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CPSIA – What Will CPSC Hit Daiso With This Time – Nukes?

Dastardly Daiso, the hapless Japanese chain of dollar stores that probably regrets the day it first heard of the U.S., has been forced to recall yet more items. This recall, their sixth in recent years, involves five items for excessive lead. They are currently under injunction by the CPSC and the U.S. Attorney. Uh-oh.

Excessive lead in kids’ products – that sounds AWFUL, doesn’t it? In the tradition of most modern commentators, I thought I’d write this blogpost without reading the recall notice. After all, I know what it says without reading it, right? Well, at THIS blog, we have standards, you know. My editor INSISTED that I read it.

So I read it, and here are the details. You better sit down . . . the horror of it all . . . there are five items involved: one cloth purse, two pairs of earrings and two necklaces. The total number of units, across all five items, is 190 pieces, or less than 40 per item. And how did dastardly Daiso endanger kids THIS time? “The surface paint on the zippers of the coin purses and the clasps on the jewelry contain high levels of lead.” Whoa! The retail price of these items is about $1.50 each, so the total value of this recall is $285. There were no injuries reported. The CPSC put out a press release so all of America could know how safe they were.

SCIENCE TIME: The presence of lead in the zipper paint and in the clasp does not itself cause any harm. Lead is a neurotoxin, true, but lead must enter your bloodstream to do harm. And if it does manage to get in there (through inhalation of dust or through ingestion of bio-available lead), blood lead levels must rise to a certain point before any harm can possibly occur. Since we all consume lead every day in our food, water and air, the human body clearly can process some lead without harm – it does not simply accumulate. The amount (mass) of lead in these items is probably close to nil. I assert that if you chose to have a meal comprised of only the zippers and clasps from the 190 recalled units (ALL of them), you could not raise your blood lead levels high enough to do damage. AND the impact of lead in blood varies by the age of child. As the child ages, the impact from lead dramatically diminished. This is why Congress chose not to protect my blog readers – they are all adults and out of harm’s way. Lead is principally a problem for the “under 3′s”. The Daiso items are not for children under three, so the odds of harm are excruciating low. And it is utterly inconceivable that one person would eat all of the zipper paint and clasps in this minuscule recall. So, is this a public health crisis? You decide!

Back to Blog Time: Now, let’s think of Daiso and its sorry tale. They have previously been the subject of five recalls of 19 items, totally 698 units, over two years. For this series of “transgressions”, they were whacked with an injunction by the U.S. Attorney against further importing of toys (Tenenbaum: “Now the fine was large, but that wasn’t the big news . . . . We worked closely with the Justice Department on this case, and Daiso has a very high hurdle to jump over to EVER get back in the import business again”). Daiso also was hit with a “get the message” penalty of $2.05 million. This is about $1,000 per unit in penalties for items with a retail value of between $1 and $4 each. That’s gotta get your attention.

So now that Daiso has stepped across the line again, what will the CPSC do? This kind of transgression can’t go unpunished, right? Don’t we live in a society based on retribution today? [We learned it from the Taliban.] Having hit Daiso with a $2.05 million penalty last time, the agency has to set this penalty higher since Daiso obviously is so incorrigible. If the last penalty was $1,000 per unit, maybe the agency should hit them with a penalty of $100,000 per unit to get them to take our laws seriously. Darnit, they CAN’T – that exceeds the maximum penalty of $15 million. Now what?

There’s always jail time. Somebody needs to pay, of course. How can the agency ignore an offense of this scale? 190 units is unforgivable. That’s almost $300 in value! That’s like one iPhone (with a two-year phone contract). We can’t let the people be endangered like that!

They were really good at torture in the Middle Ages – maybe something gory would get Daiso’s attention this time. Capture a manager and have him/her drawn-and-quartered in the public square? The agency could webcast it! There are so many options. The agency needs to do whatever is necessary to keep American kids safe, so I certainly hope they will use their entire arsenal. Waterboarding?

Personally, I am grateful to Congress for not giving the CPSC nukes.

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CPSIA – What Will CPSC Hit Daiso With This Time – Nukes?

CPSIA – Fear of Zippers

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.

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CPSIA – Fear of Zippers