April 4, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
[This is a long essay - I apologize.
March 28, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
In my continuing exploration of the misuse of data by consumer groups to prove up the “need” for the CPSIA, it occurred to me that Dr. Dana Best of the American Academy of Pediatrics can’t multiply. She needs a new calculator.
Just an aside: Japanese government officials announced today that radiation OUTSIDE the disabled reactors at Fukushima have now reached LETHAL levels:
“Water in an underground trench outside the No. 2 reactor had levels exceeding 1 sievert an hour, a spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. told reporters in the capital today. Thirty minutes of exposure to that dose would trigger nausea and four hours might lead to death within two months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Preventing the most-contaminated water from leaking into the ground or air is key to containing the spread of radiation beyond the plant. A partial meltdown of fuel rods in the No. 2 reactor probably caused a jump in the readings, Japan’s chief government spokesman said today. ‘There’s not much good news right now,’ said Gennady Pshakin, a former IAEA official based in Obninsk, the site of Russia’s first nuclear power plant.” [Emphasis added]
The Japanese situation is a real crisis. The AAP wants you to think lead is also a crisis. It’s not.
In my post yesterday, I reported on Dr. Dana Best’s testimony in front of the CPSC Commission on February 16th about the purported effects of even trace amounts of lead on the intelligence of our children. While Dr. Best speaks for the AAP on occasion, I know that she doesn’t always write her own testimony. Sometimes she reads words written by other people under her own name. In the Spring of 2008, I went looking for Dana Best, and in response to a voicemail I left at her office, Cindy Pelligrini of the AAP called me back. Dana Best never called me back. I was calling in reference to the then pending Illinois lead labeling law which was being propelled by Dr. Best’s seminal House testimony on lead (September 20, 2007). In that phone conversation, Ms. Pelligrini acknowledged to me that she had written the September 20th testimony, not Dr. Best, and as a consequence, was the “right person” to talk about its contents. Ms. Pelligrini’s qualifications to write House testimony on lead on behalf of a professional association of pediatricians? According to her in our conversation, she holds a degree in political science. She is not a doctor and she is not a scientist as far as I know.
So is it surprising then that Dr. Best got all tangled up in numbers in the recent CPSC testimony? As I noted yesterday, Dr. Best asserted the following: “When averaged across even a modest population of children, the public health harm caused by lead is significant. Considering that there are about 75 million children in our nation, impacting one-half of one percent of all children would mean an exposure of 3.75 million children. . . . For one million children, [the loss of lifetime income from one IQ point per child] would total over $8.3 billion.” [Emphasis added]
Okay, let’s break out our calculators and check Dr. Best’s math. 75 million x 0.005 = 375,000. Oops! Didn’t she say that “one-half of one percent of all children” is 3.75 million kids? Hmmm.
[Sidebar - she's almost right about the population of kids, but not quite. According to childstats.gov, there were 75.2 million children living in the U.S. in 2010. Of course, only 50.4 million were under 12 years of age, basically the age bracket covered by the CPSIA. This is not a calculator error, this is just more junk statistics from a so-called "expert". I hope the CPSC Commission employs a fact checker!]
I think that’s a big difference. 3.75 million children is 1-in-20 but 375,000 is 1-in-200 (based on a population of 75 million children, an inflated number). Using the more realistic population number of about 50 million, Dr. Best’s 3.75 million number is 1-in-13 children. Dr. Best’s number suggests that there is likely to be two or more lead poisoning victims in EVERY classroom of children in our country. Do you believe that?
Give me a break. The problem is that there are many people out there who might believe this nonsense. Some of them may be your elected representatives.
Dr. Best goes on to “illustrate” the scope of the “cost” of this poisoning, all based on her assumption of 1-in-13 children losing IQ points. She illustrates the “cost” to society of the loss of a single IQ point on a seemingly “modest” population of 1 million children. [Don't forget, she hasn't produced even ONE victim yet.] Since she is apparently severely math-challenged, let me help you here. One million children is (roughly) 2% of the age range covered by the CPSIA. In other words, it’s about 1-in-50 kids. Her “modest” assumption implies at least one brain-damaged child in every other classroom in America, all because of lead-in-substrate in children’s products. Her illustration is intended to show that the incredibly “high” cost of the purported lead epidemic justifies the extreme measures of the CPSIA to eliminate lead down to trace levels in children’s products.
Do you believe her? Why, exactly? If there are so many damaged children from lead-in-substrate in children’s products, why can’t the AAP come up with a few and show real case histories? Why won’t they talk about real data?
I am not impressed. The AAP holds itself out as an “expert” but puts out junk statistics to back up junk science recommendations. We are being scammed.
You MUST demand of your Congress that they won’t be fooled. The age of junk science needs to be brought to an end! Let your voices be heard!
Read more here:
CPSIA – AAP, Get a Calculator!
March 9, 2011 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The war over the CPSIA Database continues at high pitch. In today’s print edition of Politico, Consumers Union upheld its well-deserved reputation as a fear monger with the below ad entitled “Will this crib leave parents sleepless?” CU intones: “When you buy a crib, you want to know it’s safe. Luckily for parents, the [CPSIA] created an easy-to-use database for the public to report unsafe products. But right now, some members of Congress want to stop that database, putting your children at risk. Don’t let them.”
The ad concludes with this warning “Congress: Don’t play politics with our kids’ safety.”
At the same time, the National Association of Manufacturers launched its own campaign documenting the many incidents of inaccurate data and other related snafus in the database SO FAR. The body of the NAM letter is found here.
The objections to the CPSIA Database by manufacturers, importers, private labelers and retailers is all about inaccurate data. Filling the database with junky, incorrect or idle chatter masquerading as thoughtful analysis presents REAL threats to investments in companies, products and brands. Naturally, this also threatens jobs at many levels in our economy. Were the database maintained by the CPSC with clean and accurate data, I rather doubt the objections to this program would be so intense. However, industry stakeholders know that the media and our government are reactive by nature, tending to report, judge and act on stimuli before adequately investigating or resolving underlying accusations. Consider Toyota braking systems, DryMax diapers, Shrek glasses. It’s a long list of manhandled companies or products. There are legitimate reasons to fear what a mismanaged “post it and forget it” database will do to industry.
I realize industry objections may seem theoretical or somehow calculated to serve a larger purpose. It is worth noting, however, that the NAM letter provides concrete illustrations of the problem facing industry. Likewise, it is important to remember that consumer groups gloss over the objections of companies to pluck heart strings – that’s how they raise funds. To clarify the picture, I have a REAL EXAMPLE to share. It involves the first (and so far only) submission to the database about our company’s products.
The following incident was filed against one of our products during the so-called “soft launch”. The soft launch was intended to allow the CPSC to work the “kinks” out of the database and to practice interacting with the entire U.S. economy on consumer products. As you know from prior blogposts, Inez Tenenbaum has admitted in House testimony that the CPSC is not likely to be able to resolve questions of accuracy before posting the data (but they will try very hard). She said “That’s what the rub is.” Indeed. And you also know that once data appears on the Internet, its traces are all but impossible to remove. The long tail of misinformation is likely to affect brands and companies for years.
The subject product happens to be discontinued. We have protested this particular filing to the CPSC and they replied with the following decision: “[CPSC] staff concluded that the report would be posted in the database but for soft launch”. In other words, as a CPSC policy matter, what follows is a legitimate posting to the database when it goes live.
Put yourself in the position of the CPSC and YOU MAKE THE CALL!
First, consider the final rule on the database. The database is to be populated with “reports of harm”. What’s that? “Report of harm means any information submitted to the Commission through the manner described in § 1102.10(b), regarding any injury, illness, or death; or any risk of injury, illness, or death, as determined by the Commission, relating to the use of a consumer product.” And what is a “harm”? “Harm means injury, illness, or death; or risk of injury, illness, or death, as determined by the Commission.” Who can file? Basically anyone. No direct knowledge of the “incident” is required.
The person making the filing does have to give their name to the manufacturer. In this case, we were faced with an unnamed accuser. Please note that Cheryl Falvey, General Counsel of the CPSC, said at ICPHSO this year that she couldn’t imagine why anyone would withhold their identity in a complaint. This was our first “product incident”. O for 1 so far, Cheri.
Here is what the anonymous filer said:
“I saw this product on the FAO Schwartz website. It looks like a nice idea not very well thought out. The product is called: ‘Smart Snacks Sweet Heart Sayings’. The suggested age states: 2-7 yrs. By: Learning Resources. The Product Description: ‘With 28 plastic hearts that lace together vertically and horizontally, 3 laces, candy scoop and storage jar, this Smart Snacks Sweet Heart Sayings set from Learning Resources® offer a delectable introduction to colors, shapes, matching and printed words. Little hands stay busy too as kids gain confidence in fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Charming lacing hearts features a word or picture on each side. Children can create colorful candy designs and cute messages while improving fine motor skills. Hearts are color-coded to help children make sentences.’ These plastic ‘beads’ look very much like the candy conversation hearts sold around Valentines day. Maybe I am over concerned, but this seems like these beads could easily be mistakenly ingested or could pose a choking hazard.” [Emphasis added]
I certainly hope the readers of this space are confident that, in fact, this item complies with
Put another way, this accusation has no basis in fact and thus cannot be a “report of harm” under any reasonable interpretation. It is unadulterated and inaccurate conjecture. We sent the CPSC our third party test reports and photographs of the parts proving that they won’t pass through a choke tube to support our protest that this complaint is “materially inaccurate”.
Nevertheless, the CPSC apparently determined the complaint states a “risk of harm” and thus should be published in the database.
To get a flavor of the “sympathetic” audience we received at the CPSC when we pushed back, please enjoy selections from the written response we received:
“I should make it clear from the outset that I am not the person within the agency with the delegated authority to handle material inaccuracy claims. This email reflects my opinions and not those of the Commission and has not been reviewed by the Commissioners. When you first approached me about this . . . I told you that my gut reaction was that despite the concerns you raised, the Commission staff handling these issues would take the consumer’s report at face value as a claim raising a concern of a risk of harm. I explained then that your Firm could provide a comment with your objections to the report or object to the report as materially inaccurate. Given your concerns about the report, I raised the issue with the database team handling the issues and confirmed to you in our call last Friday that the response was the same. I also indicated that the claim of material inaccuracy would likely be denied. I explained that the personnel handling these matters were not making decisions as to whether the product was harmful but rather they would take a quick look at whether the report of harm articulates a risk of harm.” [Emphasis added]
Our claim of material inaccuracy was denied – even though the issue was disposed by a valid third party test report directly on point . . . . Makes you wonder what WOULD be deemed “materially inaccurate”.
So why didn’t our test reports and photos PROVE “material inaccuracy”? After all, the filer states: “Maybe I am over concerned, but this seems like these beads could easily be mistakenly ingested or could pose a choking hazard.” The CPSC explains:
“However, in assessing whether a report of harm articulates a risk of harm, the staff is not adjudicating whether the product actually presents such a risk of harm. We have other processes for making that determination which require an assessment of the risk by Commission staff, including a subject matter expert – in this case, a physiologist on the issues relating to the likelihood of a choking hazard to children . . . . As I explained on Friday, the database process is set up to allow the manufacturer to state its reasons why the report does not present a risk of harm and have that appear next to the consumer’s report. The staff handling claims of material inaccuracy will not be determining the ultimate question of whether the product does, in fact, present a risk of harm. That would only occur after a full assessment of the risk of harm by the subject matters experts and ample opportunity for the firm to address the issues with our compliance staff. The disclaimer is intended to notify users that the information has not been evaluated and specifically states: The Commission does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the contents of the Consumer Product Safety Information Database, particularly with respect to the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of information submitted by persons outside of the CPSC.”
Can anyone out there feel our outrage? Is this what Congress “intended”? Is it acceptable that the CPSC not exercise ANY judgment whatsoever on filings and that manufacturers be powerless to stop the posting of nonsense? Can’t we expect more of this agency with its 500 employees?
The CPSC informs us that all is well BECAUSE even though the accusation is known to be false, we are allowed to post comments side-by-side with the accusation.
“. . . it would be up to the Firm to decide whether it wants its test reports and photos posted as comments in response to the report. The conclusion was that this is the type of report that has been included in our databases in the past and would be included in the public database along with the manufacturer’s comments and the mandatory disclaimer as to the accuracy of the information in the public database.”
So, there you have it. The CPSC knows it is posting nonsense and other pap, refuses to filter out the bunk and then boldly asserts that it is up to the manufacturer to choose how it wants to counter the misinformation. The term “materially inaccurate” does not apparently extend to factually inaccurate accusations – I believe it only refers to misidentified products. [This is not the first tortured interpretation of the English language to emerge from the CPSC during this administration.] One wonders to what lengths the CPSC will go to post controversial complaints in the database. They have their justification – they must make consumers “safe” with errant complaint data. It is a rich irony that the CPSC doesn’t even argue the complaints are true or accurate and then scurries to hide behind its website disclaimer when asked to defend its lame administrative approach.
No doubt twisting themselves into a linguistic pretzel is only the start for this CPSC.
This position is NOT mandated by the CPSIA – this is a political decision dictated by forces outside the law. Please note that in this case, the CPSC overlooked a valid third party test report mandated by the CPSIA that refutes a conjecture based on a photo posted on a website. Guess that test report doesn’t count for much at the CPSC. But it is ESSENTIAL to keep kids safe. . . .
Right. And so is the rest of the CPSIA and this database. Right.
The CPSC didn’t just “punt” on the meaning of “materially inaccurate” – they punted on the future of your business and the jobs you provide to your teammates. If only we could punt on the jobs of the people who were doing this to us. . . .
Read more here:
CPSIA – CPSC Punts on "Material Inaccuracy"
November 23, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
The semi-religious mission of the safety zealots was on full display in today’s New York Times. In an article entitled “Deep Divisions as Vote Nears on Product Safety Database“, the Times profiled the controversy of the pending public database final rule approval (due on November 24th in a rubber stamp Commission session), highlighting on the idealist objectives of the database supporters. As per its typical leftist slant, the Times article gives scant credence to the legitimate concerns of manufacturers or the demonstrable consequences of the unrealistic Utopian vision underlying the CPSIA. After all, we manufacturers only care about money, right?
Every drama needs a hero, villain and victim. The public database controversy has all the right elements – manufacturers and Republicans as “villains”, consumer groups and Democrats as “heroes” and consumers as “victims”. Positioned this way, why would anyone ever support manufacturers? Who would want to even listen to the black hats? Hmmm. Good strategy, Naderites!
Consider the illustration used in the article – Michele Witte suffered the unspeakable horror of losing her child in a crib death. She asserts that the database might have saved her child. Perhaps that is true, perhaps it is not. Nothing can salve the wounds she has suffered . . . but that does not make the database a good idea. [I might feel differently about the database if, for instance, it was limited to deaths.]
The implication that the database is necessary to protect consumers is not a well-examined assertion. There is already a lot of data available to consumers. For instance, the CPSC maintains a massive national injury database called NEISS. A search of crib injuries on the NEISS database for 2009 (classes 1543-1545) reveals 572 reports which extrapolates into a national injury estimate (for 2009 ALONE) of 16,537 incidents.
Here are a few representative NEISS entries (the first five in the above sample):
- CHILD FELL 3 FEET OUT OF CRIB AND LANDED ON TILE FLOOR. CRIED IMMEDIATELY. D:CHI, FOREHEAD HEMATOMA.
- PT FELL WHILE TRYING TO CLIMB FROM HIS CRIB. LANDED ON L SHOULDER ON THE FLOOR. FELL 4 FT. CRIES WHEN PICKED UP UNDER ARM.
- PT FELL OUT OF HER CRIB AND STRUCK HER HEAD. NO LOC. CRIED IMMED. NOW ACTING NORMALLY.
- FELL OUT OF CRIB. DX HEAD INJURY
- PT STANDING UP IN CRIB, FELL BACKWARD AND HIT HEAD ON CRIB, NO LOC BUT MOM STATES PT HAD DAZED LOOK AND HAS BEEN LETHARGIC; HEAD INJURY
Did you learn a lot from this information? Can you verify that it’s true? Can you see ANY issues with attaching (unverified) product identities to this unverified and uninvestigated data? Are you a plaintiff’s attorney?
What are the zealots saying to justify their support of the database in the face of persistent and rational criticism of its design? Commissioner Bob Adler, former Henry Waxman staffer and longtime board member of Consumers Union, sums it up:
“Some folks are worried more about lost sales and not worried enough about lost souls.“
So, in other words, Adler condescendingly asserts that people like me are only concerned with MONEY. Instead, he claims that what’s really at stake here are “lost souls”. What is Adler talking about? Here’s what Wikipedia says about “souls”:
“A soul, in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions, is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans are souls; some attribute souls to all living things and even to inanimate objects (such as rivers); this belief is commonly called animism. The soul is often believed to exit the body and live on after a person’s death, and some religions posit that God creates souls.” [Emphasis added]
Mr. Adler’s POV makes the question of having a federal database a moral imperative. Wow, now that’s a heavy decision – souls are at stake! Furthermore, Mr. Adler positions those who support the database as moral people and those who oppose it as immoral money-grubbers who prize financial well-being over the safety of consumers. Ugh. I would hate to be a Republican Commissioner voting against the final public database rule with Mr. Adler’s curse hanging over my head! Ouch.
Catching on to the theme, Ami Gadhia of Consumers Union, chimes in: “It’s a slow death . . . . [The] information never gets out in the public.” [Emphasis added] Death . . . souls . . . database! Do I hear a new slogan???
CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, ever sensitive to criticism, archly defends the agency’s effort to dialogue with people like me. Please recall that part of their “outreach” was to ask me to spend our company’s money to fly to Washington, D.C. to give testimony on the public database. Matt Howsare, Tenenbaum’s then Counsel and now Chief of Staff, told me that they needed more perspective from manufacturers and kindly asked me to prepare testimony. As previously noted, NOTHING that I said in my testimony was adopted or used in any way apparent to me. The NYT notes:
“The commission chairwoman, Inez Tenenbaum, disputed the idea that manufacturers’ concerns had not been properly considered. She said the agency offered numerous forums for comment and some of those ideas were incorporated into the final proposal. ‘We have been abundantly fair,’ Ms. Tenenbaum said.” [Emphasis added]
Apparently, testimony at a CPSC hearing is meant as an outlet for venting, not for listening. That’s “abundantly fair”, we are assured. Makes you wonder what “unfair” might look like . . . .
[A Senate Commerce Committee CPSC oversight hearing is said to be in the offing for next week. One fantasizes that they may take an interest in this issue, but the Senate is still a Dem stronghold. Don't hold your breath. Expect self-congratulatory positioning by the self-serving and deaf Dems.]
Consumer groups are portraying manufacturers demands for Constitutionally-guaranteed due process and other appropriate procedural safeguards as a grab for “advantage”. In other words, procedural safeguards for manufacturers are not legitimate protectible interests in light of the POSSIBILITY that consumers may glean some useful information among the garbage that will accumulate in the “post-it-and-forget-it” slanderbase being put up by the agency. Again, the NYT provides the bully pulpit for the zealots:
“Consumer advocates suggested the opponents were trying to weaken the database to protect business interests. ‘They have a great deal now, and I think they are trying to maintain the status quo by levying these unfounded arguments,’ said Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety for the Consumer Federation of America.” [Emphasis added]
If ever-disingenuous Rachel Weintraub is saying that we Americans have a “great deal” because we enjoy the protections of the Bill of Rights and other Constitutionally-guaranteed rights protecting groups and individuals against persecution and excessive governmental power, I agree. I agree heartily – and don’t want to lose those essential legal protections that form an important basis for our investments. Please REMEMBER, everyone loses something when ANYONE loses their legitimate legal protections. Btw, Bob Adler is a lawyer and a former Scholar in Ethics and Law at the business school at UNC Chapel Hill . . . .
Mr. Adler plays a little fast and loose with his database concepts. Apparently, it’s okay to put garbage into the database because the government “disclaims” its accuracy:
“Mr. Adler, the Democratic commissioner, said the database was not meant to be a legal forum like a court but more like a catalog of consumer experiences. He noted that a disclaimer on the database said the commission did not guarantee its accuracy. ‘”I put my baby in a diaper and my baby developed a rash.” That goes up. It’s an early warning system to alert other consumers,’ Mr. Adler said.”
Ahem: “But Ms. Nord said the proposal remained far too vague. She cited the recent case of Pampers Dry Max, made by Procter & Gamble, in which thousands of parents asserted that the diapers were causing their babies to get a rash. A commission investigation found no link between the diapers and the rashes. ‘We would have posted all these complaints about them even though they proved to be wrong,’ Ms. Nord said.”
Any idea why the CPSC “must” put up such a controversial database? The zealots know that there is legal risk in hosting a database that may include erroneous information or information that might slander manufacturers or tortiously interfere with commerce. They know this might violate manufacturers’ legal rights and could lead to lawsuits – and don’t want the legal liability or the hassle. How to get the data and avoid the legal problems? Get the government to host the legally-dubious information! Clever – but not necessarily in the interests of consumers or American markets.
Is the CPSC supposed to provide Mr. Adler’s catalog of “consumer experiences”? Is that part of its mission? [Readers of my blog know that] I realize we have a right of Freedom of Speech (check out the Bill of Rights), but is the federal government really supposed to foster that Freedom of Speech? I appreciate that Mr. Adler thinks a consumer “experiences” database is a really good idea (I disagree) but since when do our tax dollars need to be used to provide it? Is that the only option that makes sense? And that goes double for such a dangerous proposal that presents the realistic prospect of discouraging investment and other economic activity.
So many words wasted on people who won’t listen. Expect a “spirited” debate on the database as foreplay followed by the 3-2 partisan screwing that masquerades as safety administration these days. The song plays on . . . .
Read more here:
CPSIA – Save "Lost Souls", Vote for the Slanderbase!
August 24, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
740 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA. There are 71 days left until Election Day.
On Thursday, in an unannounced Federal Register notice (you all read the Fed. Reg. for fun like me, right?), the CPSC announced that a petition had been filed by four esteemed consumer groups demanding that the CPSC and EPA issue rules against the presence of cadmium in children’s products, especially “toy jewelry”. Not doubt this effort was coordinated with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) to assist her in her reelection effort. The four consumer groups are the Sierra Club, Empire State Consumer Project, Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides (hmmm) and, our ole’ pal, the Center for Environmental Health. Although the petition has not resulted in action by the agency YET, they have requested comments on the petition. Goodie, something else to waste our time on!
The only reason I know about this event is that Bloomberg.com wrote about it last Wednesday. I am sure you monitor Bloomberg for sneak requests for comment by the agency, just like me. If you go the CPSC website, good luck finding a reference to this important Fed. Reg. publication. Oh well, the CPSIA already legislates that we must be telepathic anyhow.
The cadmium mania has nothing to do with health or safety. Even the wingnuts behind this petition are unable to cite a single injury EVER from cadmium in children’s products. They ask that rules be implemented “before a child dies or is seriously injured”. Well, since this regulation never existed previously and cadmium has been used as a trace component in jewelry for hundreds of years, the argument that this is a “real” risk does not impress me. I hold a degree in engineering but who am I to tell the CPSC how to do math. What do you suppose the probability of injury might be if the instances are ZERO over hundreds of years involving literally trillions of human interactions? Pretty high, I guess . . . .
They better be pretty high, if the CPSC actually cares what the law says. Ha, I gave up on that a long time ago, but for you devotees, here’s the deal. I have written about this many times already – the suthority to recall consumer products derives from the FHSA which restricts the agency’s authority to “imminent hazards”. Section 12(a) of the FHSA provides this definition: “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.” [Emphasis added] Is it even theoretically possible for a consumer product containing cadmium to meet this standard if there are exactly zero documented injuries – ever? Of course, we have been told that “anecdotes are not evidence” . . . unless perhaps a consumer group is dishing out the (imaginary) anecdotes.
And then there’s the mania in the press. The press seems no better able to evaluate this threat than any of the other urban legends underlying the CPSIA. One wonders how they assess other risks . . . like swimming pool deaths. Oh yeah, real deaths are not a problem if the activity is really fun, like swimming which claims hundreds of children’s lives annually. Better to put our resources into cadmium testing – since there are no recorded events of cadmium injury from consumer products. Consider this quote from Bloomberg: “Retailers such as Dress Barn Inc. and Claire’s Boutiques Inc. have recalled necklaces, earrings and bracelets this year after finding cadmium in the products. McDonald’s Corp. offered $3 refunds in June to customers who bought “Shrek” drinking glasses with high levels of cadmium in the paint.” [Emphasis added] I have pointed out ad nauseum that the CPSC admits that the Shrek glasses are SAFE but given that the recall went forward and no one remembers what happened, those glasses had to be really dangerous, right??? According to Bloomberg, that seems to be true.
The petition features the usual hyperbolic description of an imaginary crisis with hysterical references to a “rising tide” of incidents (poisonings) and unfounded accusations of manufacturers “substituting” cadmium for lead. Shame that facts hardly matter anymore. They pull out all the stops to embellish their case. If repeated enough, this kind of reasoning becomes accepted as a truth, just like “no safe levels of lead”. Our “leaders” seem prone to this kind of duping.
My favorite part of the petition is the assertion of the dire threat posed by cadmium. Again, there are no reported injuries from cadmium EVER in consumer products. The CSPC admitted at last February’s ICPHSO meeting that their only toxicological data on cadmium relates to workplace exposure (generally airborne). According to Wikipedia, two big sources of cadmium for humans are food and cigarette smoke. The CPSC has literally NO data on risk from consumer products – principally because there is NO evidence that there is any danger. Given the data, they made the judgment that gathering the data was a waste of money (back when people cared about such things). The most famous incident of widespread cadmium poisoning related to scandalous industrial pollution in Japan over many years. That’s a far cry from the situation confronting America today.
Should we crush the toy jewelry market or pummel the rest of us with high testing costs and other legal disruptions because our regulators are unable to distinguish between industrial pollution in Japan on a massive scale, and enamel or jewerly solder with traces of cadmium in it?
According to the wingnuts, yes, we should.
And I remind you – we have 71 days left until Election Day. I recommend that you give generously to candidates that don’t come from Mars, have some semblance of common sense and commit in blood to oppose the junk science movement that has taken over the CPSC and Congress. Work the neighborhoods, greet people at train stations and then go vote in droves.
If we hurry, we might get something done before the CPSC turns the screw one more rotation.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Wingnuts Against Cadmium
July 6, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
These are the people who are protecting you:
“[The] CPSC, which kicked off a pool-safety campaign Thursday, emphasized that [pool safety] issues go beyond drains: At least 70 people drowned in pools since Memorial Day; 80 more almost drowned. ‘There were thankfully zero drain entrapment deaths in 2009,’ says CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. ‘Our campaign is aimed at reducing child drownings and keeping entrapment deaths to zero again this year.’” [Emphasis added]
USA Today, July 3, 2010 “Pool-safety advocates decry loss of drain backup rule“
Yes, the safety enforcement circus carries on. The USA Today reports that AT LEAST 70 people have died in pool drownings since Memorial Day (May 31). The July 3 article appears 33 days after Memorial Day, so that’s more than TWO DEATHS A DAY. Another 80 almost drowned – the total serious injuries and deaths is about FIVE A DAY. And the CPSC’s reaction – if the deaths didn’t occur from pool drains, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. WHEW! If they had died from a pool drain, that would have been really TERRIBLE.
Of course, the victims are still dead. Not a safety concern, apparently. We must stay focused on pool drains . . . .
I know you think I’m kidding BUT to judge by the reality-detached hyperbole of our heroic Democratic Congressional leaders, you’d never know it. Consider the remarks of the estimable Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of Ms. Pelosi’s attack dogs in the CPSIA drama: “CPSC interpreted the law in the ‘most egregious and narrow way possible’ by eliminating the requirement for backup systems, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and co-sponsors of the law said in a letter to CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler last month.” [USA Today article]
And why did Ms. Wasserman Schultz think this action was so “egregious”? Here are her words: “We understand that the interpretation that CPSC adopted is the same one that the pool and spa industry endorsed, and is not the interpretation that public interest groups and victims’ families had urged the Commission to adopt.” Aha – how DARE the CPSC defy consumer groups in favor of evil industry?! Doesn’t the agency know that if industry wants something, it must be bad for consumers?!
Democratic Senators pitched in as well they could. Drawn from the same rogue’s gallery that brought you the noxious CPSIA (Pryor, Durbin, Klobuchar, Nelson (FL) and Dodd), the Senators stated that the Commission violated “both the spirit and the letter of the act.“
Okay, Junior Scientists of Congress, committed to making us so so SOOOO safe, please note that deaths from pool drains totalled 11 in ten years according to the CPSC. However, total deaths from pools is more than two a day since Memorial Day, and has averaged 385 per year for children under 15 in recent years. So you guys are hassling the agency over a design flaw that causes 11 deaths a decade, and seemingly want it to be the priority of the agency over, say, general pool deaths which total almost 4,000 kids each decade (about 3,000 are under five). Perhaps you should have sent your letters to the families of the 70 victims in the last 33 days so they’d know how much you care.
For a change (it’s been a long-g-g-g-g time coming), the agency was trying to make a practical decision on how to implement a very expensive law focusing on a small problem. The data now suggests that the expense of the Virginia Graeme Baker repairs are prohibitively high, especially in light of the infrequent injuries (however horrific).
Sadly, when it could finally take the high road, the agency flinched in front of the press, insulting the memory of the 70 recent drowning victims. To slough off the 70 recent deaths because they weren’t caused by pool drains is nothing short of abdication of duty (or resignation to failure). I don’t know about you, but I am plenty tired of politically-motivated, pet project, holier-than-thou safety. This benefits no one other than the pandering politicians hoping to dupe you into voting for their reelection.
Will this madness EVER end???
Read more here:
CPSIA – Losing Sight of the Issue in Pool Deaths
June 29, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Never content to leave an economy merely in tatters, Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush jumped into action this week to create an international trade war, all in the name of “protecting” you. In fact, their troubling new legislation includes a sneak amendment of the CPSIA. It also takes an idea dropped from the CPSIA (submission to U.S. jurisdiction) and applies it across several new industries. Sounds promising, right?
Nominally introduced by Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH), a wobbly Democrat said to need propping up in her faltering reelection campaign, the new bill (called “H.R.4678 — Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2010″) is scheduled for mark-up tomorrow (in Rush’s subcommittee. This innocuous and technical sounding bill is packed with trouble for you and for our country. In Sutton’s blue collar industrial district, that kind of work is prized. Or so the Dems must think.
Here is the GovTrack version of the bill. In fact, I have obtained a more recent version of the bill, a “manager’s mark-up” , which includes many new provisions. The revised version of the bill packs quite a punch, right to the gut. I discuss the newer version of the bill below.
The purpose of this bill is to make foreign manufacturers of finished goods and parts intended to be used as components in those finished goods register for service of process in this country. In other words, foreign manufacturers must register here so our plaintiff’s bar and the government can sue them with ease. The new law prohibits trade with foreign manufacturers unless they are registered, and enlists the aid of the federal government’s snarling dog, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, to enforce this law.
This means that every factory we use outside the U.S. will have to register for service of process in the U.S. if we want to continue to import our products from them. The law goes even FURTHER, asking that each agency involved to study ways to force manufacturers of components to register here, too. So, for example, if you make a toy in China and your factory buys boxes from a local printer who has NO contractual relationship with you, this law asks the agencies to study the feasibility of getting such box printers to register for service of process in this country. To accomplish that lofty goal, of course, you have to know their identity. Our customers do not know our vendors’ names and we aren’t telling. It’s none of their business. Do you think it’s any different for our factories relative to us? Will they ever disclose that information to our Mother Government (to them, a foreign government)? Please – would you disclose your sources to the Chinese government? And who pays the administrative and out-of-pocket costs of this exercise? And what about the consequences of the fear factor and the costs of new litigation on markets?
What-a-stimulus program! Naturally, those groups most linked to your future business health and ability to create jobs, the plaintiff’s bar and consumer groups, think this legislation is long overdue!
The scope of this law covers the EPA, the CPSC, the FDA and NHTSA, and applies to drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, “biological products”, consumer products, chemicals and chemical mixtures under TSCA (the coming storm), pesticides, motor vehicles or “motor vehicle equipment”, plus components for the foregoing. That’s pretty much everything and everyone.
Oh, by the way, the manager’s mark-up adds a little provision that gives you five working days to inform the CPSC if you have “a safety recall or other safety campaign” in any country, whether initiated by the company or by the foreign government. Just thought they’d slip that one in, just in case you weren’t watching!
So, who cares? Doesn’t this “solve” the Chinese drywall problem? In fact, it’s going to make things a lot worse. This is Major League trade war material. It is not entirely unlike Smoot-Hawley, the bill that precipitated the Depression. None of our factories will be willing to accept exposure to our ravenous tort system and out-of-control invasive government regulators as a condition of doing business with us. To most of them, this will be too risky and too hard to understand. Our suppliers are small businesses like us – they will NEVER have the resources or skills to master the minute details of our legal system and myriad risks and rules. It will also be breathtakingly expensive for them, and they run very low margin businesses with no ability to absorb those costs.
Even if some of our factories will take this risk, many will not. As with Smoot-Hawley’s tariffs, this kind of rule will spur quick responses by foreign governments. If the U.S. wants the right to reach across borders and take the assets of foreign companies without a legal presence in this country, then foreign governments will extend the same “privilege” to U.S. companies selling products inside their borders. Won’t that be nice?! Learning Resources sells its products in dozens of countries. Will we have to register in each country to continue to do so? Will we be exposed to lawsuits all over the world as a result? Will we have to pay to settle “strike suits” in dozens of new jurisdictions? If the answer is yes, I cannot imagine staying in business across borders.
The provision about foreign “safety campaigns” is intended to make sure that we don’t miss a trick here. The Waxmanis want a worldwide recall system. Does ANYONE IN CONGRESS know what this will cost? Congress must want to terminate small businesses in our economy.
Rumor has it that Ways and Means wants to take this bill out of the hands of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Of course. Speaker Pelosi can skip that step if she wants. Ways and Means purportedly knows there are BIG problems here and I am assured the Republicans on that committee will fight to restrain this bill. Still, it is in keeping with recent House practice to pass something irresponsible and dangerous like this bill, relying on the Senate to stop it. It’s a “message” bill, unless it somehow gets passed into law . . . . Then there’s the rumor that the Dems intend to stick it into a moving bill, like a jobs bill, to make it impossible to stop. You know, because it’s for our own good.
This is an example of how I learned to HATE Congress and Democrats. These rules descend on our business in suffocating waves, adding no value but creating major distractions and feeding fear. On the other hand, perhaps I will be eating crow when Obama’s recently announced master plan to reduce the deficit by two-thirds in three years through increased spending, increased entitlements, increased taxes and increased regulation works like a charm. Maybe this law is part of the implementation of that great plan.
It must be me.
It must be me. . . right?
Read more here:
CPSIA – Your Partner in Mischief, Congress
June 17, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
European toys line shelves in Randy Hertzler’s Lancaster, Pa., basement. The small, family-owned business has been directly affected by the crackdown on lead in toys as many of the European brands that he has sold have now left the U.S. market.
By Jayne O’Donnell, USA TODAY
When other toy retailers and manufacturers were feeling a backlash against their made-in-China products in late 2007, Randy Hertzler was riding high. He imports and sells only European-made toys, which, like those made in the U.S., were all the rage when recalls of toys with lead paint dominated the news.
Many small manufacturers say the testing is cost-prohibitive. But its proponents say the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was long overdue, as the U.S. has been far behind Europe in addressing lead and has been slow to recognize the effects even very low levels can have on children’s IQs.
Read more here:
CPSIA – USA Today Highlights Damage Inflicted by CSPIA
June 11, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
Scratching your head about the mounting crisis over cadmium? Let’s see, the CPSC declares the Shrek glasses “not toxic” but still pushes for a recall of these safe products “in an abundance of caution”. Apparently, the CPSC either believes that perfectly safe products should be recalled in an abundance of caution or that they themselves can’t figure out what’s “dangerous” anymore. Not a single article or a single person to my knowledge has identified a single injury caused by cadmium in a consumer product – EVER.
[Oops, SORRY, there is a consumer product closely associated with cadmium intake: " Tobacco smoking is the most important single source of cadmium exposure in the general population. . . . The absorption of cadmium from the lungs is much more effective than that from the gut, and as much as 50% of the cadmium inhaled via cigarette smoke may be absorbed. On average, smokers have 4-5 times higher blood cadmium concentrations and 2-3 times higher kidney cadmium concentrations than non-smokers. . . . No significant effect on blood cadmium concentrations could be detected in children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke." Time to stop smoking, guys - that's big news, apparently.]
Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the people who are terrorizing America over cadmium are the very same people who are pushing for deep and invasive regulation of all chemicals throughout our society. It’s the anti-chemicals crowd behind the cadmium panic. Mr. Waxman’s big goal is the reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Arguably, the CPSIA is the opening shot in his TSCA battle, which explains his utter intransigence in the face of well-documented catastrophes caused by the CPSIA. Cadmium is perfect for that purpose, especially since no one seems to understand the nature of the threat. Just mention cadmium and “bone softening” and the media and politicians melt.
Anyhow, I was wondering how cadmium became so scary. I realize that cadmium is dangerous under certain limited circumstances – but so are many other things that Americans like to use, such as fire, water . . . and guns. It is obviously time for some research. To help you out, I have provided many useful links below. The history of cadmium is VERY revealing. Here’s what I found out:
The discovery of cadmium came long after Rachel Weintraub and Henry Waxman attended school. Back in the olde days when they were educated, the Periodic Table had a different look:
In those days, when chemistry teachers taught the periodic table, position 48 was known as Puppy Dogs. Chemistry instructors typically explained that this element was responsible for sunshine, candy, love and (of course) puppy dogs. Everything that was good and sweet in our idyllic lives were attributable to Puppy Dogs. Element 48, also known as “Smiley Face”, was always the element children liked best. Most lessons were taught staring dreamily out the window at the playground, watching small children frolic and play. Puppy Dogs was good stuff.
The role of Puppy Dogs in our lives and the American Way was a foundation belief in the scientific community for many years.
Later, science took a dark turn. In 2007, scientists in Congress discovered to their horror that lead (Pb) was not only present on the periodic table just two squares away from Puppy Dogs but that lead was a contaminant in certain consumer products. At this time, science had not advanced far enough for Congressional scientists to know that lead has been on the Earth since creation and is found in everything including our food, water and air. Once Congressional scientists were able to detect trace levels of lead in consumer products, a specialist in the Top Secret Congressional Skunk Works connected the dots – “What about kids? If they play with Puppy Dogs, it’s just two squares away from LEAD!” This is what prompted passage of the CPSIA.
Am I being too science-y? Sorry.
As you know, science marches on and in a very recent 2010 development, scientists at the Consumer Federation of America, led by Rachel Weintraub, and at the CPSC discovered that Puppy Dogs was actually NOT the 48th element. After urgent research into how sunlight was created if not by Puppy Dogs, cadmium was discovered accidentally when someone pulled on their earlobe while deep in thought.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about this Nobel Prize winning discovery:
“Cadmium is a chemical element with the symbol Cd and atomic number 48. Cadmium represents a low point in American science education. In a little known provision of the “Treaty of the Meter” signed by the United States in 1878 signalling the promising beginning of the metric movement in our country, the 48th position of the periodic table was deemed to be a Smiley Face and called “Puppy Dogs”. American science, never questioning this regulation, eventually traced the origins of sunshine and love back to this phantom element. In early 2010, scientists at the U.S. House of Representatives noticed that lead (Pb) was located near Puppy Dogs on the periodic table, and in a rapid series of science-y experiments, determined that Puppy Dogs was actually a soft, bluish-white metal chemically similar to the two other metals in group 12, zinc and mercury. Frighteningly, experiments have determined that cadmium, if dumped into a river in massive quantities as mining run-off over a period of decades, will cause bone softening in nearby populations (“Ouch-Ouch Sickness” is also known as one of the Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan).”
So that brings you up-to-date on cadmium, bone softening and toxicity. I hope this helps you understand why your Congress and the CPSC are trying to save you from dangerous cadmium. Apparently, you need a lot of “saving”. In my case, I am just going to stop drinking from rivers downstream from WWII mining operations in Japan. That should probably be enough protection for me.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Cadmium Crisis Explained
June 3, 2010 by Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles
I have been tossing and turning about zippers ever since the April 29 House hearing. Perhaps you recall Steve Levy’s demonstration of why thousands of pairs of pants and jeans were thrown away under the CPSIA to make you so much safer. As you know, you can’t place a price tag on safety. Burn, baby, burn.
In response to questions by Ranking Member Whitfield, Steve Levy discussed lead in zippers at about the 47 minute mark in the testimony video. He noted that zippers are made of five to seven components, one of which has been found to have trace lead amounts in excess of current limits. The component in question is not accessible (it’s sewn into the crotch of the pant) but since the CPSC can reach the component with a probe, it is considered violative. Fabric is not considered a “barrier” to access under CPSC rules. Bummer, that’s thousands of pairs of pants into the garbage.
Self-appointed “Safety Czarina” Rachel Weintraub was quick to object to the horrors of Mr. Levy’s jeans: “The problem is, unfortunately, that children mouth zippers all the time. You know I have three young children. My oldest child who is almost six, he mouths zippers as well. . . . The problem is that children interact with clothing in dynamic ways.” This Rachel-speak is the version of “common sense” that imbues the CPSIA. Perhaps you recognized the valuable insights.
Whoa! Children are so “dynamic” with their clothes, this little zipper could be zapping IQ points every day. Wow. I am quite a worrier as you know, so I have been fretting about zippers almost non-stop for a month. After all, we clothed our children in pants with zippers since they were born (many years ago). I can’t detect any missing IQ points in my kids, but of course, I am not nearly as smart as Rachel Weintraub or the other safety zealots perhaps as a result of my wearing jeans to this very day. Still, I could not ignore Rachel’s serious warning but needed to better understand the danger.
So we asked a four-year-old volunteer to suck on his jeans zipper. Here’s what happened. Don’t worry, no IQ points were killed or harmed in the making of this video.
WARNING: The following video contains dramatic footage of a four-year-old attempting to suck on his jeans zipper. Such graphic footage may not be appropriate for everyone. Please think carefully about watching the video if you are a member of a consumer group.
Read more here:
CPSIA – Fear of Zippers