kids, families and schools needed and wanted. She had a willing accomplice in the Dems who employ populism to get reelected. Damn the science, we need to make kids safer . . . even if we have no idea what that means! As I noted earlier this year, Walter Lippmann, founding editor of The New Republic and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom1964, once cited the components of wartime mythmaking as “the casual fact, the creative imagination, the will to believe, and out of these three elements, a counterfeit of reality.” Counterfeit of reality, that’s our Cindy. Cindy, we’ll miss you! Not.
CPSIA – A Malefactor Exits Stage Right
February 21, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The New York Times this evening gave some coverage to last week’s hearings in an article entitled “Child-Product Makers Seek to Soften New Rules“. Reflecting the usual bias of the Times against business, the article intones: “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 . . . . The manufacturers are also trying to scale back new regulations, drafted by the commission, that would require third-party testing to determine the safety and lead content of children’s products. They have found a receptive audience among House Republicans.” [Emphasis added]
So let me ask you, does it appear that I am “emboldened” by the Republican majority in the House? Is that accurate? As I recall, I began working against this excessive and irresponsible legislation in September 2007 and began my “war” with intensity when I was invited to present at the CPSC Lead Panel on November 6, 2008. That was more than two years ago, long before the “emboldening” Republican majority. In fact, I worked hard in the last election to put the Republican majority into office.
Because no one on the other side of the aisle would listen. What the NYT noticed is that someone is listening . . . finally.
Am I trying to “quash” the legislation? I think that’s an unrealistic goal and have never asked for it. I have stated repeatedly that the legislation has few achievements to boast about and that it is defective as drafted (can’t be fixed). It is also killing jobs, companies, markets and products. It needs to go but, as noted, I think that’s unrealistic. I think fixing it is the best we can hope for.
And I promise that our efforts are not “last ditch”. We’re not going to be done until the CPSIA is fixed.
The article goes on to note that at least one Democrat thinks the CPSIA stinks: “Other lawmakers, including at least one Democrat, Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan, suggested that new regulations requiring third-party testing of all children’s products for safety and lead were too broad and needed to be revised.” John Dingell, who’s he? “At least one Democrat . . . .” Ummm, Mr. Dingell is not only the longest serving member of Congress in the history of the United States but he also happens to be the longstanding Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce who also sponsored the legislation to create the CPSC in 2972. I think he is something more than just another Democrat – he is a major historical figure and a person of great standing in this matter. When he came out against the CPSIA on Thursday, he broke with Waxman and stood up for the TRUTH.
The Times gives the consumer groups the last word: “Representatives of consumer groups, meanwhile, are fretting. They said they were worried that the tougher standards they fought for, and seemed to have finally won, were now in jeopardy. ‘You have folks who are seeing that there is a chance to undo consumer protections that they never liked in the first place,’ said Ami Gadhia, policy counsel for Consumers Union.”
That’s true – we never liked the law in the first place. It is a massive waste of money, is hurting markets, companies, jobs and kids, has mired the agency and industry in a three year mud fight and isn’t making anyone safer.
It’s time to end the posturing and the story telling. We need to fix this awful law before it kills more companies and more products. How many companies need to die before Congress and the New York Times gets the message?
Read more here:
CPSIA – New York Times Notices the CPSIA
February 20, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
On the morning of February 7, my dog brought in the Chicago Tribune and I almost asked him to take it back to the driveway. Blaring at me was the front page headline”Danger lurks in pool, spa drains“. This article was a monster – an entire page (all five columns). Apparently alerted by a “tipster”, a Tribune “investigation” discovered that some pool drains designed to meet the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (part of the CPSIA) requirements had apparently failed certain lab tests. Notably, there have been no reported injuries as a result of this “defect”, although one manufacturer asked dealers to return stock for replacement “out of an abundance of caution”.
Why does no injuries merit a full page article? The story continues. . . .
Senator Durbin of the great state of Illinois must have read the same article, because he immediately sent a letter to the CPSC alerting them to this hazard. More precisely, alerting them to this article. I am picturing him dropping his toast in horror. What an efficient clipping service. [Two words for the Senator: "Google Alerts".] His obvious and immediate concern are commendable, if you consider reading a newspaper article adequate due diligence for one of our nation’s leaders. Mr. Durbin notes the outcome of his intensive research (reading the newspaper): “This appears to have allowed dangerous drain covers to continue being sold and distributed. The issues highlighted by the Tribune story are very concerning and raise serious questions, not only about dangerous drains but also about accreditation of testing facilities on products generally.”
Next, the Tribune duly reported that Senator Durbin had performed his clipping service for the CPSC, thereby “legitimizing” their investigation. Case closed! The Chicago Tribune to the rescue. . . .
The Tribune must be right if Dick Durbin drops everything to send a letter . . . right?
Ummm, well, let’s take a deeper look. [It's possible Durbin only read the headline. That's enough, right?] The Tribune investigation was started by a “tip”. Someone with an interest in the drains and their effectiveness. Who might that be? I don’t know myself, but there are rumors. We need not speculate on the rumors but we can certainly look at the article itself. In the article, the Tribune quotes an “expert” on pool drains, Paul Pennington. Did you know there was such a thing as a pool drain expert? Mr. Pennington intones: “Some child is going to die.” And he’s an expert! Sounds bad, very bad.
Mr. Pennington is Chairman of the Pool Safety Council. The Tribune notes: “Paul Pennington, chairman of the nonprofit Pool Safety Council, said he has sent 73 e-mails to CPSC and standards officials, pleading with them to do something about unsafe drain covers since the new law took effect in December 2008.” What a guy, tirelessly fighting for innocent children.
But who is the Pool Safety Council? The Tribune explains: “His group is largely funded by the makers of devices that shut off a pool’s pump when a dangerous vacuum forms, like a circuit breaker turns off power when it senses an overload.” In fact, Mr. Pennington is the President of Vac-Alert Industries, Inc. Hey, here’s another “shocker” – Vac-Alert has patents on vacuum alerts used in pools (patent no. 6,591,863 and 5,991,939).
Conflict of interest? Nah! The Tribune again: “Why did Pennington think the covers were dangerous? As soon as the new drain covers hit the market in 2008, pool owners who had vacuum-release devices complained that their pumps were turning off after they installed the covers. Pennington, who owns a stake in a vacuum-release system company, investigated and concluded that the new covers were allowing the hazardous suction forces they were supposed to prevent. Pennington said his concerns were ignored by the federal government and by the standards committee that writes the testing rules for the drain covers. That committee consists mostly of people who work in the pool and spa business.”
Hmmm. So you have a newspaper trying to sell papers by “saving” the populace, an entrepreneur who is leading the “fight” over pool drains with patented technology ready to replace those drains, an ambitious local politician interested in making headlines while supporting the hometown paper that helped elect him, and what do you get? The feeding frenzy that gave birth to the CPSIA. Everyone’s a winner . . . except for the businesses and markets caught in the middle.
Makes you anxious to vote again, doesn’t it?
January 30, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Dan Marshall of Peapod Natural Toys and Baby Care in St. Paul, MN and founder of the Handmade Toy Alliance, was profiled in Saturday’s WSJ in an article entitled “Small Crafts v. Big Government“.
Let me give you a hint who is winning . . . it has the initials “B.G.”
Here is the body of the article:
This is a story about artisanal cheese and hand-polished wooden toys, organic spinach and exquisitely smocked baby dresses—the burgeoning small-scale economy so beloved by members of the “creative class.” But it’s also about another, much-discussed growth industry: the production of political cynicism among formerly idealistic Americans.
The story begins in 2007, an unusually good year for Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care, in St. Paul, Minn., and many similar mom-and-pop businesses. Frightened by news that toys made in China contained unsafe levels of lead, customers were looking for alternatives to the usual big-box offerings. Just as organic farmers gain market share whenever there’s a food-safety panic, the lead scare boosted sales of artisanal children’s goods. “People wanted made-in-USA products, and we were the only place in town that had them,” says Dan Marshall, the owner of Peapods.
Vendors offering organic materials and a personal touch seemed poised to prosper. But the short-term boon soon turned into a long-term disaster. In response to the lead panic, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, or CPSIA, by an overwhelming majority. The law mandates third-party testing and detailed labels not only for toys but for every single product aimed at children 12 and under.
“It’s everything from shoes to hair bows, Boy Scout patches and bicycles—it’s everything,” says Mr. Marshall. But few people producing or selling artisanal kids’ products even realized that the CPSIA applied to them until months after President George W. Bush had signed it. By then it was too late.
Although big companies like Mattel could spread the extra costs over millions of toys, Mr. Marshall’s small-scale suppliers couldn’t. Unable to afford thousands of dollars in testing per product, some went out of business. Others moved production to China to cut costs. Many slashed their product lines, reserving the expensive new tests for only their top sellers. The European companies that used to sell Peapods such specialty items as wooden swords and shields or beeswax-finished cherry-wood rattles simply abandoned the U.S. market. The survivors jacked up prices.
Mr. Marshall and other entrepreneurs formed the Handmade Toy Alliance to try to get the law changed, without success. “When Ron Paul’s the only guy who votes against something it’s really hard to go back and fix it,” says Mr. Marshall, exaggerating only slightly. Neither political officials nor the mainstream media have been especially sympathetic.
“I’m a lot more cynical than I was,” says Cecilia Leibovitz, who owns Craftsbury Kids, an online shop selling handmade toys and children’s clothes, and also leads the CPSIA discussion group among Etsy.com’s online sellers. Mostly individuals producing one-of-a-kind items, Etsy crafters find it especially hard to comply with, or even interpret, the law’s requirements.
By contrast, consider the recently enacted Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act. Like the CPSIA, it establishes expensive new labeling, record-keeping, inspection and reporting requirements. But, unlike the CPSIA, it carves out an exception for small operations.
The reason for the exemption is not that small farms are safer than big ones. It’s that a vocal, established and well-connected interest group didn’t want the law to put small farmers out of business.
Agriculture is a highly politicized industry, and proponents of small-scale farming are organized, ideological, and well represented in the elite media. Buying handmade toys may be nice, but eating produce from the farmer’s market is a quasi-religious ritual of group identity. The exemption is what Michael Pollan, the best-selling author and leading locavore, calls “a very important signal—that this is a different economy and it’s going to play by slightly different rules.”
Other artisanal businesses have gotten a less supportive signal. It’s not enough, they’ve learned, to light a single hand-poured beeswax candle rather than curse the mass-market darkness. Unless you have the right protection, Congress can easily snuff it out.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Dan Marshall of HTA is Profiled in WSJ
December 7, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
In a recent article entitled “Advice on avoiding a toxic Christmas“, USA Today attempted to take Christmas paranoia to new heights. Naturally, the premise of the article is that companies are criminally irresponsible or venal and certainly can’t be trusted, and consumer advocates and any pediatrician that will talk to a reporter are better people, better informed and by definition trustworthy. In this article, USA Today’s Liz Szabo consults “experts” to reach the following conclusions:
a. “No one knows how much lead people absorb from holiday decorations, says pediatrician Bruce Lanphear, of Canada’s Simon Fraser University.” And if he said it, it must be true. [Of course, pediatrician Philip Landrigan, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, notes "In the whole scheme of things, is it a huge risk? No."]
What’s the problem with Xmas lights, you say? Lead in the PVC. According to Alicia Voorhiess, a mom with a blog, manufacturers “use it” in the PVC. Right – you got us! Don’t worry, though, after much digging, she found two companies that offer Xmas lights which comply with Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), a European standard which limits the presence of lead in lights.
Ummm, Alicia, RoHS is a standard to designed to prevent leaching of heavy metals to protect the environment and only applies to electronics. This MEANS that the lead is restricted in the bulbs and fittings, not the PVC. Whatever, it sounds safer, doesn’t it?
The author of the article quotes Dr. Alan Greene (my college classmate) saying that you should handle your Xmas lights with gloves. Why stop there? Moon suits, anyone?
b. Artificial Christmas trees are made of PVC, too, and we know what manufacturers are wont to do with PVC. The solution – use a real tree grown without pesticides.
I find this a most uncreative solution, myself. Here’s a few more:
- Post a picture of a beautiful tree near the spot you might have placed your tree. Keep it away from the fire, however.
- Consider just displaying your Xmas lights in their packaging. No touching!
- Use an artificial tree, but place under a glass enclosure or something air tight like Saran Wrap. Stand at least five feet away at all times.
All of these remedies will protect you from lead. That said, please remember there is NO safe level for lead. And a holy, jolly Christmas to you, too!
Shame that USA Today didn’t focus in on the fact that there is lead in the air, in our water and in our food. OOPSIE! In fact, lead in water is conveniently piped into Washington, D.C. homes for kids to drink in their own bathrooms and kitchens. Nice! Somehow USA Today missed this. Shocking . . . .
c. Candles with metal wicks might also have lead in them, or then again, maybe they won’t. In a blow to poorly-researched newspaper articles, the CPSC apparently banned these wicks in 2003. Who knew the CPSC actually tried to its job before the CPSIA? Somebody should have told Congress.
According to this all-knowing newspaper, candles also contain paraffin, a wax made from petroleum. Not sure why I should care about that, but it sounds ominous. And some fragrances in candles have phthalates in them “which can affect the hormonal system”. Isn’t knowing nothing about science FUN???
The solution – The author of this article actually recommends that you use pure beeswax candles. Happy hunting! They also suggest you “poke cloves into oranges”. Ah, the old clove poking trick! That sounds like fun but IS IT SAFE? This article says oranges have lead in them. NO! And, for an extra kicker, it also says they have cadmium, too: “If the soils contain toxic metals like lead, mercury and cadmium then the consumers may be poisoned as happened in the “Ouchi-ouchi” disease in Japan . . . and similar episodes.” Wow, Ouchi-Ouchi! Scott Wolfson, do you hear a bell ringing? [Eating oranges didn't cause "Ouchi-Ouchi" but then again, researching these things is sooooo time-consuming.]
So there you go. Skip Christmas this year, too dangerous. I wonder if a Festivus pole is lead-free . . . .
Read more here:
CPSIA – Taking Advice from Idiots
September 30, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
778 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA. There are only 32 days left until Election Day.
In a remarkable demonstration of the anti-business bias of the current CPSC, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum took to the air today to bash toys and to take our old friend Mattel to task for four recalls of more than eleven million units.
Uh-oh, Mattel’s at it again. Hope this doesn’t mean it’s time for another CPSIA. It is Election time, after all.
The CPSC Commission hosed us on Wednesday with its decision on the definition of “Children’s Products”. [Here is the approved definition (link to follow).] I will write about this in the next few days. In typical Tenenbaum fashion, rather than face intense and negative media attention on the bungled decision in which the agency knowingly effectively banned hands-on science education in the United States (see The New York Times and Associated Press on this issue), announced several high profile recalls and a scary “warning” about popular but apparently deadly infant products to distract the media and possibly you, too.
The four recalls and the warning are each prominently displayed on the CPSC website. Each was announced by press release so as to garner maximum attention. The new definition of “Children’s Products” was not announced, although there are two Commissioner’s Statements currently up on the website (Adler and Nord; Northup’s is done but the link isn’t up yet – here is her blog on the topic). The draft of the new rule is nowhere to be found on the CPSC website. There was no press release for the decision and no reference to the decision on the website other than the buried statements of the two (warring) Commissioners. Hmmm.
Probably just a little oversight, right Scott??? More on this later.
The five matters released to distract you were:
a. A warning to stop using Infant positioners in cribs. Twelve babies died in 13 years.
b. Fisher-Price recall of 2.925 million inflatables for choking hazard. Sold over NINE YEARS, 14 small parts found in kids’ mouths, three kids were “beginning to choke”, no injuries.
c. Fisher-Price recall of 1.075 million high chairs for laceration risk. Sold over NINE YEARS, seven injuries requiring stitches and one “tooth injury”.
d. Fisher-Price recall of 120,000 “Wheelies” for choking hazard. Each set includes four cars, so the universe of affected “Wheelies” is actually 480,000. Two broken toys discovered among the half million out in the marketplace (wheels fell off). No injuries.
e. Fisher-Price recall of 7.15 million Children’s Tricycles for risk of “serious injury”. Sold over FOURTEEN YEARS, ten injuries with six requiring medical attention (cuts).
Interestingly, when these recalls were brought to my attention this morning, the CPSC website simply listed the four Fisher-Price recalls as it normally does for recalls. However, by midday the marketing of the “crisis” had begun with a screaming headline in large print on the home page reading “Fisher-Price Recalls More than 10 Million Products“. No doubt the presentation was changed as a public service (these products are sooooo dangerous) . . . . The link under the headline leads to a blogpost about the four “grisly” recalls noting the following “information”:
“Fisher-Price did the right thing in agreeing to provide consumers with free remedies for these products. But all companies must do better. They must give more attention to building safety into their products. They must work to ensure that they are adhering to safety standards. And if any company finds itself with a defective product or one that is causing injuries, it must report the problem to CPSC immediately. Meanwhile, as moms, dads and caregivers, you, too, have a role. We thank the dozens of you who reported these incidents. Thanks to you, CPSC was able to investigate, work with Fisher-Price on a remedy and recall these products. If a toy breaks in your child’s hands or if your child suffers an injury from a product, tell us so that we can investigate. And if you own one of these recalled products, stop using it and contact Fisher-Price for free repair kits and replacement products.” [Emphasis added]
Is this about Fisher-Price (Mattel) or about you and me? Did we do something wrong? Apparently we must have. We were spanked in this blogpost. Was it a “teachable moment” for you? Was it as good for you as it was for me?
There is so much more to say about this:
1. I find it shocking that the CPSC would so shamelessly try to cover its tracks on the approval of the final “Children’s Product” definition. It’s not only an embarrassment to the agency, but it’s an insult to your intelligence. How this reflects the agency’s view of the media, I will leave it to you to divine. It ain’t a compliment.
2. Inez Tenenbaum went on TV today to stoke fear of toys. She did this on what is essentially the kick-off day for the Xmas toy season, September 30. Yes, our government sent its top official on national TV to scare the crap out of consumers and to warn them not to trust the companies making toys right as they were going out to the store to buy Xmas presents. This is a Barack Obama stimulus plan in action! Thanks for ALL the help, guys. Doin’ the Lord’s work every day . . . .
Here are a few quotes from Tenenbaum’s ABC News interview:
ABC: “It’s a major recall involving four different products.”
ABC: [Re High Chairs] “The problem with the high chair, I understand, is these pegs. What’s the problem there?”
Tenenbaum: “There pegs stick out and children have fallen on these pegs. Several have been injured and seven have required stitches.”
[Tenenbaum smirks as she neglects to advise that the seven injuries requiring stitches took place over NINE YEARS and were all minor injuries.]
ABC: [Re Trikes] “The hazard is a fake key that protrudes from the bike frame.”
Tenenbaum: “These tricycles have this key which sticks up and little girls have jumped on this key and have had serious cuts.”
ABC: “Serious injuries.”
Tenenbaum: “Serious injuries.”
[Another minor omission - Tenenbaum neglects to mention that the six injuries requiring medical attention affected six children among more than seven million users, took place over 14 years and involved toddlers that were supposed to be under parental supervision. Do you think she was helpful enough to the ambitious reporter who wanted a scary story? At least she took the hint and characterized the injuries as "serious injuries".]
. . . .
ABC: “There’s a message in this for all manufacturers.”
Tenenbaum: “Manufacturers need to build safety into the product from the very beginning so that we don’t have to recall on the back end.” [Emphasis added]
[This is my Xmas gift from Tenenbaum. Mattel is the cause of this, and it's Mattel that screwed up if ANYONE screwed up. Still, Ms. Tenenbaum can't miss the opportunity to use TV to tell MY customers to not trust ME. Thanks so much. And this Administration is MYSTIFIED about why we can't get our job market going again. I'm stumped, too. . . .]
ABC: “In a statement this morning, Fisher-Price said it wanted to reassure parents that its products are ‘overwhelmingly safe’. But if you have any of THESE products, you SHOULD call the company. They will offer a fix for some of them . . . others will be replaced outright.” [Emphasis added]
[Lest anyone mistake this for yet another idiotic and reactive series of recalls, ABC tries to portray Mattel as untrustworthy with the quote about the overwhelming safety of the 11 million recalled toys . . . then tells you to get them out of your house pronto.]
3. The Wall Street Journal was able to put a happy face on this sorry episode. Mattel’s 2010 earnings will only shrink by a penny a share because of the massive recalls. Anyone want to organize a telethon to help out a buddy in distress? How will Mattel make up that penny? Oh, the horror of it. . . .
4. I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that Mattel has succeeded in certifying about ten of its corporate labs to test its products. I call on the CPSC to release the Mattel test reports behind these recalled items. I can’t wait to see the first recall of a Mattel item tested in a CPSC-certified Mattel lab. You’ll never know about it, because the CPSC and Mattel will move heaven and earth to keep you from finding out.
5. The recall of the Mattel “Wheelies” will be known as the original “broken toy standard” recall. Please consider the ominous nature of this development. The Mattel toy cars were reported by eager and enthusiastic consumers because they found a broken toy. The CPSC is calling for this kind of “help” so you can expect a LOT more of this in the future. To be precise, two broken toys were found in this case. No one was hurt. No allegation has been made public that any child was even possibly in danger. No disclosure was made about how the toys broke.
The CPSC apparently intervened to “investigate”. These investigations often begin with a warning to the manufactuerer – you can participate in the CPSC’s Fast Track Voluntary Recall program and avoid a formal investigation and possible penalty, or you can take your chances on what determination we will make months or years later. This kind “offer” is generally a short-lived one, possibly allowing only a few hours to decide. [This dirty secret is certainly true - ask around . . . or wait for the call.] The facts may be just like this one – a broken toy has been discovered (horrors), do you want to recall (today)? Mattel decided to recall in the case of the “Wheelies”, based on two broken toys and perhaps on a conversation with the kind folks at the CPSC.
Do you get this one? If a consumer reports a single broken toy to the CPSC, the agency may investigate you and you may be forced to recall the item immediately. No injuries are required, just the POSSIBILITY of injury. Do you see ANY problems with that standard? Do you think the possibility of injury is the same as the certainty of injury??? Are your products indestructible? Is this a standard for recalls you are prepared to meet? And how do you plan to blunt this regulatory attack?
Having fun yet?
You heard it here first. The “broken toy” standard – that’s the rule now. I’m not kidding.
For those of us idiots who persist in making children’s products, these recalls are chilling, particularly in light of the decision on “Children’s Products”. The CPSC is busily engaged in shrinking our market through scare tactics and reactive regulation of the markets. They are also building barriers to entry that protect mass market companies and ensure the demise of small business. How many of you can withstand the cost, damage and disruption of a 11 million piece recall? None of you. This will cost Mattel ONE PENNY. Aw, poor Mattel. Who will be left to compete with them? Hasbro. And you? You’re screwed. The CPSC doesn’t even bother with lip service on this one anymore.
The new definition of what constitutes a ” substantial product hazard” under the CPSA is now . . . everything. Anything that might possibly cause injuries is implicitly an “imminent threat” and must be recalled. There is no defense to the possibility of injury. Heaven forbid that there may have been injuries of any kind. Then you are dead. You’ll find out your penalties in a few years but right now, the recalls must proceed. Doesn’t matter what percentage of the items cause injury. Doesn’t matter how many years it took to accumulate the injuries. Doesn’t matter if the consumer was at fault or if there was dereliction of duty on the part of adults. The company is always at fault.
We are aiming for a Utopian society now, guys. Do you doubt this? Read this article carefully from the top a second time. The message is clear: Manufacturers, get out of Dodge, unless you are Mattel.
RECALL THE CPSC! This madness will kill us all. This is all about a mania and political leadership hired to foment this change in approach. There is little reason to believe these people will change – it’s time to start over.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Recall the CPSC
September 13, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
760 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA. There are only 51 days left until Election Day.
Today we heard more blather from our Fearless Leader lecturing Congressional Republicans on an asserted lack of commitment to small business. He’s totally on the side of small business. or so he contends. Here’s his take of the status of the so-called “embargoed” small business bill that he wants to pass to solve all our economic problems:
“And you hear some of my friends on the Republican side complaining that, well, we’d get more business investment if we had more certainty. Well, here’s an example where we could give some certainty right away. Pass this bill. I will sign it into law the day after it’s passed or the day it is passed. And then right away I think a lot of small businesses around the country will feel more comfortable about hiring and making investments.”
The problem, according to Mr. Obama, is Republicans. Aha. And what about all the other things we know? I have documented in this space for two solid years the deafness of Congressional Democrats to our pleas. We have basically grovelled for scraps and been totally stuffed. Even the micro-businesses (as represented by the well-known HTA) have been spurned cruelly by the CPSC and by Congress. We are being asphyxiated and no Dem can be bothered to notice.
Of course, I think it’s RICH to be lectured by Obama over “certainty”. He says he has a quick fix to “certainty” – just pass his bill and magically everything’s okay again. Ummm, that may be just a tad over-simplified. In the children’s product industry right now, we have a ten-ton anvil dangling over our heads with the pending testing frequency and component testing rules at the CPSC, all with the potential (likelihood?) to squish small businesses. This Dem-run agency has begun to ignore public comments, as evidenced by its ridiculous dismissal of comments on the definition of “Children’s Product”. Taking comments is a pain in the neck, especially if the draft rules make no sense. You keep having to rewrite everything . . . . Is it any wonder why people are not investing in this market? Given that we must also deal with the pending cost deluge of the health care bill and unspecified tax hikes – for many people, the fetal position is the new work posture.
And what is happening right now, simultaneously with Mr. Obama’s lectures about how to make life better for small businesses? Well, Mr. O and his Dems are cynically opposing rescission of the penal 1099 provision in the Obamacare bill. Know about this small business killer yet? You will now have to file 1099 forms with the IRS for all merchandise your business buys (over $600 per year per supplier). The paper blizzard won’t just affect your suppliers, but also your customers (to whom you are a supplier). Try to estimate the number of forms flying back and forth every year courtesy of this new rule. How will you handle this new paper pushing exercise? We estimate that these forms will cost us $50-$100 to prepare and file (more than a P.O. because of demanding record keeping requirements and possible liability for errant filings) – for our thousands of suppliers and customers. Do the math – this will slaughter small business. Death by a thousand (paper) cuts.
The Republicans want to kill it. The Dems admit it was a mistake (they say they were “blindsided” – everything bad is “unintentional”, rather than poorly-conceived or simply incompetent). Nonetheless, the Dems don’t want to delete it. Why? Well, amending this provision “opens the door” to amending other parts of Obamacare. Whoa! Can’t do that . . . even if their stupid provision will kill your business. Too bad for you (and me), I guess. See this article from today’s Wall Street Journal.
I will hand it to the Dems – they have created their own cruel kind of certainty. I am absolutely certain they don’t care what I think or what happens to the jobs our company provides. That seems quite certain nowadays.
This can’t continue . . . . PLEASE help on Election Day.
Read more here:
CPSIA – More Hypocritical Small Business "Help"
June 10, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Some people apparently think I contend that product recalls can only take place if the CSPC insists. I have certainly argued that the CPSC has no authority to demand or even ask for a recall unless certain specific conditions are met. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, guys, but there are limits to the agency’s legal authority. Companies themselves can recall products for any reason. There need not be a safety reason – you can recall something from the market because the color’s wrong, the material is somehow less than expected, wrong size, wrong instructions, wrong packaging, whatever. A company’s ability to recall its own products is not limited by law.
In the case of the McDonald’s Shrek glasses, yes, McDonald’s declared a voluntary recall. That’s not unusual – the vast majority of recalls are voluntary. Only a tiny handful of recalls every year are “mandatory”. In any event, the critical issue here is NOT that McDonald’s made this choice. As we have discussed, the publicity from this event forced McDonald’s hand – they had to protect their brand at all costs. The issue here is that the CPSC apparently “urged” the company to “do the right thing”. [These words come from the OnSafety blog, the official blog of the CPSC, believed to be written by Scott Wolfson, Director of Public Affairs.] It was apparently the “right thing” to do although the agency conceded that the glasses were “not toxic”, in other words SAFE.
While companies are allowed to choose to recall safe products at their pleasure, the CPSC does not have the unlimited legal authority to reach out to American companies and tell them to take this kind of voluntary action.
The power to recall emanates from certain provisions of the CPSA and FHSA. Notably, Section 12(a) of the CPSA, the agency can’t go to court unless there is an “imminent hazard”. What might that be? “As used in this section, and hereinafter in this Act, the term ‘imminently hazardous consumer product’ means a consumer product which presents imminent and unreasonable risk of death, serious illness, or severe personal injury.” Given that the glasses have been acknowledged to be “non-toxic”, this standard is impossible to meet.
The relevant term in the FHSA is “banned hazardous substance”. In Section 2(q)(1)(A), it is defined as “any toy, or other article intended for use by children, which is a hazardous substance, or which bears or contains a hazardous substance in such manner as to be susceptible of access by a child to whom such toy or other article is entrusted”. [If a ban is done pursuant to subsection (B) of this clause as a "household item" because it is chemical in nature, it must be done by rule, subject to comment and so on. There was no rulemaking process involved in this case.]
“Hazardous material” is defined in Section 2(f)(1)(D) in relevant part as “Any toy or other article intended for use by children which the Commission by regulation determines, in accordance with section 3(e) of this Act, presents an electrical, mechanical, or thermal hazard.” And Section 3(e) refers only to electrical, mechanical or thermal hazards, clearly inapplicable here.
Bottom line, the McDonald’s glasses are outside the reach of the CPSC . . . if the wording of its principal empowering laws matter anymore.
June 7, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
We saw a display of Mr. Obama’s team in action this past week as McDonald’s was cornered into a national recall of a safe product. How did it happen? Did our government rise to the occasion, or simply resume its descent into the abyss?
“Americans want to be safe. And they expect their federal government to protect them. So that is what I’m here to do.” Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, NPR Report “Under Obama, Agencies Step Up Rule-Making”
Last week in a coordinated media extravaganza, an anonymous caller alerted Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) to the trace presence of cadmium in Shrek glasses being sold by McDonald’s. In a rapid fire series of events, McDonald’s announced a voluntary recall of the offending Made-in-America glasses “at the urging of the [CPSC] commission ”. The CPSC apparently pushed for the recall of the glasses by McDonald’s after quickly testing the glasses.
[It turns out that there were two "anonymous tipsters", one of whom is Jennifer Taggart, a regular reader of this blog. Ms. Taggart has acknowledged that cadmium levels on the McDonald's glasses are well within California's Proposition 65 restrictions. Prop. 65 is easily the most restrictive and challenging of the myriad local safety regulations.]
Rep. Speier seized the election year opportunity to lecture McDonald’s on safety: “’Our children’s health should not depend on the consciences of anonymous sources. Although McDonald’s did the right thing by recalling these products, we need stronger testing standards to ensure that all children’s products are proven safe before they hit the shelves,’ said Speier. ‘Cadmium is a toxic substance that is extremely dangerous to the developmental health of children. . . . Thanks to this anonymous tip received by my office, the proper agencies were alerted, necessary action was taken by McDonald’s, and the long-term health of millions of children is no longer at risk.’”
Jackie Speier is a Democrat representing the San Francisco area.
A media deluge followed the recall. Typical of the hyperbole is this article from NJ.com: “McDonald’s announced the voluntary recall after small amounts of cadmium were found in the enamel with which character images were painted on the glasses . . . . Long-term exposure to low levels of cadmium from those glasses can cause various health problems, including cancer, bone softening and severe kidney problems. [NJ State Assemblyman Paul] Moriarty, in a news release, demanded an investigation . . . . ‘It’s stunning that in this day and age our children can still come into contact with toxic materials just by using a glass featuring a cartoon character,’ Moriarty said in the release. . . . ” [Emphasis added] AP could not resist the McDonald’s cadmium frenzy that it helped to create: “A recall of 12 million cadmium-tainted ”Shrek” drinking glasses sold by McDonald’s raises questions about the safety of millions of similar cheap promotional products that have been sitting in Americans’ kitchen cabinets for years.”
It all boils down to trust, right? After all, it’s McDonald’s. McDonald’s is America, McDonald’s is children. If you can’t trust McDonald’s, who can you trust?
I will attempt to answer that question.
First – Can you trust McDonald’s?
Yes, absolutely, without reservation. McDonald’s (not a customer of ours, never was) has the best reputation of any company in the toy industry (in my humble opinion) for safety, conscientiousness and attention to detail. McDonald’s is HARDLY asleep at the wheel. Rep. Speier’s remarks are outrageous but for the fact that she is a California Democrat from San Francisco. Consider the source. I believe McDonald’s ten times out of ten against Rep. Speier.
On the other hand, if McDonald’s is so wonderful, why on Earth did they recall these glasses? Okay, you be the CEO of McDonald’s for a moment – what would you do? Fight for the right to sell cadmium-laced glasses? Argue that the glasses are “safe”, that toxic cadmium isn’t harmful? Please, McDonald’s had no choice because it has to protect its brand. Listen to the Moms in the video above. If they don’t trust McDonald’s, they will walk across the street to Wendy’s. McDonald’s has NO CHOICE but to “do the right thing”. The cost of the recall is a secondary concern. Burn, baby, burn.
Second – Can you trust an anonymous tipster?
Why be anonymous if you are acting “heroically”? Well, for one thing, being anonymous means you aren’t accountable if you are wrong. The two tipsters were using XRF guns, acknowledged by the CPSC to be imperfect and best used to screen for possible faults. It might be embarrassing – or expensive – to start a public panic and then be proven wrong. This mess might be seen as your fault and somebody might want you to pay for the expenses. Hmmm.
What if the caller had reason to hide his/her identity? This is the very worrisome scenario. There are many people who might want to rat out a McDonald’s. How about a competitor? Or a spurned supplier? A disgruntled employee or spouse of an employee? This is one of the primary objections I made to the public database – the potential for abuse is rampant. An anonymous tipster very well might be up to no good. McDonald’s loss could be the tipster’s gain – an ill-intentioned tipster in partnership with a self-promoting fear monger in election season (like Jackie Speier) could be a powder keg. [Ed. Note: It is worth noting for clarity's sake that Jennifer Taggart has identified herself so this discussion does not apply to her.]
This could happen to you, too. The CPSIA encourages this kind of rat-me-out frenzy. How many businesses will close or sell out because of this shameful law? Time will tell. In the meantime, the sport of trashing trademarks and company reputations will thrive at the hands of the “anonymous tipsters”.
Third – Can you trust the CPSC?
We ought to be able to trust them. Have they earned this trust?
Here’s a June 4th tweet from Scott Wolfson, Director of Public Affairs: “Scott_Wolfson: Note to reporters: the recalled McDonald’s glasses are not toxic.” Interesting – the CPSC apparently pushed for the recall of safe products. Wolfson is also responsible for the press release detailing this recall: “The designs on the glasses contain cadmium. Long term exposure to cadmium can cause adverse health effects.” Same guy. And Wolfson offered these calming words of reassurance to the AP: “Wolfson said the recalled glasses have ‘far less cadmium’ than the [recently] recalled jewelry. He would not say how much cadmium leached from the glasses in tests, only that it was ‘slightly above the protective level currently being developed by the agency.’”
I believe Mr. Wolfson is the author of the CPSC’s OnSafety blog – here’s how he counseled consumers about the McDonald’s glasses in a recent post: “If you bought these “Shrek Forever After 3D” glasses at McDonald’s – millions of you did – stop using them immediately. . . . The glasses contain low-levels of cadmium. . . . The company has stepped up to do the right thing [in issuing a recall].” [Emphasis added] He also justified the recall of non-toxic glasses in the New York Times as follows: “Both C.P.S.C. and McDonald’s are being highly protective of children in announcing this recall.”
Scott has a way with words, doesn’t he? Makes you wonder what his job is, exactly.
So the CPSC admits that the glasses were safe. Yet the “commission” urged McDonald’s to recall the glasses. Why? Wolfson says implausibly that the CPSC was being “highly protective” in recalling non-toxic glasses. Actually, “Why” may not even be the right question.
Let’s consider the question of “how”. On what legal basis did the CPSC press McDonald’s to take this step? The authority of the agency to demand a recall depends on the presence of a “substantial product hazard”. There is no other basis for the agency to take action – it cannot act on whims or because it is always crabby on Mondays. I have addressed this issue previously in this space, and noted that the authority to initiate a recall is based on the existence of “a product defect which (because of the pattern of defect, the number of defective products distributed in commerce, the severity of the risk, or otherwise) creates a substantial risk of injury to the public.”
If the CPSC’s Director of Public Affairs notifies the press that the product is not toxic, it is incontestably certain that the glasses don’t present a substantial product hazard in this case. For perspective, consider the views of the U.S. factory responsible for the glasses:
“[VP Ron] Biagi . . . added that [in addition to McDonald's] Durand Glass also does material safety tests. ‘We will do nothing (different) because we don’t need to,’ Biagi added. ‘You are always looking for the most healthful way to make a product. What we’re producing today, it is safe.’ Biagi said there are multiple suppliers, domestic and foreign, of the enamel used for the Shrek glasses. Other glass producers use the same product, he said. Late Friday, the company issued a short statement from its CEO for North American operations, Fred Dohn. ‘All the products, whether decorated or undecorated, that Arc International is delivering on the markets meet the highest standards of quality and safety,’ Dohn stated. ‘Arc International is a professional manufacturer that stands behind all its products. We therefore see this as an internal decision by McDonald’s and will be investigating the matter once we receive more information.’”
So what gives? By all appearances, the leadership of the agency substantially exceeded its legal authority in pressuring McDonald’s to recall these glasses. Any problem with that?
I won’t insult your intelligence with a rant about the trustworthiness of the Democrats who are running the shop these days. If you trust Jackie Speier and the like after this sorry tale, I can’t help you.
In closing, let’s recall the words of Ms. Tenenbaum: “Americans want to be safe. And they expect their federal government to protect them. So that is what I’m here to do.” By all appearances, Ms. Tenenbaum was doing exactly what she promised – her agency is wrapping you in bubble wrap whether you need it or not. She says that’s how you want it – no matter that it’s outside her legal authority, well-beyond any notion of common sense and implemented with a complete disregard to economic consequences or the impact on other market participants. It’s okay because the press eats it up . . . and it helps reelect members of Congress. Everybody’s a winner as we sink into the abyss.
Lowest Common Denominator Government. Yes We Can.
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CPSIA – Lowest Common Denominator Government
December 13, 2009 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Forbes.com published a fascinating article about the Zhu Zhus by the editor of STATS.org, an affiliate organization of George Mason University. In this article, Trevor Butterworth thoroughly debunks the fear mongering of the so-called “GoodGuide” in their inept scientific “analysis” on Zhu Zhu Pets. Among other things, he compares the levels of antimony on the nose of the Zhu Zhu Pet with that of a mattress (antimony is found in certain flame retardants and has been carefully studied by the CPSC for this reason). His conclusion: “You would need to upgrade Mr. Squiggles from a hamster to a pet Ox and sleep on him for 8 hours a day for a decade to simulate [the] negligible exposure [in mattresses].” So the fact that “[d]epending on the level of exposure, antimony can lead to cancer, lung and heart problems and impacts on fertility” oft-repeated by an uncomprehending media in reporting on Zhu Zhu Pets is completely inappropriate. It has been put out there just there to scare you . . . or else the consumer advocates (protecting you!) have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Let me see, which makes more sense to me . . . that’s a tough call, frankly.
For the record, I believe the Zhu Zhu Pets scam was first exposed by the TheSmartMama.com in this post. Isn’t it ironic that a “green” activist is the one to expose the lousy work of the so-called “GoodGuide”? Jennifer Taggart has been an active and useful participant in the debate on the CPSIA. Apparently, the politics of keeping everyone so, so, so safe does not prevent her from standing with the victims of this law. Hmmm. Mr. Waxman, are you listening (or do you even care)?
To close this politically-incorrect essay, I want to again quote from Mr. Butterworth’s article in Forbes:
“In the face of unreasoning, unjustified terror, there is, perhaps, only humor. When the story broke about Mr. Squiggles in the United Kingdom, one American from Jacksonville, Fla., posted the following comment after a related news story: ‘Dear England, I must apologize for my idiot brethren in San Francisco. You see, in San Francisco they are afraid of everything. There is absolutely nothing that doesn’t terrify these people.’”
Can’t top that!
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CPSIA – More Details on Bogus Zhu Zhu Pet Scare