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CPSIA – Consumer Groups and the CPSIA

Walter Lippmann, founding editor of The New Republic and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, 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.” Hmmm. He might have been talking about lead in children’s products. Mr. Lippmann explained: “Men respond as powerfully to fictions as they do to realities [and] in many cases they help to create the very fictions to which they respond.”

Last week, a number of interested stakeholders met with the staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss what to do about the CPSIA. Do I need to explain why the situation is urgent? The list is long, and the victims are basically defenseless. Mass market companies are inconvenienced but not hobbled; small businesses are crushed, confused and scattering into other markets. Consumers, unaware that the federal government has meddled in an unprecedented way with a market upon which they depend, are oblivious to the threat posed by the weakening or departure of their suppliers. And the Dems just smile and tell us this is all for our own good. Don’t worry, they know what’s best!

Various stakeholders tried to explain the many ways this law has caused harm and the reasons why it is appropriate to loosen the noose around the business community’s neck. Scan my remarks, the HTA’s presentation or the words of the AAFA as an example, and you will see how high the stakes are.

No meeting on the CPSIA would be complete without consumer groups chiming in to defend this “perfect” regulatory scheme. In this case, Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America and the American Academy of Pediatrics all touted the triumph that is CPSIA. CU spent a fair amount of time asserting that the public database rules adequately protect manufacturers and that the perceived defects in the proposed database plan had already been addressed by the Commission. [See Nord's blog and Northup's blog on this topic.] What, me worry?! CU also noted that there WAS broad support for the CPSIA (back in 2008), as if that were sufficient justification to stick with a clearly defective law. This was nothing more than the Waxmanis’ argument that no further discussion is merited because of the Perfect Legislative Process. Ah, the infallible Congress, how could I forget?

My special friend Rachel Weintraub of CFA took the opportunity to reassure the gathered crowd that the law has done us all a lot of good. [She was careful to not put anything in writing. Given that limitation, I must work off my notes and apologize for any inaccuracies.] Her reasoning relied on the assertion that consumers “thought” that someone issued a “stamp of approval” for children’s products being sold in U.S. markets. This strikes me as “transference”, meaning that this may be how Rachel feels herself or how she feels we the general public OUGHT to feel. In any event, there are a lot of consumers out there, and I rather doubt Rachel is able to know how they all felt. She went on to assert that consumers lost faith int he regulatory system. Ditto. After recounting the many wondrous things the law has engendered, she asked that the law be given more “time to work”.

More time to work? To what end, to finish the job and put everyone out of business . . . other than CFA? OMG.

And then there is my personal favorite, the AAP through their Washington representative Cindy Pelligrini. Ms. Pelligrini has been making trouble over lead for many years. I first encountered her when the 2007 testimony she ghosted for Dr. Dana Best was used to justify the Illinois lead labeling law (see below). For last week’s meeting, the AAP submitted a position paper announcing its unwillingness to support any change to age limits, lead limits or even the consideration of risk by the CPSC. Why do you suppose the AAP cannot support the consideration of risk? Ms. Pelligrini explained in her oral remarks that the AAP felt consideration of risk would be too BURDENSOME ON THE AGENCY. What a heartbreaking scenario, the terrible burden! The AAP is so considerate to think of the quality of life of CPSC Commissioners.

The AAP was able to muster support for tightening the lead limits in the CPSIA to 40 ppm, however. Perish the thought of dropping the 100 ppm standard! When I questioned the process by which this position paper was created by the AAP, Ms. Pelligrini wrote me to explain that it is old news, derived from their January 21, 2009 letter to Henry Waxman. So, apparently, nothing has happened in the last 24 months nor any additional data developed to merit reconsidering their recommendations. I see.

Of course, I recognize that the metabolic impact of lead has not changed because of the development of injury statistics (or, more accurately, the development of no-injury statistics), and in this sense, I suppose, the AAP position need never change. On the other hand, I have previously addressed the issue of science being used as a bludgeon to “prove” preconceived notions. In my post of December 14, I discussed an article entitled “The Truth Wears Off”. It could have been about the story the AAP tells about lead.

Without going into the arguments about the falsity of the AAP’s claims (or at least their fatally misleading nature), I would like to draw your attention to the “detached from reality” position they take on lead limits. They want to establish a limit of 40 ppm for lead. Anyone remember that Mr. Obama’s vegetable garden at the White House was at 93 ppm? The AAP points to research they conducted with the U.S. Geological Survey to come up with this limit. In other words, it is their estimate (however faulty) of background lead “contamination” in our environment. [As if the natural presence of an atomic element constitutes "contamination".]

AAP’s suggested lead limit of 40 ppm is basically below the reliably measurable limit and imposes uncontrollable economic risks on manufacturers. By uncontrollable, I mean that the odds of finding a part or component with lead levels in excess of 40 ppm are pretty good in almost any manufacturing setting – given the disorder, irregularities and complexities of the real world, defects of this nature are not really preventable, at least in a prophylactic way. [This is different than saying anyone is likely to be injured, please note.] Even a Six Sigma company would find this a major challenge. Remember, if you find such a part or component, the entire lot becomes a liability and may have to be discarded, a total loss. The imposition of this kind of manufacturing risk will cause many market departures and other bad economic impacts. You will only have to discard one big lot to get the message – find something less regulated to do.

My word against hers, right? Well, perhaps not. My home state of Illinois is running a test on this point. Illinois has a new law that requires labeling toys (you know, a warning label that Scott Wolfson doesn’t think matters) if they have paint with lead over 40 ppm. Actually, since lead-in-paint is now illegal under federal law at 90 ppm, the Illinois law effectively requires labeling for paint on toys BETWEEN 40 and 90 ppm. Feel safer already? Not everyone does. See the coverage in the Akron Beacon-Journal on such labeling. The headlines of the article says it all: “Label on doll shoes made by Toys R Us subsidiary worries parents. Warning about lead is cause for concern. Company says product is safe, but some experts say children shouldn’t be exposed to even small levels of metal in toys.” The AAP thinks this would be a jolly good rule for the entire economy.

I could go on. [If you are bored, you are welcome to consult my response to the "no safe level of lead" argument in response to Bob Adler's attempt to "prove" this point.] In point of fact, the consumer groups are just trying to gum up the works. There are apparently still some members of Congress (I am not ready to name names) who are “true believers” and according to rumor, are ready to block any sensible effort to fix this law. I guess it’s tough for some people to admit a big screw-up. Keep this in mind the next time you hear the media blame Republicans for “gridlock”.

In any event, you should not feel particularly comfortable just because the Republicans are running the show in the House. The Republicans are in fact very aware of the issues and the details of the problems under the CPSIA and at the CPSC, and are motivated to do something about it. They have the votes and the intent to move something useful forward. However, the Senate is still controlled by populist Democrats who just seem deaf to reason, argument or data. As long as they (or even just one of them) stands in the way of putting this part of the economy back on track, we are stuck. Even with the grudging cooperation of Senate Democrats, we also need the White House to sign the law. And then there’s the persistent zealotry on the CPSC Commission. Many variables and risks remain.

Despite the odds and the death march aspect of this “war”, we must carry on. We must keep fighting, we must keep calling, we must keep protesting. The words of Ronald Reagan ring in my ears:

“I do not believe in a fate that will befall us no matter what we do. . . .

I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.”

We are the People, this is our country. We do not need to be held hostage by a small group of zealots. The task of taking back America did not end at the 2010 midterm elections. If the Dems will not help us, and if the consumer groups are going to be obstructionist to the very last, then we must fight and we must fight with vigor and intensity. No one is going save you . . . but you.

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CPSIA – Consumer Groups and the CPSIA

CPSIA – Election Day is FINALLY Here

810 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA.


[Here's the long version of this clip, with people screaming out the windows "I'm as Mad As Hell and I'm NOT going to TAKE THIS anymore!"]

Tuesday is the BIG DAY, guys. We have an opportunity to pay back the perpetrators of the CPSIA in the voting booth. Don’t miss this opportunity – it’s your right as a citizen, speak out and tell them where you stand. Ideally, make them PAY with their jobs for their refusal to listen.

I have thrown my efforts into two Congressional campaigns – Bob Dold running in Illinois’ 10th district against Dan Seals, and Joel Pollak running in Illinois’ 9th district against CPSIA perpetrator Jan Schakowsky. As you know from this space, I have given up on the process of “dialogue” – no one in the Democratic Party will listen anymore (if they ever did). The next phase is politics. If they won’t listen, we will throw them out.

Tomorrow is the day we measure what we have achieved.

It didn’t have to be this way. When Inez Tenenbaum came on board as Chairman of the CPSC, she promised to engage in dialogue and to listen to all stakeholders. As far as I can tell, that was a bald-faced lie. If it wasn’t a lie, it turned out to be completely untrue. Sham processes like two-day workshops and comment periods were thrown up as a smoke screen to cover up a scheme to impose draconian regulatory change whether we wanted it or not.

Listening isn’t this CPSC’s forte. Nor is data analysis. With the cram downs evidenced in the final rules on the definition of “Children’s Product” and the public database, it is perfectly clear that Ms. Tenenbaum has no interest in views that diverge from hers, whether based on fact or data or reasoning. She’s on a mission – and there’s hell to pay if you stand in the way. Just look at her penalty record.

The next big event at the CPSC is implementation of the final rules on component testing and testing frequency/reasonable testing programs. This is coming SOON – all to ensure that the stay on testing requirements can be lifted in February – you know, so we can all be so damned safe. [Do you have a sense, by the way, that we are UNSAFE today - despite the stay? Oh yeah, that's data and reasoning again. Pah!] When they cram down those rules, your goose is cooked.

You’ve been warned (many times).

So tomorrow is your big chance to tell the Democrats that you aren’t going to take this anymore. That goes double for the people principally responsible for the CPSIA, like Jan Schakowsky, Henry Waxman, Bobby Seals, Barbara Boxer and other Democratic “luminaries” up for reelection. Here is a list of the members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – I hope you will vote AGAINST any and ALL Democrats on this Committee. NONE of them did ANYTHING to help us despite our pathetic pleas for help literally for years. They have PROVEN they don’t care – and you need to throw them OUT.

People ask me – how can I be so certain that the Republicans will help us? Will they be better than the Democrats, really? Aside from the fact that some Republicans have gone to great lengths to try to help us, taking political risk along the way (something I will never forget), I can say this with CONFIDENCE – I know EXACTLY what to expect from the Democrats. If we don’t make a change, we’re goners. So the Republicans are my choice and my strong recommendation to you. When they are in power, we’ll see what they will do. I am confident, but as voters, we all must remember that the proof is in the pudding. In the meantime, we need to make some serious changes NOW.

After the Election winds down, I have a long “to do” list and will publish a number of essays on CPSIA subjects that deserve your attention. In addition, we must engage in dialogue on how to fix the mess Ms. Tenenbaum and Mr. Waxman have created. That’s to follow . . . but as for now, you must vote.


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CPSIA – Election Day is FINALLY Here

CPSIA – Recall the CPSC

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.

Some background:

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.

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CPSIA – Recall the CPSC

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

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

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

We are letting Rick pick our Lotto numbers next week.

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

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

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

Is the toy toxic? Nope.

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

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

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

Thanks, Illinois.

Don’t worry readers, CPSC has a solution.

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

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

We found an Illinois license plate fitting for this situation:

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

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

CPSIA – CPSC Sets Its Sights On the Real Menace to Society . . . Buttons

In yesterday’s USA Today article entitled “Lead testing can be costly for mom and pop toy shops“, Scott Wolfson, Director of Public Affairs at the CPSC, cited the “positive effects” of the CPSIA on the market. What were those “positive effects” that Wolfson bragged about to the national media? “[Wolfson] notes global suppliers are choosing lead-free buttons for adult and children’s clothing, which is safer for everyone and helps shift the burden from small businesses to suppliers up the line. He says Tenenbaum is trying ‘to find the right balance between compliance and not putting companies out of business.’”

Let’s be clear here, Wolfson is talking about making everyone “safer” by eliminating lead-in-substrate in buttons. He is NOT talking about lead-in-paint. Lead-in-paint has been illegal for decades, and a small number of recalls have occurred for lead-in-paint violations relating to buttons. [No injuries were ever reported, of course, but don't get me started.] Buttons have been recalled for coming loose and violating the small parts rules. This is a REAL hazard to small children. Kids can actually choke on a button and be injured. Wolfson is NOT talking about this issue. He is focusing on other “positive effects” from the law.

Wolfson also took pains to note that the buttons were being removed from adult clothing, too. Did you realize how much danger you were in before the CPSC was able to induce these “positive effects”? I really appreciate Wolfson bringing this to my attention. Thank heavens for our federal protectors!

How many recalls have occurred in the United States for lead-in-substrate in buttons – EVER? According to the CPSC website, ZERO. According to a Google search this morning, I believe this kind of recall has NEVER occurred ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. And the removal of lead-in-substrate is a positive effect of the law? Is Wolfson responsible to explain this puzzling remark?

So after two years of continuous arguing and the devotion of many tens of thousands of man-hours of work to implement the noxious CPSIA by the federal government and industry alike , the CPSC holds up as its great achievement – buttons. Whew, it’s safe to walk the streets of America again!

Thank you CPSC for seeking the right balance between compliance and NOT putting companies out of business. Yeah, I get it.

Unfortunately, by highlighting something as asinine as buttons as a possible lead hazard, the CPSC fuels a long-simmering public hysteria over latent chemical hazards. No one was previously aware that buttons could kill you from their bound=in lead content, but apparently our federal government is quite concerned about button lead content. Isn’t that what Wolfson said? After all, why would he mention it to USA Today if it wasn’t a problem at all? This kind of remark helps persuade the public that dangers lurk where they can’t see them. Lead must be terrible, right, if the CPSC is so hysterical about it? The conclusion is inescapable.

And let’s not forget the McDonald’s Shrek glasses. Cadmium must also be a terrible problem or else why would our trusted federal government urge recall of the drinking glasses out of “an abundance of caution”? Which are we to believe – the CPSC’s actions in demanding the recall for undisclosed trace levels of cadmium in the enamel on the OUTSIDE of the glasses, or Wolfson’s own written reassurance that the glasses aren’t toxic? And of course, there is the Congressional “inquiry” by Waxman and Stupak as further evidence of the “justifiable” health concern. As the relentless stream of breathless and panicked media stories confirm, the public believes that the recall was justified and therefore that cadmium is a real concern, a silent “killer”. The fact that there has never been a single reported cadmium injury from a consumer product in this country’s history is never discussed.

This kind of reinforcement leads to paranoia about many safe products – and makes doing business in the children’s market in this country exceptionally difficult and unpleasant now. No one trusts us anymore and the only thing we did wrong was elect the wrong people to Congress.

The message that we business people can’t be trusted is clogging the airwaves almost daily. The weekly corporate bashings by Congress and the White House paints a clear picture to the American public. You need only consider the treatment of BP, Toyota, Wellpoint, Massey-Ferguson, GM, Chrysler, evil bankers . . . the list is long. We’re all bad, right? That’s the theme these days.

CPSC leadership also reinforces the notion that corporations must be closely supervised by the federal government. Corporations will cut corners and take chances with your children’s health but for the crusading efforts of this pioneering and courageous safety agency. Remember Tenenbaum’s theme: the CPSC is not a “teething tiger” anymore. With this approach at the CPSC, small wonder then that these are among the USA Today comments:

Yeah…Tests can be costly, but on the other hand death seems to be pretty costly also. But I guess the determining factor will always be money. Save 10 cents, 10 dollars, 100 dollars at the cost of someone else.

Well if they cannot test the products they make to insure that our children are safe. Then its time to start making other items. The simple fact is that the Chinese and our bought and paid for congressmen/congress women have allowed this to happen. My opinion ban all products from China since it is evident that they do not care for the health of our citizens.

WE can never ever trust the Chinese. They are the worst people! Why do we do any business with them is beyond me.

This is just more gov regulation that the GOP says get’s in the way of the Free Market. Let the Free Market get the lead out on it’s own. Too bad there’s no profits in ‘getting the lead out’. It’s cheaper to use lead as a filler, and hire lobbyists to pay-off congress. We’ve got it all dialed-in in America!

Thanks for all the help, CPSC. You sure are helping our market. Your efforts will only succeed in driving the good people out of this market, along with their good products, their innovations, their productivity gains and their jobs. And who will be around to help educate your kids and grandkids? Let’s not think about that one. No, no, ignore me for a few more years. This can go on indefinitely. We’ll just take it. We love it. Go ahead.

It’s time for Nero to share the stage with the Democrats. Go on, fiddle while Rome burns.

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CPSIA – CPSC Sets Its Sights On the Real Menace to Society . . . Buttons

CPSIA – HTA Letter Blasts Imperfect Waxman Amendment (CPSEA)

[Emphasis added. Actual Letter can be viewed here.]

May 12, 2010


The Honorable Bobby Rush
Chairman, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection

The Honorable Ed Whitfield
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection

The Honorable Henry Waxman
Chairman, Committee on Energy & Commerce

The Honorable Joe Barton
Ranking Member, Committee on Energy & Commerce

Re: The Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act (CPSEA)

To the Leadership of the House Commerce Committee:

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify before your committee and for your continued attention to the needs of our small businesses. We would like to reiterate our position on the CPSEA and the relief we are seeking for our members.

We have previously endorsed the CPSEA because it is the only opportunity currently available to save small batch manufacturers from extinction after February 10, 2011, when the CPSC’s stay of enforcement of third party testing requirements expires. Under the CPSIA as it currently stands, many of our members are substantially limiting the products that they offer–some foregoing children’s products altogether–while others are laying off employees or limiting their business growth.

We have stated clearly that the CPSEA can and should be improved to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on small businesses without compromising safety. The CPSEA as currently written will likely save some of our member businesses. With improvements, however, you can save almost all of them. For the record, we would like to review the improvements we would like you to consider.

First and foremost, we would like the CPSEA to clearly state that small batch manufacturers are exempt from third party testing requirements. While report language to that affect would be helpful, a more explicit exemption within the language of the bill itself would provide more immediate and substantial relief. You can accomplish this by allowing:

* the use of XRF testing as an alternative testing method for lead in paint and lead in substrate

* alternative testing methods for products intended for use in classrooms or for children ages 7-12

* EN-71 testing as an alternative testing method

* CPSC rulemaking to allow for alternative testing methods based on risk analysis

* exemptions for small batch toymakers from ASTM F-963 testing

This language should be in the bill itself, not just in the report language. In the intervening days since our initial endorsement of the CPSEA, we have heard conflicting answers from several different CPSC commissioners as to the commission’s willingness or ability to provide affordable alternative testing methods for small batch manufacturers. If this bill is truly meant to benefit small batch manufacturers, it must be more clear and explicit in the exemptions it provides.

Second, we wish to reiterate our belief that alternative testing methods should be available to all companies. The Small Business Administration defines toy and clothing manufacturers with less than 500 employees as small businesses, which is far in excess of the CPSEA’s $1 million limit. If a revenue limit is used, it should be based only on income generated by the manufacture or importation of children’s products without including other unrelated business income. A manufacturer’s ability to pay for testing any given product is a function of the revenue it generates from that particular product, not the overall size of the company.

Third, we stated publicly during the April 29 hearing that the functional purpose exemption for products exceeding 300ppm/100ppm lead will not benefit our members because of the narrow scope of the exemption and the cost required to obtain it. The CPSC should instead be given authority to make exemptions to specific materials or product categories based on risk analysis. For example, the commission should have the power to exempt brass as a material and children’s saddles or microscopes as a product category. This is the only way in which small businesses would be able to take advantage of the functional purpose exemption.

Fourth, we believe that small batch manufacturers should be entirely exempted from mandatory labeling requirements.

Finally, we hope to settle any confusion regarding our intent in endorsing the CPSEA. We endorsed it as our only available alternative. We truly believe that many of our members will be forced out of business after February 10, 2011 without meaningful, clear reform provided by your committee. We believe that the CPSEA can and should be improved to better target risk and provide more comprehensive relief for our members, who were never the source of unsafe products in the first place.

We remain hopeful that the democratic process can prevail and that a meaningful and bipartisan reform of the CPSIA can be enacted. We urge members of the committee to mark up the CPSEA and allow open discussion within the product safety subcommittee. The CPSIA was a bipartisan bill—its reform should be, too.

You hold the livelihoods of hundreds of small businesses in your hands. Please, make this work.

On behalf of the 435 small business members of the Handmade Toy Alliance, we thank you again for your attention to this important issue.


The Handmade Toy Alliance

Board members:

Cecilia Leibovitz, Craftsbury Kids, VT
Dan Marshall, Peapods Natural Toys, MN
Jill Chuckas, Crafty Baby, CT
Mary Newell, Terrapin Toys, OR
Jolie Fay, Skipping Hippos, OR
Marianne Mullen, Polkadotpatch, VT
Rob Wilson, Challenge & Fun, MA
Randy Hertzler, euroSource, PA
Kate Glynn, A Child’s Garden, MA

Read more here:
CPSIA – HTA Letter Blasts Imperfect Waxman Amendment (CPSEA)

CPSIA – More Written Testimony from CPSIA Hearing

Oddly and embarrassingly, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s webpage for last week’s CPSIA hearing does not include all written testimony submitted in association with the hearing, nor does it provide a link on the hearing video. [I will get you the video soon, I promise.] The Dem Majority, which loudly touts its “commitment” to “open government”, should rapidly address this poor performance.

Here are the other document submitted thus far. I have already provided you links to the written testimony of the seven witnesses and my oral testimony.

This is provocative reading. I hope you aren’t the only ones who read it . . . .

I really like the common sense in the Nord and Northup letters. In particular, I want to draw your attention to one statement by Commissioner Northup: “Forcing a component-by-component petition for exceptions does nothing to enhance safety, and it converts the Commission from a safety oversight agency (like the FAA) into a product approval agency (like the FDA). Rather than spend most of its time and resources removing unsafe products from the market, the agency would devote its efforts to approving perfectly safe products before they go on the market. That switch would also slow the pace of consumer product innovation by increasing the cost and lead time for companies to bring new products to market—which effect itself carries negative safety ramifications.” [Emphasis added]

Ms. Northup’s got it totally right and you should be worried that this style of regulation makes sense to ANYONE. This is at the heart of the precautionary principle, that the government becomes your partner in making your business decisions. Frankly, I trust companies more than I trust the government, especially these days. I will take Toyota over NHTSA and David Strickland any day. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is not done with this “great” idea, either. Next up is their “reform” of the Toxic Substance Control Act. This is the new scheme of regulation of chemicals that takes all the really great and highly successful notions from our beloved CPSIA (which applies to only TWO substances, lead and phthalates) and rolls it out to more than 30,000 chemicals and all mixtures containing those chemicals. I will need to sharply increase my blood pressure medicine to even read that draft legislation. You will read more about this toxic legislation in coming weeks.

Another interesting nugget is from the HTA economic analysis:

“Total number of manufacturers potentially affected by the CPSIA in the United States 52,544***
Total number of wholesalers potentially affected by the CPSIA in the United States 125,624***
Total number of retailers potentially affected by the CPSIA in the United States 511,240***
Total number of businesses potentially affected by the CPSIA according to the NAICS 689,408***”

The analysis goes on to surmise than 5 million individual products are affected by the CPSIA. I believe that this estimate is low by a factor of ten, but that’s just one man’s opinion. The author then concludes that the (presumably annual) cost of traditional testing is $5.6 billion. That’s a nice way to honor the memory of the child who died in Minnesota after swallowing a lead jewelry bangle, isn’t it? I can’t think of a better way to spend $5.6 billion annually. . . .

Can any rational person doubt the severity and breadth of the economic damage in light of these data?

Keep your eyes on this space for more testimony. More will filter in over the next couple weeks.

Read more here:
CPSIA – More Written Testimony from CPSIA Hearing

CPSIA – CPSC Commission to Vote on Civil Penalty Factors

According to the latest CPSC Calendar, the Commission is due to vote on the Civil Penalty Factors “final rule” at their weekly meeting on Wednesday, March 3 at 9 AM EST. [The webcast can be found at this link.] This long-awaited rule has been the subject of comments on two occasions (once before any rule was produced and one after the first draft was released). The most recent draft was the subject of considerable controversy and created the potential for great unfairness to anyone subject to the awful CPSIA.

It’s worth noting that the CPSC has yet to assess a single penalty under the CPSIA. The whoppers assessed against Mattel, RC2, Target and Schylling, among others, all reflect prior law. I rather doubt they are done knocking on doors and waking up the occupants with news of penalties for long-ago infractions. When they’re finished with that task, the agency can begin assessing penalties under the CPSIA. The new penalty section became effective on August 14, 2009 and increased the maximum penalty per violation from $8,000 to $100,000 and the maximum penalty for a related series of violations from $1.825 million to $15 million (see Section 20 of the CPSA). Gets your attention, right?

There is a considerable risk of abuse of the penalty assessment process without procedural protections. The penalties being assessed today are substantially larger than in the past, and seem (to this observer) to follow no clear pattern or bear any relationship to the infractions. Arbitrary penalties will depress trade as manufacturers reassess risk or find that they cannot bear the increased cost of insurance (self-insurance or commercially-available insurance). The cost will come to rest somewhere and like any tax, will reduce the incentive to innovate or compete.

It is also debatable how negotiable the agency has been or will be on penalties, amplifying the risk of arbitrary penalties. After all, how are you supposed to use leverage against the CPSC – no one has enough money to fight the federal government in court. Nor the time or energy. As someone said, never sue someone who has access to a printing press. This lack of a level playing field raises questions of due process in CPSC penalty assessment. The dilemmas presented by the current version of the civil penalty factors prompted many comment letters, including one from me.

Nothing scares me more than the populist blood lust we continue to see from the agency. The penalty factors need to restrain efforts to please politicians then in power. The urge to “cut [the agency's] conscience to fit this year’s fashions” may be overwhelming at times. It is worth noting that Gib Mullan, head of enforcement at the agency, is signalling more sensitivity to this issue in his recent speeches. This is much appreciated and is a much-needed change. That said, to restore trust and confidence, the agency MUST tie its hands in important ways. The unfettered ability to whack manufacturers however they arbitrarily feel on a given day is too much power for the CPSC and places too much risk on businesses.

The agency received many comments giving this advice. Let’s hope they had an open mind as they read the comments.

Read more here:
CPSIA – CPSC Commission to Vote on Civil Penalty Factors

CPSIA – Redesign the Dog!

I hope you didn’t miss the hubbub today from the American Academy of Pediatrics over dangerous hot dogs. Apparently, you can choke on hot dogs. This shocking revelation stimulated an outpouring of news articles, including this one: “Pediatricians call for hot dogs to be redesigned“. I guess the bun would have be altered, too. Readers, submit your suggestions as comments! I am looking for something very “Space Age” but also exquisitely safe.

Pundits across the blogosphere couldn’t let this pass, like our friends Walter Olson (“Cut grapes into pea-sized portions?“) and Lenora Skenazy (“Surely You Must Be Choking!“). Many newspapers repeated the AAP’s call for warning labels on items like nuts, certain hard fruits and hot dogs. “Back away from the peanut slowly, Tommy, I don’t want you to choke!”

Any of this ring a bell? The AAP remains among the most ardent of the CPSIA advocates. They are in regular contact with the Waxmanis and advise on which scraps of relief we might be allowed. In fact, my spies point to the AAP as the big rabble rouser on rhinestones (sooooooo dangerous!) Having succeeded in gutting the children’s products industry, the AAP have turned their attention to that symbol of America, the hot dog. Parents cannot possibly deal with hot dogs without government intervention – individual responsibility is so passe. The AAP will make us all so safe . . . .

This seems to be a theme of this space – the world seems to have lost its moorings. Redesign the dog, indeed. Spare me.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Redesign the Dog!

CPSIA – Waxman’s New Amendment Progress Report

In the last couple weeks, Rep. Henry Waxman’s staff on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has been approaching Republicans and various stakeholders for feedback for a “bipartisan” approach to fixing the CPSIA. In these discussions, the staff has acknowledged that the law is “flawed” and requires surgery, not just tweaks. An interim (artificial) deadline of this week has been established for comments on their planned amendment. A draft of this amendment has not seen the light of day yet. No one knows what it will say.

While this may sound “good”, the Waxman staffers have also attempted to constrain the development of the amendment. For starters, they insist that the amendment be based on the failed Waxman amendment of last December. [Last year's try was covered in several posts in my blog from December 11-16.] They have also drawn quite a few lines in the sand, such as no change to age limits in Children’s Products. They favor exemptions for individual product categories or even individual products, a Swiss Cheese approach. [I hate this approach, as does just about everyone else other than the Waxmanites.]

The Waxmanites seem interested in helping out the ATV’rs. Apparently, the legislative logic is that if the amendment caters to the ATV’rs, who have been quite noisy and enjoy wide support among members of Congress, no one will be able to vote against the amendment for political reasons. Thus, the makings of a Democrat victory and the appearance of bipartisanship. I can see it now: “The two parties worked together and fixed the parts of the law that caused unintended consequences. All is well!”

Among the “have-nots” in this approach:

  • “Common Sense”. This case-by-case or product-by-product approach means that the Waxmanites refuse to even consider trusting the CPSC to do its job and assess risk for itself. The only people the Waxmanites and consumer groups can trust are . . . are . . . themselves. You won’t be able to draw a line between those that are “in” and those that are “out” in any rational way.
  • Rhinestones. On the subject of rhinestones, my understanding is that they are so resolute on keeping these innocent stones in the bill that they would be willing to write rhinestones in explicitly. This is the opposite of case-by-case exclusion – it’s a case-by-case INCLUSION.
  • Educational Products. While the Waxmanites say they want to exclude educational products, they can’t figure out how to do it since you might use an educational product in your home. Horrors! Again, without a simple notion of what’s safe and what’s not, how do you expect a sensible rule to emerge from this primordial goo?
  • Bikes. They really want to figure out how to help bikes but can’t seem to do it. For this reason, they are chatting about an indoor/outdoor exclusion. In other words, and I am not kidding, they have suggested a rule that if you keep something in your garage, it’s “out”, and if you keep it indoors, it’s “in”. So everybody – move all your toys, children’s clothing and shoes, furniture, books, pens, appliances and so on into your garage, quick, so you can qualify for this great new exemption! [Try to resist holding a garage sale, though, because that presents special risks under the law!]

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I am happy they are thinking of an amendment, but I am not happy that we still find ourselves adrift without any sense of what’s safe and what’s not. It is hard to foresee an amendment that does much good with this kind of inflexibility. Bipartisanship promises to be hard to obtain or a sham staged by Democrats for their own benefit.

Remarkably, a hidden issue that may weigh on these proceedings is the growing awareness of paralysis at the CPSC. The agency saw a massive increase in its budget last year, to match its massive new responsibilities, but still finds itself mired in open projects and conflicting priorities. Simple things are taking forever. Agency paralysis cannot be prevented in this environment without a significant paring of CPSIA priorities, something that the Waxmanites have a hard time conceding. And Obama won’t give the agency more money, so they’re stuck. And we’re stuck.

That’s not where you want to be.

Something to think about as we go forward:

  1. Principle One: Your silence is deemed to be your approval. Silence = approval. You must swing from the rafters to get their attention, too. No, don’t do that – too dangerous.
  2. Principle Two: An unopposed view, particularly a document with footnotes, is considered definitive. After all, if it were wrong, why didn’t anyone point it out, with footnotes? This is really how the Waxmanites think.

You need to keep these principles in mind. Your loud involvement can help a lot.

To Be Continued . . . .

Read more here:
CPSIA – Waxman’s New Amendment Progress Report

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