Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I finally finished, at least for now, my "story" of our fight with CPSIA. It's available at www.CurrClick.com as a free download. The names have been changed -- but the details are all too true.

Friday, January 22, 2010

CPSIA 1 Year Later

We learned about CPSIA at our shop just over 1 year ago. It's been long 12 months, I must say. There have been some temporary concessions made -- mostly in the forms of various stays for various manufacturers. But I have seen no true improvements, and certainly none for resellers. We continue to turn away numerous products that are clearly intended for children 12 and under, that we can't possibly know whether meet the new lead limits.

Most of the articles that I see are in response to the changes needed in the CPSIA, but occasionally I stumble upon one where the author seems to think that CPSIA is a good thing. This one was particularly troublesome to me: "How Art Thou Wrong, Ms. Northup? Let Me Count the Ways."

I left a rather lengthy response, but just in case my response doesn't stay there long, I decided I should post it here as well.

You were very quick to point out Ms Northup's "mistakes", while making plenty of your own:

"ALERT #1: Santa Claus doesn’t make bicycles; factory workers in China do." But this law doesn't only deal with imports, it deals with the many, safe products made by American workers.

"SPOILER ALERT #2: The law doesn’t “outlaw” zippers, hinges, and other components of kids’ products; it simply requires that they be made without lead."
No, it does not SIMPLY require that they be made without lead -- it also requires that all of those products and many, many more be TESTED to prove that they do not have lead -- testing that is very expensive, and not within the reach of many small companies, who have been making perfectly safe products for children. (Testing that is also required of products that have no risk of containing lead.)

"The law also increases CPSC’s authority to stop the import of hazardous children’s products" Again, you imply that the law only deals with imports, and only with hazardous products. Both are incorrect. Perfectly safe children’s products are being pulled from the market because of the overzealousness of this law. Many businesses, particularly smaller ones, in the United States are suffering.

"…and it bans the resale of recalled products.” Such a simple statement, that leaves out so much. First of all, it makes it dangerous for the resellers to sell much more than just recalled products. If it is a children’s product, we are expected to KNOW that it is lead-free before we sell it -- something that we cannot accurately do without expensive tests. And while banning the resale of recalled products sounds like a good idea – how are resellers to know if a product has been recalled? We run a risk with every child’s product we resell – again, causing many perfectly safe products to be pulled from the market.

“The new law is a strong and long-overdue health standard, and it is based on the scientific consensus that, where children are concerned, we should eliminate every possible lead threat.”
While eliminating every lead threat sounds like a nice goal, this law restricts lead in places that it has never been a threat – in bicycles, in ATVs, in the pages of old books – if there is lead in those places, it is not causing a threat to children, but it is banned due to CPSIA the same as in any places that it does present a risk.

“Far too many children suffered lead exposures while waiting for the new law.” Actually, the Center for Disease Control has gotten lead poisoning almost completely under control in the last decade. The vast majority of cases of lead poisoning have been from lead-in paint (banned long before CPSIA), lead-in gasoline (also banned long ago), and lead, primarily from those sources, that has leaked into the environment over the years. This law does very, very little to protect children.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

CPSIA Update

I wish I could say that my silence the last few months indicated that things had gotten better with CPSIA, but unfortunately that is not the case.

With August 10, 2009 came another CPSIA deadline that seems more determined to put businesses out of business than to protect children. Now the manufacturers of all children's products (intended primarily for children 12 and under) must label their products with tracking labels that meet the standards of the CPSIA -- labels that provide information on where the item was made, when it was made, and how it has been determined to meet the new CPSC lead and phthalate requirements. At least that is my understanding of the tracking label requirements...I was one of many who decided to stop manufacturing children's products, rather than try to jump through the new legislative hoops. (If we had figured out this August requirement, the February 2010 testing requirement would have caused us to stop manufacturing in less than 6 months.)

For our shop, that has meant the end of manufacturing several new items: baby slings, an Alphabet Fun book, and Lapbook Kits. It has been a bittersweet end to several items that had posed no risk to children, but have now been impossible to manufacture at the scale we did, according to the requirements of the CPSIA. We have already ceased the manufacturing of all of these items, and hope to have our current stock sold off completely before the February 2010 deadline makes even the existing items illegal.

Additionally, the CPSC has announced a "Resale Roundup" that seems determined to strike fear into the hearts and minds of resellers of children's products. Since the vast majority of our store's sales are actually used items -- most of which are intended for children, we have been following the resell requirements of this toxic law as closely as those for manufacturers. With the fact that the law was retroactive, much of what was on our shelves in February 2009 had to be removed, and many items that have been brought in since then have not made it to our shelves. It is tragic to see the number of books and other educational items that can no longer be bought and sold safely -- even though, again, none of them were ever shown to be dangerous...But they are now illegal.

Many of us, in and out of business, wait anxiously for Common Sense to return to Congress, the CPSC, and the manufacturing and selling of children's products.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Article: >New Safety Agency Chief Pledges Greater Openness

Today this article appeared online at Consumer Affairs:

New Safety Agency Chief Pledges Greater Openness

It didn't take long in reading this article to boil my blood! In fact, it gets right in there with its subtitle: But industry lobbyists lie in wait for Inez Tenenbaum. It is already painfully obvious where this one is heading, so let me give the perspective of one of those who "lies in wait":

Mr. Hood actually deals with the recent issues with the Chinese Drywall before he attacks those of us who have been taking on the CPSIA. But right in the intro to that section, he claims: "Among the issues facing Tenenbaum are Chinese drywall and pressure from industries and retailers hoping to win exemptions from the Children's Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), passed last year in response to a wave of recalls of toys and children's products containing dangerous levels of lead."

Assumption number one here is that this "wave of recalls" is of dangerous products containing "dangerous levels of lead". And one can't help but hear the disgust in his voice as he says that we are giving Ms. Tenenbaum "pressure from industries and retailers hoping to win exemptions..." Oh, shame on us, the child-endangering retailers and industries who would pressure her for exemptions so that we can continue to make and sell our unsafe products.

But wait, he hasn't really fully attacked yet. Wait until the section on Children's Books where he accuses us even more directly: "In what is perhaps a more bizarre situation, small retailers, thrift shops and charities are claiming they should be exempt from the CPSIA's restrictions, which are meant to protect children from mental retardation that can result from exposure to lead..."

So let me see if I have this straight. As a reseller, who is trying to get an exemption from the ridiculous restrictions of the CPSIA, I am willing to risk causing mental retardation to my smallest customers, because I am putting my profit margin above their safety. What utter hogwash!

But then he goes all out: "The protestors don't argue that lead is not harmful or that children are not at risk, they simply contend it is too much trouble for them to comply with the law." Excuse me! Where does Mr. Hood get his "facts"? We do argue that children are not at risk from the used books that we sell, or from the many other wonderful educational products that we can no longer sell. It is not that it is "too much trouble"! It is the simple fact that children are NOT safer because of the requirements of this law.

And for the final zing to booksellers and librarians who are arguing for the exemption of their very safe products (otherwise known as books), he adds: "And why is that, one might ask? After all, numerous children's books have been recalled because they contain dangerous levels of lead-based paint, objects that can come loose and cause choking in infants and other hazards. For example..."

No, Mr. Hood, "numerous" children's books have not been recalled, not when you consider the numbers of books in circulation. And the examples that he uses are not "ordinary books" at all -- every one of them is outside the realm of "ordinary books" and yet he is arguing that our perfectly safe product, children's books (as well as many other safe products made with ink and paper) need to be submitted to the same tests and restrictions of other products that have at least some track record of risk. (Though none of them have caused the types of problems that could be guessed from the hysteria about the "need" for the CPSIA!

It is a shame that Mr. Hood has provided no avenue for comments, or method for being reached...One can only hope that his next article dealing with the Consumer Product Safety "Improvement" Act is better researched and better written than this one.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Toy Story -- Another Annoying Author Weighs in on CPSIA

This article appeared online last winter in the Washington Monthly:
Toy Story: Does the reform of a small agency herald the return of competent government oversight?

When I started reading the article, I was actually thrown off as to the author's real position, when he started: "In late July, when the presidential race was a dead heat and the country’s banks were not yet nationalized, Congress—opposed by just four Republicans—quietly voted for the return of big government." When I hear "return of big government", I think negative thoughts, so I mistakenly thought at this point that the author was against the passage of the CPSIA.

He cleared up my misunderstanding quickly. Well, maybe not so quickly. First he went through the history of the CPSC for several paragraphs. And then his true position on the law finally came out, or maybe he didn't mean these section the way it comes across to me, someone who has been fighting the CPSIA for many months now.

I sent the following letter to the Washington Monthly today in response to it:

I probably found out about the CPSIA law last winter about the same time this article was written, but I just now encountered it. I hope it is not too late to comment on it.

I was curious as to whether or not Mr Blake has done any additional research on the effects that this law is having on companies -- this law that he so eloquently praised several months ago?

I hope that his comments were made in honest ignorance to what this law is really doing: "The biggest issue, however, has always been whether the president and Congress even want the CPSC to succeed. With the passage of this summer’s legislation, it seems they finally do. The new law offers a realistic approach to oversight, mandating third-party lab testing for all children’s products—a reasonable alternative to keeping tabs on the vast network of foreign supply chains or simply handing responsibility over to the companies themselves."

I hope Mr. Blake is just not familiar with what these "realistic approaches to oversight" really mean...Is he not aware of what all this third-party lab testing "for all children's products" really involves? I hope that is the case!

For one thing, he talks of "the vast network of foreign supply chains" as if that is the only group being affected by the CPSIA...No, this law also affects domestic companies...And it doesn't just affect the bigger companies...It affects ALL companies manufacturing products for children 12 and under...including those who are producing one-of-a-kind handmade and homemade items. I would love to know how Mr. Blake thinks that these testing requirements are a "realistic approach to oversight".

If he would like to do some more research on this article, he could start with the CPSC's own website. A second website he might want to check out is: www.whatisthecpsia.com.

Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Consumer Union and the CPSIA

The Consumer Union blog is weighing in on CPSIA again:
CPSC fines nine companies $530,000 for lead violations

My response to their article:
"Yes, considering the penalties that are authorized under the current CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety "Improvement" Act), these penalties are "paltry". And the crime doesn't have to be a "flagrant" violation...I can receive a $100,000 fine for having a book on my store shelves that contains too much lead - I don't even have to actually sell it, and no child has to even have the potential to be hurt by it! (Since no child has EVER gotten lead poisoning from eating a book!)

I am a mother, and I don't want to see children put at risk...But the CPSIA law does so much more than restrict products that could put children at risk...It has already made perfectly safe products illegal, and will make even more products illegal when the next two deadlines kick in.

Shame on the Consumer Union for helping Congress pass such an overreaching, outrageous law!"

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Protect Children from Congress

From Downsize DC:
"Congress has entangled the entire U.S. economy in a web of back-breaking regulation because of an isolated problem with lead contamination in Chinese products. The "Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act" could make criminals out of thrift store managers, librarians, and craft hobbyists. It will bankrupt many small businesses and grant increased market share to big firms, some of whom were responsible for the contaminated Chinese products. This new law will harm the economy, hurt low-income families, and increase the cost of raising a child. The risk of lead poisoning is already almost non-existent in the American economy. We don't need this dangerous new law. Please join me in asking Congress to repeal the "Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act."

I added my personal comments to the letter I sent through Downsize DC:
"CPSIA is hurting children, not helping them. It is not based on scientific evidence, nor common sense. Much damage has already been done by CPSIA, and the damage will continue to worsen if it is not repaired before the next major deadlines.

The presence of lead is not dangerous to children, the ingestion of lead is! And yet lead is being banned in countless places that children do not chew! And tests for it are being required in countless places that do not contain lead.

For the sake of children, please fix this law!"