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CPSIA – Sean Oberle Notes the Risk in the Database

Sean Oberle of the Product Safety Letter noted in an Op-Ed entitled “Andre Maginot and the CPSIA Database” that while the database has the ability to do good, it also presents the risk of causing serious harm. He’s right, of course. He goes on to note that proponents may be held to account if disaster results. We can only hope. . . .

I think this is helpful and appreciate that Sean made this point. I want to highlight one short section in his essay:

“The metaphor also helps to belie the dismissive reassurances of a few (by no means all) proponents. The issue is not that industry is failing to acknowledge the protections Congress and CPSC put in place. Rather, industry is concerned whether the protections are proper and sufficient. The irony is not lost on me that with the CPSIA database, we’re dealing with a product that has a lot of potential to do harm. The problem is that when you produce a potentially dangerous product – be it a database or a toy – there is only so much that you can do to reassure people before putting it ‘out there.’ At some point, people simply are going to have to trust you.”

There are two important issues here. First, Sean mentions “trust” – and seems to imply that we should give the agency a chance to prove itself. Well, they have already had a chance to prove themselves, and used the opportunity to prove that they don’t deserve to be trusted. The risk that we should bear while we wait to see if the CPSC can be “trusted” could literally be fatal to our businesses. Where does it say that markets are to be administered this way? How can this be defended as “sensible” or a worthy risk to take?

The second issue which Sean brushes up against but doesn’t discuss is how the database erodes corporate due process rights so significantly. We have essentially had our rights stripped, arguably illegally and illicitly. The government is now in the business of publishing slander and we have no way to stop it. Trust is impossible when due process rights have been removed. Appeal is pointless (as our company’s recent experience illustrates), but some semblance of process creates the illusion of individual rights. It’s a joke, of course. Maybe we need to call the Small Business Ombudsman. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

At some point, the zealots will push too far. The damage they wrought won’t be fixable – the dead companies won’t rise again. The cost will be borne by our society, but the perpetrators will just move on to another government job . . . .

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CPSIA – Sean Oberle Notes the Risk in the Database

GUEST BLOG – American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Urges You To Participate in Survey on Impact of CPSIA-Mandated Testing


The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Wants You!

Many have pointed out to the CPSC that the additional testing costs mandated by the CPSIA have been extremely burdensome on companies and have even caused many to either shut down or abandon the children’s product market.

This blog has provided concrete examples with its Casualties of the Week (for example see here, here and here).

Some are still not convinced. CPSC Commissioner Adler made the point at a recent CPSC briefing that “anecdotes are not evidence.”

The AAFA has been collecting information (“evidence”) from companies to see exactly how the testing rules have impacted their businesses. This information is important to help document to CPSC and Congress the economic impact of CPSIA.

To continue gathering data, AAFA recently published two surveys online to gauge the impact of consumer product testing. One survey is for manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers and the other is for retailers and licensors.

If you are (or were) in the children’s product business, we strongly urge you to fill out this survey online. It only takes a few minutes.

The surveys are especially geared towards assessing the impact on businesses, and business awareness of, two proposed rulemakings that are due August 3, “Conditions and Requirements for Testing Component Parts of Consumer Products” and “Testing and Labeling Pertaining to Product Certification,” as well as how the stay of testing and certification requirements impact companies’ testing protocols and costs.

To access the survey for manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/D6S3D7N

To access the survey for retailers and licensors please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/D668GJT

Thank you for your participation.

Guest Blog Posted by the AAFA

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GUEST BLOG – American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) Urges You To Participate in Survey on Impact of CPSIA-Mandated Testing

CPSIA – Numbers Don’t Lie (Update No. 1)

I have received a lot of feedback on my data on injuries from lead since I published it on Thursday. Some of the comments deserve further exploration.

a. Did anyone have this data previously? I think the answer is NO. I have heard from inside the CPSC that this kind of data analysis is not being done. The data is nowhere to be found, except here. Recent testimony by consumer advocates and Congressional zealots is strangely bereft of details, just long on invective. Don’t we deserve better?

The hysteria over lead-in-paint recalls, combined with other recalls that were unrelated created such a lynch mob atmosphere in Congress that the only data that registered was data that supported the mob’s POV. The actual data is therefore something of a surprise.

Let’s look at the four reported lead injuries for a moment. The one death from lead, the famous incident in Minnesota where Jarnell Brown swallowed a lead charm off a Reebok bracelet, is well-known.

Injury no. 1: L.M. Becker recall (vending machine jewelry, Sept. 10, 2003): “The firm received one report of a child who swallowed the necklace’s pendant, which reportedly resulted in high blood lead levels.”

Injury no. 2: Four company recall (vending machine jewelry, July 8, 2004): “CPSC has received one report of lead poisoning when a child swallowed a piece of toy jewelry containing lead that was previously recalled. No reports of injury or illness have been received for the recalled products announced today.” THIS REFERS TO THE L.M. BECKER “INJURY” ABOVE.

Injury no. 3: Munrie Furniture, Inc. (cribs and matching furniture, December 23, 2008): “Munrie has received one report of a child ingesting the paint. The child was diagnosed with lead poisoning.”

Injury no. 4: Allreds Design (bracelets and clips, February 17, 2010): “Allreds Design received one report of a 10-month-old child who was treated by a physician for elevated lead levels.”

Do these three injuries (one injury is double-counted) have anything in common? I assert that causation is not proven in these cases. Yes, lead poisoning is alleged, however there is no evidence that the cause has been determined definitively. READ what the CPSC said – the connection to the defective children’s product is loose or even conjectural (“reportedly resulted in high blood lead levels”). Remember car seats that gave kids lead poisoning? Toxic car seats were a hoax. The injury data is flimsy at best. And this is all the evidence there is of injury from lead in children’s products in the last 11 years of recalls.

The Democrats and consumer groups would rather eat broken glass that admit that the lead poisoning scare is a hoax. They want to run our businesses – so there’s no conceding that all this economic damage cannot be traced to anything other than ONE TRAGIC ACCIDENT IN AN ELEVEN YEAR PERIOD. Uno, that’s it, in our country of 300 million where thousands of kids die every year for various reasons.

Well, at least we know our companies will die in a valiant cause, to reduce the ten-year death rate from lead in children’s products from one to zero . . . .

b. Was the CPSC really broken? This is Mr. Waxman’s assertion, as expressed in his opening remarks at the April 29 hearing. So it must be true, right?

I hope to provide more data on this topic soon. In the meantime, I will simply pass along the comments of a friend who is in the CPSC community, namely that Congress underfunded the CPSC for 20 years, leading to severely constrained budgets and hiring. Consider these quotes from a 2007 Businessweek article about the CPSC:

“Yet while the CPSC has never been more vital, through much of its 33-year history the agency has been chronically understaffed and underfunded. Overseeing 400 recalls a year, most at companies’ requests, the CPSC’s compliance team has less time to initiate its own investigations, which tend to reveal the most serious risks. . . . Growing workload and shrinking resources have left many disheartened. From a peak of nearly 1,000 in 1980, CPSC’s head count has fallen to 400. . . . What can be done to help the agency? In a word, money. It’s been 17 years since Congress thoroughly reviewed the CPSC’s resources and needs, says Nord.”

So, let’s see, Congress has been tightfisted with budgets for this little agency for many years, starving it of needed resources and headcount, effectively shrinking it over a 17-year period to a withered state, and then after an outbreak of large-scale toy recalls (by and large injury-free), Congress blames the agency for inattention to its mission and severely rewrites the law to punish the marketplace and the agency itself.

After all, why blame the entity responsible for the problem in the first place, Congress? Much easier to blame the agency!

c. Wow, those were a LOT of recalls? Is that the tip of the iceberg? As far as I can tell, the answer is that most of the iceberg is a mirage. Experienced CPSC hands note that the recall notices are prepared by the press office at the CPSC and are meant to attract attention and headlines. Big numbers, if defensible, are best suited to demonstrate that the cop is on the beat. A few tricks of the trade is to add in as many sources of “recalled” items as possible. I believe that as many as 60% (that’s no typo) of all recalled units NEVER WERE SOLD. I would simply observe that if they were never sold, they never had the potential to cause injury.

Second, the population of recalled items is always inflated out of an abundance of caution whenever there is ANY doubt as to the identity of dangerous products. In other words, if a company sold one bad lot but also sold nine good lots, all indistinguishable, the recall would be announced for all ten lots, even though there is NO dispute that nine of the lots are absolutely fine.

Without this insight, recall statistics might be alarming, at least in a sense. Actually, the recalls are something of a mirage, an illusion of legions of bad products that really don’t exist or were never sold. How can we verify this? Among other things, injury statistics back up this assertion. If we had 300 million units of dangerous products in circulation, the injury statistics of 2381 injuries in 11 years seems pretty low to me. Assuming an average time in the marketplace of three years per recalled item, this implies an annual injury rate of 0.026% (from all causes, not simply lead). If the products are in the market for only one year on average, the annual injury rate is still only 0.077%. In other words, in a worst case scenario, you can safely use RECALLED children’s products 99.92% of the time. And you would presumably be even safer with NON-RECALLED products.

Oooo, scary.

Think of it this way: There are about 3 billion toys sold in the U.S. annually, according to Alan Hassenfeld, former CEO of Hasbro. Over 11 years, that 33 billion toys. [Considering that "Children's Products" includes far more than just toys, the pool of 11 years of sales is probably north of 500 billion units.] Were you to assume that all 899 recalls in my data were toys, the pool of 308 million units recalled would represent 0.93% of all toys sold in that period. So, if 0.93% is safe 99.92% of the time, and the rest presumably safe at a higher rate (let’s say 99.999%), then the blended safety of all toys is 99.99%. The result is probably higher than that.

Numbers, numbers, do they matter?

We are spending not less than $5.6 billion per annum to “fix” this 99.99%+ safe problem. In an effort to create a much “safer” environment for kids, the helpful folks at the CPSC have produced literally thousands of pages of documents, rules and instructions to govern our businesses down to the tiniest detail. Unfortunately . . . the assertion that anyone will be safer CANNOT be proven as a matter of mathematics.

A neurotic bill administered by people who no longer can assess what is and is not safe is a danger to our society. The data proves it. Who should be held accountable? Congress? The Dems? Inez Tenenbaum? Some or all of the above.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Numbers Don’t Lie (Update No. 1)

CPSIA – For You Conspiracy Theorists, A Seventh Witness Has Been Appointed

I have just been informed that the ranks of the six corporate witnesses in tomorrow’s hearing has been augmented by none other than Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America. Perhaps she was added for her expertise on the problems we have in running our businesses under the awful CPSIA. That will be quite helpful.

Any idea how this happened? I wonder . . . .

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CPSIA – For You Conspiracy Theorists, A Seventh Witness Has Been Appointed

CPSIA – For You Conspiracy Theorists, A Seventh Witness Has Been Appointed

I have just been informed that the ranks of the six corporate witnesses in tomorrow’s hearing has been augmented by none other than Rachel Weintraub of the Consumer Federation of America. Perhaps she was added for her expertise on the problems we have in running our businesses under the awful CPSIA. That will be quite helpful.

Any idea how this happened? I wonder . . . .

Read more here:
CPSIA – For You Conspiracy Theorists, A Seventh Witness Has Been Appointed

CPSIA – Do-Gooder Congress Ends The Green Toy Movement

For those of you hoping to see toys become “greener” this year, forget it. Mr. Waxman and Ms. Pelosi have different ideas. Having California-ized the country and made phthalates and lead illegal at virtually any perceptible level under the noxious CPSIA, Congress made the possibility of using recycled materials too risky. Clearly, using recycled plastic is good for our planet- there is less waste and less damage to the environment. It is also thrifty and sensitive to our limited resources. Unfortunately, when using recycled materials, there is virtually no control possible over the presence of phthalates or lead contamination. Ah, the inviting prospect of a CPSIA violation! Importantly, this also means that each batch will be different and subject to random failures. Contaminants cannot be controlled.
It’s a shame that toys and educational materials won’t be able to be recycled. Given the CPSC’s recent Resale Roundup initiative, they won’t be resold either. Landfills will bulge courtesy of the CPSIA and Congress. The charm of the toy business is going away . . . fast.
The reduction in product innovation and the premature death of safe products under the CPSIA is costing money, jobs and economic vitality right now. The weakened state of the economy has not left the Small Business community feeling flush. It’s time to acknowledge that the factors affecting Big Business are worlds apart from those affecting Small Business. Big Toy may be prospering right now (Mattel 3rd Quarter earnings were $230 million and Hasbro’s 3rd Quarter earnings were $150 million), but the little guys are getting killed. The consequences of fear of random (and sometimes unsolvable) legal problems can be felt in the chill running through the industry. I cannot explain why so few people take this seriously.
It is all the more puzzling because of the absence of victims. We are seeing our businesses dismantled before our eyes to make people “safer” yet who is being saved? The hysterical consumer groups and rabid media behind the CPSIA banged drums over the “dangers” of lead-in-substrate and phthalates. If phthalates and lead-in-substrate were so terrible, where are all the victims from years past? I want names, addresses, photos and case histories. Rather than insist that the “danger” is unbearable, advocates for this law failed to prove that people are being hurt. The consumer advocates punted with a non-answer, namely that there is no “safe level” for lead. This hand waving seems to give the advocates some sort of pass on presenting actual data. Likewise with phthalates, the advocates trade on fear but do not present real data demonstrating real harm. Those chemicals have been in the market for decades so if they cause such dreaded injuries, why don’t I know about a single victim? Why haven’t the newspapers presented case histories – gore sells papers, as everyone knows. The absence of data is data. Congress, where are you?
Again, no one seems to care about these niceties. As long as people “feel safe”, then the costs we are incurring must be worth it . . . right?
It’s your world, I guess you get to decide.

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CPSIA – Do-Gooder Congress Ends The Green Toy Movement

CPSIA – The CPSC Will Love This Jewelry

I was walking down the street this weekend and stumbled across a jeweler advertising Palladium.

Link:
CPSIA – The CPSC Will Love This Jewelry