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CPSIA – Amazon to Kids’ Hat Companies: Prove You’re Lead-free by August 7th

Hope your kids don’t need hats.  Perhaps you are aware that absent Congressional action, the new 100 ppm lead standard will be imposed retroactively by August 14th.  The five Commissioners have requested that this provision be applied prospectively (they made this request in January 2010) yet Congress has done nothing about it. As a matter of fact, now that you mention it, they haven’t done anything about any of the problems under the CPSIA.  I guess as Rachel Weintraub suggests, more “discussion” is needed. Anyhow, I received the below letter (excerpts are reproduced only) from a maker of children’s hats.  Anyone out there ever heard of lead poisoning from a hat?  Me, either. Nevertheless this company is subject to the stupid rules of the CPSIA for reasons best explained by Henry Waxman, and are now being required to prove up the “safety” of their hats. So how do you expect hat companies to respond to this kind of request?  Do you think they can afford the tests?  To employ the people to administer the tests, apply the tracking labels, maintain the records, deal with all the paper-pushing by their customers, pay for the lawyers, fill out the forms and so on?  I can think of several likely replies.  First, cut the product line.  Don’t waste money on testing so many hats.  Second, simplify the product line.  Remember cute hats with lots of colors?  Thing of the past.  Better snap ‘em up while you can.  Monochrome is the new rainbow.  Third, make hats for kids over 12 or for adults. Then you can sprinkle your little hats with lead to your heart’s content.  No one will care. Oh, I know, natural fibers and certain fabrics don’t need to be tested.  Yes, but my customers don’t care much for these niceties.  They want a piece of paper for the files.  If you think we test only when we have to, you are wrong.  That’s the bare minimum.  Most tests are repeated or substantially exceeded, even beyond the absurd levels required by law.  This hat company was pretty depressed by the news delivered by Amazon.  Get used to it. Or go pick up some hats right now.  If you have little kids, buy them in several sizes while you’re at it.  No time like the present. . . . Amazon Letter (excerpts): Dear Amazon Vendor: The Federal Government enacted the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (the “Act”) that, in addition to other requirements, prescribes strict limits on the content of lead and phthalates in products intended for children. New stricter limits on lead in children’s products will go into effect on August 14, 2011. This message outlines the steps Amazon will require vendors to take to confirm that their products comply with the new stricter lead limits affecting children’s products. Vendors are responsible for thoroughly familiarizing themselves with all the requirements of the Act and for tracking and complying with any regulations issued by Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Additional information on the Act is available on the CPSC website at Specific provisions of the Act discussed in this letter are for ease of reference only. Actions Required: What you need to do By July 31, 2011, each vendor must confirm and report to that all of your children’s products (i) in’s inventory, as reported to you in Vendor Central, and (ii) in transit or shipped to, will comply with applicable limits set forth in Column I. Limit:  Lead 100 ppm Effective Date of Limit per the Act:  August 14, 2011 Products shipped to Amazon must comply by:  July 31, 2011 Noncompliant products are subject to return to Vendor:  August 7, 2011 Step 1: Verify that your products are compliant with the lead content requirements going into effect on August 14, 2011. Vendors are responsible for determining whether the products they sell on are compliant with the new lead requirements.

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CPSIA – Amazon to Kids’ Hat Companies: Prove You’re Lead-free by August 7th

CPSIA – 100 ppm Vote – What They Knew and When They Knew it

What did they know and when did they know it?  The vote on 100 ppm is going on this AM, so it’s too late to do anything about the projected 3-2 vote implementing this pointless and self-destructive provision of the CPSIA.  From my perspective, having investing time and money in trying to stop this train wreck, it has been a long time since there was anything we could do about it.  It’s not our country. I have written about this provision endlessly in this space. I thought I would just put up a couple bits of info previously disclosed here for perspective on the vote. The 100 ppm lead limit vote is a vote of conscience.   The Commission knows what they are about to unleash.  I told them in no uncertain terms during my February 16th testimony : From the CPSC Staff analysis of 100 ppm : “[While] staff does not have data on potential lead exposure from products that have lead content less than 300 ppm, but more than 100 ppm, staff expects that the overall contribution of such products to lead exposure in children is minimal.” “Staff has found no intentional uses of lead in materials at concentrations at or near any of the three statutory lead limits (i.e., 100 ppm, 300 ppm, or 600 ppm). . . . Without the intentional use of lead in materials or the use of certain recycled materials, the lead content of most materials is substantially below the mandated limits.” Notably, NO consumer group has responded to my call or Congress’ call for the identities of previous victims of the “hazard” that the CPSC purports to regulate.  With no victims identified EVER ANYWHERE , the claims of benefits from this provision are spurious at best. What is the EPA’s opinion on lead in dirt ?   400 ppm in play yards and 1200 ppm elsewhere is just fine.  No word yet whether G-d, the manufacturer of dirt, has to provide comprehensive testing for compliance. What is the economic impact of this change?   The CPSC did not do a cost-benefit analysis as Obama’s Executive Order requires now, but only provided “Economic Information” (cost only, no benefit analysis): “[Bringing] products that do not currently comply with the 100 ppm limit into conformance is generally expected to result in increased manufacturing costs. . . . [Manufacturers] of children’s bicycles experienced a 20 to 25 percent increase in the costs of metallic components when the lead content limits were reduced from 600 ppm to 300 ppm. . . . Learning Resources, Inc., a manufacturer of educational materials and learning toys, said it expects a 10 to 20 percent increase in the cost of producing finished goods when the lead content limit is reduced to 100 ppm. . . . testing costs may rise . . . . Because there are limits to the reduction in profits that firms are willing and able to accept, some manufacturers are likely to reduce their selection of children’s products or exit the children’s market altogether. Some manufacturers may even go out of business. . . .” “The higher costs associated with metal components will probably result in some efforts to substitute lower cost materials. Plastics, for example, might be substituted for metal parts in some products. Some of these types of substitutions may affect the utility of the children’s products. . . . Additionally, and as noted in comments from the Handmade Toy Alliance and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, it is likely that the costs will have relatively greater consequences for smaller manufacturers and artisans, who have less bargaining power with components suppliers, fewer technical resources, smaller production runs to spread testing costs over, and smaller product lines.. . . ,There appear to be few readily available options for mitigating the costs associated with the 100 ppm content limit. . . .” Mr. Obama’s Executive Order requires the agency to make actual cost-benefit assessments of this change in law now.   I made the same call on February 16, 2011 during my testimony on 100 ppm: You can find numerous other clips from the 100 ppm hearing in posts in this space in late February or on YouTube.  You can also read my comment letter on 100 ppm.

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CPSIA – 100 ppm Vote – What They Knew and When They Knew it

CPSIA – CPSC Shows Its True Colors in the Annals of Absurdity

April 27, 2011 by Etienne  
Filed under BLOG, Featured Articles

In a move calculated to test the limits of what I can get you to believe, the CPSC last week conducted a raid in New York City to confiscate imported chocolate Easter eggs to save America from a choking hazard.

CPSIA – ICPHSO Update on CPSC Hazard ID and Reduction Efforts

Breakout session with Jay Howell and DeWane Ray.

Has 19 team members in ports of entry. Dedicated to working with Customs to ensure compliance with regulation. Looking over manifests and are focusing on problems products and “problem importers”.

Jay’s and DeWane’s department also accredits labs. This is mandated by the CPSIA. Working on rules on how to get accreditation recognition and how you can lose that accreditation. Likewise, they are starting an audit function.

RW: It’s amazing that we lived without all this until 2008. Has a single incident been revealed that justify this use of government funds? Not to my knowledge.

JH: Have 90 days to start using labs and if there are not enough labs within 90 days, the CPSC MAY stay the requirement until there are insufficient labs. Don’t want to shut down an industry.

There are more lead-in-paint labs than anything else (more than 200).

New lab update: Located in Rockville, anticipating a Spring 2010 move-in.

Heavy metals work is focused on the eight metals mentioned in ASTM F963, Looking at it from a risk-assessment standpoint. [RW: That's somewhat odd these days. One wonders what constitutes a risk now. We can only hope that professional staff will exercise the same care as in the pre-looney era to assess real risks. Otherwise, your Toxic Metals Substitution Committee better stop substituting selenium for lead. I heard about you guys!]

JH: Reminded the group that 100 ppm lead standard is mandated by law unless deemed technologically infeasible [Brace for it . . . .]

Commission is not sure there is a real phenomenon of “recall exhaustion”, meaning that the deluge of recalls has numbed consumers. Voluntary recalls are often driven entirely by the CPSC and that the CPSC doesn’t even see the product.

RW: Then again . . . .

Again, Jay seemed the voice of reasonableness. It would be great to return to an era of trust with this agency. But when?

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CPSIA – ICPHSO Update on CPSC Hazard ID and Reduction Efforts

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

CPSIA – Washington Post Notes Zealous CPSC Enforcement Actions

In today’s Washington Post, Lyndsey Layton wrote an article entitled “A Vigorous Push From Federal Regulators” in which the current enforcement approach of the CPSC is given considerable space. The Post notes the decision by the CPSC to make rhinestones illegal as an example of “getting tough” on the law. [Btw, for those of you playing along at home, the CPSC has yet to deign to call me or answer my letter on rhinestones dated September 17. I shouldn't be surprised, after all they have thousands of similar unanswered questions on their desks - what's so special about me?!]

The Post sums up the problem as follows: “‘It’s “shoot first and ask who we shot later,”‘ said Gary L. Yingling, a lawyer and pharmacist who worked for a decade in the FDA general counsel’s office and now represents companies regulated by the agency. ‘My concern is whether they’ve dotted their i’s, crossed the t’s, understand the statutory regulations and understand what the agency did yesterday. That’s a real concern.’”

Ms. Tenenbaum, from the same article: “We are enforcing the law; that’s what we do.”

Of course, the obvious problem here is that these regulators refuse to exercise judgment. They tend to hide behind their claimed responsibility to enforce the law (implying that this process must proceed without an exercise of judgment) and fail to explain or justify their use of force on any grounds rationally related to safety. Perhaps they feel this cleanses them of responsibility for their actions, as they didn’t write the law. It’s a classic bureaucrat’s excuse – don’t talk to me, I am just following orders. There is historical precedent for fearing government officials with this attitude.

Perhaps he CPSC will go on its merry way and put us all out of business, hobble a great industry and harm millions of kids by depriving them of essential products necessary to their development or preservation of their standard of living – but only YOU can stop them. The agency (which used to brag about its broad “enforcement discretion” back in the olde days at the beginning of the year) will respond to its Congressional overlords. You need to carpetbomb them with emails, calls and letters expressing your concern. Make sure to let them know how you have been victimized by the law and how it is harming kids in your community. We need to raise a holy stink if we want any chance to stopping the vigorous enforcers.

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CPSIA – Washington Post Notes Zealous CPSC Enforcement Actions

CPSIA – CPSC Recalls 40 Inflatable Bats for Phthalates

I know I am crazy, over the edge, worrying about a CPSC so hellbent on enforcing the awful CPSIA that it will chill the market and kill products and companies that are essential to those markets. I know I have a reputation . . . .

Well, consider this recall today: a California company agreed to a recall of 130 pieces of several toys, including an inflatable bat stenciled with “Home Run” on it. The bat was offensive because it violated the phthalates standard. A recall of 130 pieces spread over several toys, means that they must be recalling less than 130 pieces of the inflatable bat. So I called the company (Daiso Japan) and asked them exactly how many bats were involved – the answer? Forty. Feeling safer already?

This is a rather strict standard . . . and completely disproportionate to any conceivable risk. Phthalates do not “ooze” from toys – they must be mouthed and chewed. The CPSC knows this – their own CHAP examined this question and their own scientists participated in “chew tests”. So, in choosing to expend resources on a recall of 40 pieces of an inflatable bat that is clearly not intended or likely to be mouthed, the CPSC is imposing a strict liability standard with no apparent threshhold for recalls – one unit is enough to justify this public humiliation.

This is asinine, of course. How do you expect the business community to react to this development? Well, for one thing, they will overreact. I anticipate that our customers will demand that we prove that everything we make is phthalate-free, toy or not. This means expensive tests to prove that we have not used an additive not found in nature. [It's an ADDITIVE - it will only be there if added.] The application of this rule by the marketplace to every product, whether or not subject to the ban, means that more of our items will lose marketshare simply because we cannot afford to test them to prove we were compliant. The cull of items will accelerate.

This turn in the market will dramatically increase our costs. At this point, we have seen cost increases in the range of 12-40%. Perhaps those surcharges will fall over time, but right now, that’s a pretty hefty chunk of lost profits. The impact will be lower revenues as products are dropped and volumes decline in the face of forced price increases. Price increases in a weak market is not a winning strategy.

Another factor will be fear. Companies will look at this development, connect the dots with the penalty-happy posture of this new CPSC, and realize that any misstep is subject to dramatic punishment. They will pull into their shell – or leave the market. This is called a “chilling effect”.

And what will be achieved? Recalls of less than 130 pieces is pointless from a safety standpoint. The presence of phthalates in a toy is not tantamount to devastating injury, even if banned. The CPSC used to tout its “enforcement discretion” but apparently has no intention of using it here. Even so, the use of phthalates in a baseball bat is hard to link to injury under any rational standards – baseball bats are not teethers. Ergo, there are no rational standards. “Common sense” at the CPSC is a sound bite only and a pathetic figment of the marketers’ imagination.

Enjoy! You can thank the Congressional Democrats for all the good this is bringing to your life.

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CPSIA – CPSC Recalls 40 Inflatable Bats for Phthalates

CPSIA Video Blog: Tracking Labels and "Reasonable Judgment"

In this video, I discuss the recent Tracking Labels guidance and its use of terms like “reasonable judgment” and “good faith efforts”. No one is quite sure what these terms mean precisely, creating doubts in the marketplace on how to make those difficult “gray area” decisions

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CPSIA Video Blog: Tracking Labels and "Reasonable Judgment"