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CPSIA – NAM Letter Pounds the CPSIA Database

March 8, 2011

Mr. Todd A. Stevenson
Office of the Secretary
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Room 502
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814

Dear Mr. Stevenson:

The National Association of Manufacturers respectfully requests the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC” or “Commission”) to 1) reconsider aspects of its final rule on the Publicly Accessible Database (“Database’),1 and 2) continue for at least three months the “Soft Launch” phase of the Database to allow the Commission and affected business users to address operational and administrative flaws identified in the “Soft Launch” to date.

On January 21, 2011 the Commission announced a “Soft Launch” to test procedures and processes to implement the database requirements, as interpreted by the Commission in its final rule. As the official Database launch date approached, companies have registered or attempted to register to participate in the Database. A total of 723 registrant companies were reported in testimony to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade on February 17, which is only a fraction of companies manufacturing or importing consumer products in the United States. In addition, due to reported technical problems only a few preliminary “reports of harm” (as defined in the CPSC’s Final Rule on the Database) have now been able to be subject to completed processing. NAM has similarly sought information from manufacturers, importers and private labelers on experiences and problems encountered during such soft launch.

Based upon surveys of manufacturer experience, the following have been discovered to be problems which must be addressed by the Commission prior to final launch of the database:

1. Manufacturers with different divisions and brands among different product lines have indicated an inability on the part of CPSC staff to timely register multiple parties within such corporations. It is important to both the CPSC and manufacturers that the system allow for the assignment of adequate identifiers to permit review and comment on the material inaccuracy of filed complaint data within the database in a timely fashion as required by the final rule, minimizing duplicative filings for multiple corporate entities within a broader organization and allowing for streamlined communications between businesses and the CPSC. The difficulty in registering by brand/product line/division and the slow or incomplete response by the CPSC to registration raises troubling questions about the promised flow of information between the CPSC and registered companies.

2. A number of manufacturers, importers and private labelers have reported that reports not directly involving “Harm” (an express precondition to processing and posting) have contaminated the Database. Some respondents report that as many as 30% of the complaints forwarded were not adequately scrubbed to assure that they involve “harm,” as defined by law, as an express precondition to processing and posting within the database. Other respondents indicate that some claims are simply conjecture based on a review of Internet postings or product listings on a website. Such unresolved errors can undermine the integrity and purpose of the Database.

3. Licensors have indicated that they have received reports that are materially inaccurate since they involve products for which they are not the manufacturer, importer or private labeler, but which have been identified as suitable for posting. This has occurred notwithstanding a response from licensors verifying that they have been falsely identified as the manufacturer, importer or private labeler of the product, when they are not. The challenge to accurately identify the responsible party is apparently not being met by the filers, and these inaccuracies are not currently being rectified by the CPSC staff.2

4. Manufacturers, importers or private labelers have indicated that they have received reports of harm identifying an incident as involving their product that did not in fact involve their product, so were materially inaccurate, and advised CPSC of this fact. They have not received return affirmative confirmation that CPSC staff will not post such false claims in the database. CPSC staffers have indicated they may not possess the resources to adequately scrub the database to avoid posting upon such notification. This is contrary to the express direction of Congress that materially inaccurate information with the potential for irreparable reputational harm be vetted prior to posting. This is essential to fundamental fairness. Although the Commission has sought to transfer the burden of proof to manufacturers, it cannot do so once a claim is made that such data is false or materially inaccurate. The Commission can assure the public during an extended soft launch that no such harm occurs.

5. Registrant businesses also report that the completed complaint forms they received often omitted necessary data such as the model, serial number, date of manufacture or date/tracking code information (required by law to be contained on many products, including specifically children’s products) so as to better identify the products alleged to be involved with the potential for harm. The absence of this critical data makes such reports unverifiable, which can result in unfair damage to the reputation of products, brands and manufacturers.

6. The Commission’s decision in the final rule to define the term “consumer” very broadly appears contrary to the intent of Congress, and will result in the potential for multiple reports of harm involving the identical incident. This will result in public confusion about the potential extent of any possible harm and will result in the inclusion of reports based on second-hand information without the possibility of verification. Experience with paper-based reporting demonstrates that often multiple products are erroneously cited as related to reported injuries without an actual causative connection. This results in misidentification and duplication of reports, which must be avoided in the Database.

While the NAM supports a product incident database serving consumers’ need for accurate product information, we do not believe a poorly-functioning database serves the public interest. Based upon the foregoing, we respectfully request and petition the Commission to reconsider the final rule and extend the “Soft Launch” for a period of three months, so as to enable its staff to implement the statutorily mandated Database in accordance with the conditions imposed under statute and the Commission’s own regulations.

To ensure the accuracy of information submitted to the database, we specifically ask that the Commission reconsider, under its final rule, the expansive definition of “consumer” and “public safety entities” that include attorneys, investigators, or other agents of a consumer and consumer advocates, individuals who work for NGO’s, consumer advocacy organizations and trade associations. Additionally, we ask the Commission to reconsider its provisions for review of claims of materially inaccuracy and its decision not to withhold potentially inaccurate information from publication until it makes a final determination of its accuracy. Last, we ask that the Commission reconsider any provisions or sections of its rule that prevent it from effectively implementing Congressional intent or its stated aims to ensure timely review and processing of database submissions and to ensure the accuracy of its contents.

Sincerely,

Rosario Palmieri
Vice President
Infrastructure, Legal and Regulatory Policy
The National Association of Manufacturers

1 75 Fed. Reg. 76832-76872 (December 9, 2010).

2 According to the CPSC, firms receiving notice of a report of harm that incorrectly identifies them as the responsible manufacturer or private labeler of a product that immediately informs the Commission of such misidentification can reasonably expect the CPSC to stop the 10 day clock for publication of the report in the Database. If the recipient of the report of harm is not the manufacturer or private labeler, the Commission can decide not to post the report either because it is materially inaccurate or because it has determined that the report of harm is missing one of the minimum requirements for publication. CPSC staff has noted that given its experience with the incident reporting system, it recognizes that consumers may misidentify the product manufacturer or private labeler. Such claims of material inaccuracy generally are resolved quickly and easily if the receiving firm provides sufficient information. Staff further notes that Firms have an incentive to immediately report errors to prevent reports of harm from being published in the Database that misidentify them as the manufacturer or private labeler. This underscores the importance of an accurate registration system that allows businesses to be identified and to quickly get reports of harm to relevant business contacts within the company so that a response can be provided. The CPSC has not yet defined what information will be deemed “sufficient” to block publication, leaving manufacturers, importers and private labelers to guess on how to deal with inaccurate identification of their products or brands in database filings.

Read more here:
CPSIA – NAM Letter Pounds the CPSIA Database

CPSIA – Congressional Hearing Testimony

The hearing held yesterday by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade can be watched at this link. I will be posting snippets from this video soon if you want to wait to watch highlights.

Testimony of the participants:

Panel 1
The Honorable Inez Tenenbaum
Chairman, Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Honorable Anne Northup
Commissioner, Consumer Product Safety Commission

Panel 2

Ms. Jolie Fay
Founder, Skipping Hippos; Secretary, Handmade Toy Alliance

Mr. Wayne Morris
Vice President, Division Services, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers

Mr. Rick Woldenberg (oral testimony and written testimony)
Chairman, Learning Resources, Inc.

Ms. Nancy A. Cowles
Executive Director, Kids In Danger

Read more here:
CPSIA – Congressional Hearing Testimony

CPSIA – What Can We Learn From the Toyota Debacle?

It was about one year ago when the Federal government went into overdrive in trashing Toyota, a widely admired and reputable company, for its apparently defective automotive accelerator mechanism. I say “apparently” because our fearless leaders in government reached that conclusion that Toyotas were defective based on hasty conclusions and a document review . . . but no scientific research. This is hardly a shock. I have previously observed that manufacturing a dangerous public enemy in an election year is quite helpful to members of Congress – after all, we need to be reminded who’s working so hard to save us.

A quick reminder: the CPSIA was passed in August 2008. Oh my gosh, that’s right before a national election!

The drive to jump on board and bash Toyota was overwhelming. Recalling Joe Biden’s helpful 2009 advice to not fly or take the subway because of a swine flu outbreak, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood warned Americans to stop driving Toyotas in a Congressional hearing last year. You can’t be TOO safe! Think of the impact on the company and its brand. Yesterday he announced Toyotas “are safe to drive“. Oops. . . .

Not to be outdone, Rep. Henry Waxman, the man principally responsible for being subject to the CPSIA without amendment now almost three years later, torched the company for its supposed misdeeds in his opening statement at his committee’s hearing on February 23, 2010. What did Toyota do wrong? Well, he says the “defect” in their cars had to be in the newfangled electronics in the accelerator mechanism. Callous Toyota didn’t look at the electronics, Mr. Waxman contends. Instead, he said “There is no evidence that Toyota . . . took a serious look at the possibility that electronics defects could be causing the problem . . . . Toyota had three responses: first, blame the driver; second, blame the floor mat; third, blame a sticky gas pedal. And NHTSA, without doing any meaningful independent review, accepted Toyota’s recommendations.”

Clearly NHTSA needed David Strickland to fix everything and make us all so safe – he did such a great job on the CPSIA!

Ironically, Mr. Waxman was pretty clairvoyant that day. NHTSA (under David Strickland’s guidance) concluded yesterday that Toyota’s purported three “responses” were the right explanations for the sudden acceleration problem. See the WSJ article linked above. Hmmm. Mr. Waxman carried on to warn Toyota that “safety must start coming first” (implying that Mr. Waxman’s judgment on auto safety is superior to Toyota’s) and concluded that “ultimately . . . addressing this problem will require legislation.”

I feel another CPSIA flashback coming on . . . .

The Toyota feeding frenzy even swept up our own Chairman Tenenbaum who couldn’t resist pointing the finger, too: “A new Commission that has new powers – and we are not afraid to use them. If you resist our efforts to recall children’s products, be forewarned, this Commission stands ready to be creative in the use of our enforcement authorities. As the Toyota experience has shown in recent weeks, this government will not allow for delay in recalling dangerous products.” No delay whatsoever – even to figure out if they are actually dangerous! Didn’t McDonald’s recall safe Shrek glasses “out of an abundance of caution” at the request of the CPSC? Toyota was quite inspiring, I guess.

To put a bow on the conclusion of this comedy of errors, Public Citizen (the consumer group purporting to “protect” you in the CPSIA saga, too) asserts that the government’s Toyota study is not “convincing”. I have previously explained why folks like Public Citizen will NEVER give up the ghost here. There is probably nothing that could convince them that they were wrong in the first place. After all, that’s pretty de-legitimizing. We certainly can’t have that! Think AAP on lead.

Blamestorming in Congress, jumping to conclusions based on a media frenzy, little hard information and a lot of political drum banging? Brandishing the blunt force of excessive government power to beat a company senseless? Toyota is one of the largest companies in the world. Imagine if this excessive power were taken against a small business? Imagine . . . .

As I said last year, the Toyota feeding frenzy is what we have been subject to, now for three years, in the sad CPSIA debacle. At a Congressional hearing next week when I may face the same legislators who took Toyota down – for no good reason – I must again defend our right to conduct business responsibly without the intrusion of government into everything we do. Having written a law to keep children “safe”, Congress is quite reluctant to admit their error and admit that we can keep kids safe without being told how to do it. The basic reason is that they can’t acknowledge that kids weren’t at risk from lead BEFORE the law. It’s easier for them to ruin our businesses than to do the right thing.

Just to be clear, it is absolutely irrefutably clear that the agents for change here are the Republicans and the opponents to remaking the CPSIA into something workable and sensible are the Democrats. As I have stated before, Democrats in the Senate are still working to block change. They are like Public Citizen – NO possible data can convince them.

Will Congress ever admit that the definition of Children’s Product is too broad, that the scope of ages covered by the CPSIA is damaging to our markets, that we are over-regulating extremely minor or unreal risks while ignoring big risks (thereby actually making children LESS safe), that the rising (risen?) specter of liability is having a very negative effect on the conduct of business, that the encouragement of rabid enforcement at the CPSC has created an environment of mindless and uncompromising rule following (creating many starkly unfair results and ruining the reputation of a proud agency accustomed to doing good), and so on? That’s a good question.

Tune in next week and see for yourself!

Read more here:
CPSIA – What Can We Learn From the Toyota Debacle?

CPSIA – Component Testing Rule Comment Letter

August 3, 2010

Todd A. Stevenson
Director, Office of the Secretary
Room 820
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, Maryland 20814

Agency: Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)

Re: Docket No. CPSC–2010-0037 Conditions and Requirements for Testing Component Parts of Consumer Products.

Dear Mr. Stevenson:

I am hereby submitting comments in response to the Solicitation of Comments on the Conditions and Requirements for Testing Component Parts of Consumer Products (Docket No. CPSC–2010–0037) published in the Federal Register on May 20, 2010 (the “Proposed Rule”).

This request for comments comes after, among other things, a two-day workshop held at the CPSC on December 10-11, 2009. Our company incurred the expense of sending three people (all panelists on multiple panels) to attend this “sold out” event which was purportedly to solicit stakeholder feedback on this rule and the so-called “15 Month Rule” (also up for comment today). There is little evidence from the Federal Register that any of our feedback was taken or possibly even heard. I have lost track of how many comment letters I have filed, panels or hearings I have appeared at and essays or letters I have written about the CPSIA and these issues. So far, my comments have added up to . . . nothing. Nevertheless, I am filing this letter in the vain hope that perhaps this will be my lucky day and you may listen to me, finally.

I would like to make some general comments first.

a. Some Positives in the Proposed Rule. I am in favor of the concept of component testing and applaud the Commission for taking steps to make it a reality, however flawed. In addition, I am also enthusiastic about composite testing. Regrettably, however, the devil is in the details.

b. CPSC Data Demonstrates that Risk is Low, so the Proposed Rule does not Need to be so Strict. I have analyzed the recall data published on the CPSC website and determined that from 1999 – 2010, the CPSC can account for ONE DEATH and THREE ASSERTED INJURIES from lead or lead-in-paint. If the goal of these rulemakings is to reduce deaths and injuries from lead, then these data must be borne in mind. With so few incidents involving lead injury of any kind in children’s products (less than occurs on AN AVERAGE DAY from swimming pools and spas in the U.S.), there is no justification for building such an ornate rule for something simple and logical like component testing or composite testing. Likewise, incidents of fraud in testing are equally infrequent and in any event, already addressed by other statutes. Congress did not require this complicated regulatory scheme, and the data cannot justify it.

c. The Proposed Rule Puts Compliance First, Before Safety. This rule seems to place a very high emphasis on the need to comply, as opposed to the need to make children safer. One is not necessarily the equivalent of the other. My favorite example is our company’s record of compliance. Founded in 1984, our company has recalled a grand total of 130 pieces in its history, all recovered, out of perhaps one billion pieces sold. Not bad. Were we to meet the myriad requirements of this rule, I cannot fathom that our products would be safer. Does all that extra compliance benefit anyone? It certainly will cost a lot (we pay, you don’t). As I read your rule, I wondered why you didn’t list the wire transfer instructions for the top testing companies. You might as well . . . . Still, the casual waste of our resources cannot make anyone safer – they were already completely safe.

Safety is the reason the CPSC exists. This document fails because it confuses the desire to powerfully enforce the CPSIA with actually making people safer. The only thing that may be accomplished is business death for many companies, principally small ones. Swashbuckling enforcement may make great headlines but no one will be any safer. Compliance is not safety.

d. Science Has Apparently Been Rendered Moot at the CPSC. While I accept that Congress has banned certain phthalates in toys, I do not accept that the ban is a SCIENTIFIC CONCLUSION. It is legislation, not science. Notably, the CPSC has twice investigated phthalates and held that phthalates were safe in toys. Yet, on page 28213 in the Federal Register, the Proposed Rule discusses the “risk” presented by a product that might have a violative concentration of phthalates in a component, but with an overall concentration that wouldn’t violate the ban. It goes on to assert that a component-based rule is “more protective of human health”, as though the agency had reached the scientific conclusion that phthalates were dangerous – which is not true. Re-characterizing the legislative ban as an assessment of “risk” may appear to legitimize your rule, but it is certainly not an accurate statement of the historical position of the agency. I object to the rule’s equating of a ban by politicians to a scientific judgment. Science is under enough assault without the stamp of approval of the CPSC announcing its death.

My specific comments on this proposal:

1. Component Testing Looks Better Than It Is. I wish I felt we (or anyone else) would use component testing extensively in the future. There are several reasons why this option will be of little use to anyone, particularly the small companies that it was intended to benefit. [Companies with enough scale may find the Proposed Rule useful – one of the many ironies of the CPSIA is that its principal beneficiaries may be the companies that prompted its passage.]

a. Limited Market Availability for Component Certificates. While some high volume components of children’s products may quickly be tested to meet these requirements, many other kinds of components are not likely to be tested:

i. Low volume components
ii. Components made in small lots
iii. Components made by small suppliers (many fabrics)
iv. Components which derive only a tiny percentage of revenues from regulated products or which principally cater to other industries (e.g., paper clips or aluminum foil in a science kit)

Unfortunately, it appears to me that the logic of this rule is that if we can be certain that some certificates will be widely available (e.g., paint, plastic pellets), therefore all other certificates will be available. That’s plainly ridiculous.

b. Complexity. The subdividing of compliance testing into component parts and the whole, some tests done on parts and some on the whole, with tests of varying dates substituting from time to time, is simply a mindboggling mess. I cannot imagine that this can be successfully managed on any scale (how many products need to take advantage of this rule before test reports develop big and inconsistent holes?). And how will retailers be able to interpret this patchwork quilt of tests? This scheme will be self-defeating on all levels.

Add to this the requirement that components need to be traceable, and you basically rendered the component testing opportunity moot. Of course, I am presuming that industry will take your rules seriously. To me, it’s completely inconceivable that anyone will build your traceability system. [Traceability will not raise revenues, only mindless complexity, and as noted above, cannot conceivably improve safety.] If you take these rules seriously, you will cry, laugh/scream – or walk away. The paperwork required for this exercise is well beyond almost all companies’ capabilities. [Does the CPSC have ANY tangible evidence that its requirements can be met by anyone . . . other than Mattel and Wal-Mart? Presumably, no one at the agency living in the real world thinks that traceability rules can be met by the typical Handmade Toy Alliance member, or other small businesses like ours.]

c. Unrealistic Expectations on Manufacturing Control and Traceability. To take advantage of this rule, a manufacturer must take responsibility at the sub-micro-level for manufacturing quality. Let’s recall for a moment that we are not making drug treatments here, nor are we building the Space Shuttle. We are making simple plastic toys and games, children’s shoes, pens, shirts, books, educational materials and so on. Consider this instruction from your new rule: “The manufacturer must exercise due care that the manufacturing process does not add a prohibited chemical from an untested source, such as the material hopper, regrind equipment, or other equipment used in the assembly of the finished product.” Our company has several hundred vendors producing thousands of SKUs – do you honestly believe we could possibly manage how all these independent companies wash out their molding machines or manage their regrinding operations? Is this some kind of sick joke?

By the way, this verbiage will end the use of recycled materials in children’s products. This is completely unjustified for safety reasons and is certainly very unfriendly to the environment. As noted above, your agency’s responsibility is to manage safety. You have no basis in fact for asserting that these theoretical sources of lead are or could constitute a public safety risk.

d. Liability Risk. The Proposed Rule goes to great length to ram home the message that all the risk is on our shoulders. The monotonously repetitive use of the term “due care” throughout this document makes abundantly clear that the CPSC is perfecting a myriad of claims to be made against any and all manufacturers of children’s products when it suits the purpose of the agency. Many of the claims may be perfected with the agency’s 20-20 hindsight. The Proposed Rule minces few words on this preservation of rights: “The above information is needed so that, if noncomplying products are found, the Commission can use this information to determine whether a finished product certifier, component part certifier, or third party conformity assessment body is not complying with the appropriate requirements.” Under the Proposed Rule, even a missing piece of paper can be the basis of charge of failed due care. A fear of criminal charges seems realistic.

Will aggravating letter writers be the first to suffer under this hammer? The answer is – it’s entirely up to YOU under your rule. Small companies will see how the deck is stacked against them and steer far from the component testing option (if they understand the obtuse wording of the rule).

2. If Few Companies Can or Will Use Component Testing, Has the Agency Provided “Relief”? Of course, the answer is NO. The Proposed Rule may look like good policy, but if the practical impact of the rule is that few people can or will take advantage of it, it is simple window-dressing. The impact on small businesses, exemplified by the well-known and sympathetic Handmade Toy Alliance, will be severe. They are not the only ones in need of help, either. If small companies like HTA members cannot take advantage of these rules in large part or would be too scared to take a chance in the face of the awesome display of governmental power in the rule’s terms, then they will suffer and shrink. I would note that the Notice on the “15 Month Rule” explains how a failure to protect small companies could play out badly (see “Caveats and Possible Market Reactions to Third Party Testing Requirements” on page 28358). Those negative impacts could result from a failure of policy here, too.

3. Maintenance of Records for the Life of a Product Plus Five Years Is Unduly Burdensome (Not to Mention Pointless). Please consider our case: We still produce certain items from our original product line in 1984. Clocks don’t go out of style in education, even if Tickle Me Elmo and Furby last only one year. The requirement that we must retain records for the life of the product plus five years could theoretically be forever in our case. Perhaps the CPSC can provide us free unlimited warehouse space for all these records. In any event, our case also makes clear how pointless this requirement is. We have only had one recall in 26 years, which we successfully administered without the assistance or guidance of the thousands of pages of rules and legislations that befell us under the CPSIA. How, precisely, will decades of records improve the public weal in OUR case? Your rule is very good at spending our money, our resources and our time, but doesn’t make a reasoned connection to safety in any way. We are not Mattel and in any event, they don’t define the market. Had you listened to us in December 2009 at your workshop, you would know this already.

4. Composite Testing Rule for Paint LOWERS the Lead Standard to Sub-trace Levels. In yet another example of overly risk-averse rulemaking, the agency’s new composite testing rule for paints requires that lead content must never exceed that for any individual component paint in the composite. This slices the 90 ppm limit by two-thirds for a three-paint sample and by 75% for a four-paint sample. This super-stringent rule ensures that it is literally a gamble to use composite testing – so why would anyone bother? Even more bothersome, since the new policy of the agency is to impose strict liability for lead-in-paint violations, this new rule demonstrates the ascendency of the debunked notion that there is “no safe level for lead”. If the agency really wants to take this position, it should not permit composite testing for paints. Too risky . . . .

5. The Regulatory Flexibility Analysis is Flawed and Self-Justifying. The analysis justifying this Proposed Rule is a “best case” scenario, and takes none of the foregoing into account. If in fact the rule will hard or impossible to use, or will create too many legal risks or recordkeeping burdens and thus go largely unused, the reasoning in this section will be completely inapplicable.

6. The Burden of Recordkeeping is FAR GREATER than Asserted in the Proposed Rule. At our company, we produce about 1500 “catalog” items and several thousand other SKUs and custom products through a network of hundreds of factories in various countries. We do not control these factories – they are generally family businesses like our company, and are independent of us. Typically, we provide only a small share of annual revenue of any of our factories and thus have limited leverage over their business practices. Like many small businesses, we have a very limited infrastructure in place to supervise factories “on the ground”, although it is worth noting that our safety record indicates that our business methods have worked well for more than two decades.

To implement the recordkeeping set forth in this rule, I estimate that we would have to spend $50,000 – $100,000 in software development expenses to store and manage the desired records. In addition, we would need to expand our staff significantly. To reach out to all of our factories, negotiate and monitor many new business practices, will take a significant increase in staff. I posit that we would need to open an Asian office with as many as 5-10 local employees. A Chinese office would cost us at least $500,000 per annum. In addition, we would have to increase our clerical and management staff in the U.S. to help with data input, software management, project management, audits, vendor relations and general management. This would cost us at least $250,000 per annum. We anticipate that this intrusion on the business practices of our vendors would cost us business relationships and would lead to significant cost increases. The total cost of these disruptions would add another $500,000 or more per annum. It is not inconceivable that we ALONE could incur annual expenses of $1.5 million and certainly at least 10 man-years of labor (more than 20,000 hours) to comply with these rules. There are THOUSANDS of companies affected by this rule. We estimate that the assessment of cost and man-hours in the Paperwork Reduction Act section of the Proposed Rule is LOW by a factor of 100x-5,000x.

I would suggest that this rule be greatly simplified by making the following changes:

a. Eliminating the Requirement for Traceability Recordkeeping. As noted above, this ornate rule architecture is completely inappropriate for the minimal, almost non-existent threat, demonstrated by the CPSC’s own injury data. Recordkeeping requirements should minimized or dropped altogether.

b. Encourage the Exercise of Business Judgment. The presumption that only the CPSC (or Congress) can make sound judgments when considering safety issues is simply not supported by the data. Again, our company is a good example of that – we scrupulously maintained our safety record without the CPSC’s oversight, coercion or even encouragement since 1984. The concept of “business judgment” is well-defined in U.S. common law and has real meaning under the law. I think the concept of using components supported by GCCs is simple enough. Given that the restrictions on lead are clear under the CPSIA, why not let businesses exercise their judgment on how to meet those requirements and then measure them on their success in doing so? What is to be gained by inserting the CPSC into all aspects of how we conduct business? We were doing just fine before you arrived on the scene.

Given the few lead injuries noted in the CPSC’s historical data, the agency could save its scarce resources and remain effective as a safety administrator by focusing on known safety issues and incidents and leave the vast majority of law-abiding and safety-conscious companies ALONE. The data suggests that higher and higher mountains of regulations will never reduce injuries from the historically miniscule levels documented on the CPSC website.

c. Allow Composite Testing Using the Overall Concentration as the Pass/Fail Measure. Again, this is justifiable based on the historically minimal risk posed by the regulated substances. The already low lead levels specified in the CPSIA have not reduced injuries or deaths from the negligible levels that predated it. Since the number of recalls is so dramatically affected by agency policy (e.g., strict liability or not, how recalls are accounted for, etc.), the only reliable measure of the effectiveness of policy is injuries. Composite testing holds the promise of real savings to the many law-abiding companies affected by the CPSIA. Loosen the noose and they may actually save some money.

Component testing can be a simple and effective way to lower costs, but a different approach is necessary to get to that result. A sharp reconsideration of the Proposed Rule will be required to achieve this goal.

Thank you for considering my views on this important subject.

Sincerely,

Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.
380 North Fairway Drive
Vernon Hills, IL 60061

Read more here:
CPSIA – Component Testing Rule Comment Letter

CPSIA – FOIA Request re Schylling Acknowledged 6-11-10

U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION
4330 EAST WEST HIGHWAY
BETHESDA, MD 20814

June 11, 2010

Mr. Richard Woldenberg
Learning Resources, Inc.
380 North Fairway Drive
Vernon Hills, IL 60061

RE: FOIA Request #10-F-00738: Request copies of all documents relating to Schylling Associates, Inc. Provisional Acceptance of a Settlement Agreement and Order.

Dear Mr. Woldenberg:

This acknowledges receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and also assigns your FOIA request number.

Due to certain procedural steps we are required to take under our statute, there may be delays in providing the records. Please be assured that every effort is being made to process each request as equitably as possible, and that the records or information that you have requested will be made available to you at the earliest possible date.

If you have any questions concerning the status of your request, contact our office and provide your assigned FOIA request number.

Sincerely,

Todd A. Stevenson
Director
Office of the Secretary

Read more here:
CPSIA – FOIA Request re Schylling Acknowledged 6-11-10

CPSIA – Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week!

Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week! The CPSC this week strode bravely forth to combat pool fatalities in the United States – finally. I have written about swimming pool deaths in the past (as early as May 26, 2009 in this blog and earlier in letters to Congress). They are shocking in number. The CPSC says that deaths in pools and spas AVERAGE 385 children per year from, 2005-1007. Of this average, 299 victims were (on average) YOUNGER THAN FIVE YEARS OLD.

The childhood pool injury count is even more breathtaking. For pools, submersion injuries requiring emergency room treatment averages 4,200 children per year (47% were for two- and three-year-olds), or 46,200 projected submersion injuries to go with the projected 4,235 childhood drowning deaths over 11 years.

Whoa. This is shameful.

In the same 11-year period, CPSC recall data notes ONE death from lead and THREE injuries from lead. You read that right:

  • Pools: 4,235 drowning deaths and 46,200 injuries
  • Lead: 1 death and 3 injuries

There are no phthalates injuries on record.

The CPSIA addressed pool safety. A highly-publicized section of the CPSIA is known as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool And Spa Safety Act (the “Baker Act”). This law was implemented in response to the tragic pool drain entrapment death of the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker. The CPSC cites 11 fatalities from pool drain entrapment from 1999-2008. Over 11 years, at this rate, 12 pool drain entrapment deaths would be projected. The Baker Act dictates that pools replace their drain covers to avoid this awful risk. Not an unreasonable approach to a completely avoidable source of injury, at a relatively low cost. Good idea.

It is, however, apparent that the Baker Act does not address the overall massive risk of childhood pool drownings. Of the projected 4,235 deaths in an 11-year period, the Baker Act addresses the cause of only 12 deaths. That leaves the projected deaths of 4,223 children completely unaddressed by our ever-vigilant Congress.

Remember, according to my analysis, compliance costs for the CPSIA are about $10,000 per dollar of avoided lead injury costs. Each death is valued at $6.1 million using EPA estimates. The projected unaddressed pool drownings have a “cost” of $6.1 million x 4,223 = $25.8 Billion over 11 years. At the same rate of compliance costs incurred by the lucky companies attempting to comply with the lead rules, the pool industry would have to spend $10,000 per dollar of injury cost over 11 years, or a mere $257.6 trillion. At this rate of spend, the industry would only have to spend $23.4 trillion per annum which happens to be nearly double the projected 2010 U.S. GDP of $14.8 trillion.

But who’s counting?

And how did our Congress respond to the threat of childhood pool drownings? Surely they really threw the book at this terrible problem – it is literally thousands of times worse than lead. Ummm, well, they mandated a public awareness campaign (see Section 1407 of the Baker Act). The CPSC blitz is the effort to comply with this master plan: a press release, a new website and a “a first-of-its-kind national public education effort”. Apparently, all you need is a few ads and press releases to solve pool deaths.

Strangely, the CPSC is straying from their newly-adopted precautionary principles in this blitz. They actually recommend a strategy of “staying close, being alert, and watching children at the pool”. Huh, you’ve got to be kidding! That sounds a lot like individual responsibility. The CPSC even refers to the need for a “personal system of safety”. Being a good parent and keeping an eye on your kids is so “Old School”. I assumed that the CPSC had moved beyond such shallow advice. They would certainly never do that for lead. Of course not.

I should note that I have long considered the effort to combat pool deaths to be long overdue, so don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that the CPSC is actually doing something. Pool deaths claim WAY too many kids’ lives every year – we need to take a real threat like this very seriously. But please pardon my waves of nausea over the proportionality of the response. Pool deaths are expected to exceed 4,000 over 11 years (including more than 3,000 kids under five), and in response the CPSC puts up a new website and produces public service announcements with Olympic swimmers. Lead deaths are expected to be one or zero in the next 11 years – and we have to spend $5.6 billion every year in compliance costs.

This is terrible government in its purest form. It is indefensible and incomprehensible. I defy the Democrats to stand up and actually defend their policy positions or legislative solutions. They won’t debate the issue because it’s a total loser for them. The children’s product industry is collateral damage to the Dems’ reelection campaigns. Well, I won’t just grin and bear it. Falling on the sword for their ridiculous sound bites and reelection posturing is not how I plan to go out.

This is un-American. Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week.

Read more here:
CPSIA – Happy Pool and Spa Safety Week!