Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Congress and the CPSIA seem to have different ideas for us.
NPR's article/audio is right on on the dangers, or lack there of, of phthalates!.
"The frightening allegations helped pass the law banning phthalates. But Wind says she stands by the studies done by government researchers. 'I know that we did really good science,' she says. 'And sometimes people don't listen to the good science.'"
No, in the case of CPSIA, Congress is not listening to scientists, to the people, to consumers, to businesses, to reason...One might wonder what they are listening to?!?
Booksellers find CPSIA implementation solutions
I commented on their article (whether they will show the comment or not remains to be seen!):
"So are you saying that because of one 1947 book that tested over the limit every book printed before 1986 is a danger to our children's health and should therefore be banned!? This law is based on a fallacy -- that the very presence of lead is a danger to our children's health. No, the ingestion of lead is dangerous. And children are not chewing on their books, their clothes, their bicycles, or their ATV's.
The problems with CPSIA are not in the CPSC leadership, they are in the law. Congress wrote and voted for a very bad law, and now refuses to fix their mess. Please put pressure on them to take care of the real problems that exist, not made up ones."
Monday, March 30, 2009
With some help from a fellow tweeter, I found the link in another blog tonight: "Despite the trying times that our country had just experienced, Lincoln doesn't talk about reforming America or 'changing' it into something new. No. He talks about a rebirth of FREEDOM and a hope that a government of the people, by the people, for the people would not perish. He spoke about the lives that were lost on both sides and honored them." Very well-spoken. We need to get back to those famous words he spoke in the Gettysburg Address!
My first fax to him:
6 March 2009
Those of us in the business of making or selling children’s products do not want to endanger children. But, as a mother and a businesswoman who has already been impacted by the CPSIA law, I can’t help but think that Congress is going about this lead and phthalate issue all wrong!
Shouldn’t the proper procedure when enacting a law be to find what’s dangerous and then write a law that prohibits or limits those things? In this country, don’t we still have the premise of “innocent until proven guilty”? But CPSIA has turned all of that on its head. Now products are guilty until proven innocent.
It appears that no one took the time to determine which children’s products had been a safety issue before writing this law. So now, as a result, thousands of children’s products are being disposed of across the country – products that are primarily safe! And if the law continues as written, thousands more children’s products will cease to be made between now and the testing and certification requirements deadline of February 2010.
As a mother, I do want the products I purchase for my children to be safe. But I also understand parental responsibility. Young children have a tendency to put things in their mouths. So we keep things away from them that would not be safe for them to chew on – whether it be electric cords, medications, or their older sibling’s bicycle tires. But by time children reach 2 or 3 years of age, mouthing things has ceased to be a problem.
So, yes, there are items that should be lead free and phthalate free – those would be the toys we are purchasing for our young children, ages 3 and younger. As parents we should not be expecting that everything else in the world is safe for them to chew on.
Why was CPSIA written to include “all children’s products”? My two year old is just as likely to chew on the family furniture as her own bed…Or just as unlikely, as the case really is. And why was the age set at 12 and under? 12 years olds do not need to be protected for lead containing items, and neither do 5 year olds for that matter. Lead must be ingested to be a health problem. So let’s legislate those items that are most likely to be “ingested” – again, toys intended for children 3 and under.
I hope your committee will address the problems arising from CPSIA sooner rather than later. Parts of the law have already gone into effect and are causing economic issues across this country. Sincerely,
My 2nd fax:
You asked the CPSC this week for answers to a number of questions. As a mother and businesswoman impacted by the CPSIA law, would you also be interested in my answers to some of those?
2) …to what extent are the deadlines in the Act practicable for CPSC and industry to meet…
The deadlines are not practicable for industries to meet, particularly smaller ones. While the testing requirements were postponed until February 2010 (and we do applaud that move), the new limits of the law still went into effect last month. So, manufacturers, where presumably the safety of products could be determined, were given 12 additional months to comply with the testing and certification requirements. But retailers and resellers were not given extra time. So in many cases we have lost inventory that overnight became illegal to sell. Inventory that in most cases has never been proven to be a safety issue to anyone!
3) Does CPSC have quantitative data concerning any negative impact of the Act?
It is highly unlikely that CPSC has that data – but those of us who have been impacted certainly do. My small business has already lost $4,000 in inventory because of CPSIA (books and other educational materials that we could no longer safely sell). And I know of many others that lost much more.
4) Does CPSC have any suggestion for how to mitigate any such economic impact…
Why don’t we fix the law so that resellers are off the hook, and so that only those items which are truly dangerous are regulated…Such as toys for very small children, and cheap jewelry.
5)…About the impact of the Act on the availability of second-hand products for children, especially clothing?
Again, I’m not sure how CPSC would know that. Why don’t you ask the parents and the resellers? Several consignment shops in our area have closed completely. Most others are seriously limiting the children’s products they carry. Our used children’s items have been limited to books – we have eliminated almost all hands-on items, games, manipulatives, CDs etc. We have no way to know if they are safe (without the testing that we’re “not required” to do?!?)
6) Does CPSC believe that the age limit…is appropriate? If not, what should the age limit be?
Since lead must be ingested to become a problem, the only real issues are with children who still put things in their mouths, and the items they are most likely to put there – so if the law covered toys for children 3 and under, you would take care of the real risks, and not put so many people out of business, or at risk financially.
9)…Test results for finished “ordinary books”…
Ordinary books should be exempted from the law altogether; new and old books for all ages. Ordinary books have never been a health issue.
But my question at this point is: Shouldn’t these questions have been asked and answered long before February 10? Portions of this law have already gone into effect. Our businesses have already been penalized by this law and now you are trying to figure these things out?!?
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Does Lead Law Go Too Far? This New York article covers it well: "What do second-hand children’s clothes, kids’ dirt bikes and library books have in common? They’re all lumped together in a bill banning the sale of products that might contain trace amounts of lead."
Toxic Toys: Toy Owners Grapple with New Lead Law
In Kauai, as elsewhere, the troubles have only just begun: "Local resale business owners were surprised to learn about new federal regulations on lead-tainted products. Strict regulations are difficult and costly to enforce, according to Alison Pa, program co-director of the Ho’omana Thrift Store in Wailua. Ho’omana is a nonprofit local business with three employees and a small volunteer work force."
Also stumbled upon another blogger's view of CPSIA/upcoming tea parties, etc. If the mainstream media won't get the word out on the effects of CPSIA and other similiar legislation, we will do it for them!
As so many of us have been saying for so long, CPSIA Hurts kids, it doesn't help them!
Friday, March 27, 2009
Countless numbers of us have been petitioning Congress for the last 2 months to get them to repeal CPSIA, or at least amend this far-reaching law. Numerous hearings have been scheduled, and canceled, between those who are struggling under the weight of this law and those in Congress who refuse to budge. Finally, out of frustration, many of those in the "this law has to be fixed" groups have organized their own hearings:
This Wednesday, April 1, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. (eastern time) there is an "Amend the CPSIA" Rally in Washington, D.C. Citizens from all over the country will be gathering to address this issue. For those of us who are unfortunately unable to attend, they will have it available on streaming video on the website: www.amendthecpsia.com. We plan to watch it at CLC as part of our Government Club. And of course, you can watch it in your home, as your own Interactive Civics Lesson. There will even be a live online chat as part of the event. And they would love to hear your students' reactions afterward; you may send those to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, March 23, 2009
With today being the next deadline for the wide-sweeping Consumer Product Safety "Improvement" Act (CPSIA), I am baffled at the lack of coverage. Where is the outrage over this act -- morally and economically? Why is Congress passing a stimulus act – at the same time it is doing so much to harm the economy – small businesses in particular?
I am a small business owner who is hoping to survive the economic onslaught already caused by this bill -- and this portion just went into effect! To put this in perspective: Our average monthly sales are approximately $5,000. This weekend we had to dispose of over $4,000 worth of inventory. In one weekend, it is gone. The sad thing is, we're not even sure we have removed everything. And if we haven't, we could still be in violation of the law....We're primarily a children's bookstore, with over 3,000 square feet, and in the end we were given one business day to find and remove all of the books that had just become illegal to sell.
Why? Because Congress and the CPSC have decided that it is all of a sudden dangerous for our children to read books that were printed before 1985…books that might have small amounts of lead in the ink in their pages. The adults of today grew up reading those same books with no ill effects, but somehow our children and grandchildren might suffer if some of their books were printed before 1985.
Catherine M. Jaime
Please continue the fight against the current Stimulus Bill. Adding a trillion dollars to our national debt will not stimulate the economy.
The economy needs to recover through support of small businesses, not this type of pork spending.
Please help small businesses, large businesses, and the economy in general by supporting Senator DeMint's CPSIA replacement.
Thank you for your work in these areas.
A small business owner in northern Alabama
I own a small store in Madison that serves the local homeschool community with new educational materials, used educational materials, and much more. In the current economy, we were already struggling to keep our business alive. And then, recently, we became aware of the CPSIA Legislation. At that point we had 1 month in which to figure it out, and figure out how to comply with it. We have read the legislation, we have read the FAQ on their website, and their response to the publishing industry’s questions about excluding books. The more we read, the more concerned we become.
We are hoping that you will be able to help us through this legislative maze.
In the first week of dealing with this we have come up with the following questions.
There will probably be more:
1. Will the lead testing/certification rules apply to our current inventory? If so, what are we supposed to do with anything that we can’t certify? Much of our inventory was bought before this law was even written.
2. Is it safe for us to sell our used books under the current clarification for resellers? The clarification says we don’t have to test, but that we can still be found liable for breaking the law.
3. We carry baby slings that have been hand made by a local mother. She will not be able to certify that they are lead-free. Does that mean we can no longer sell them? (In fact, that she won’t be able to sell them either?)
4. Are we correct in determining that items that cannot be certified cannot even be given away after February 10th?
5. As a self-publisher of a number of books, am I right in figuring out that anything I write for children under 13, will no longer be able to be self-published? Again, I do not have the means to certify that these books are lead-free.
6. Maybe this question should have been first: Exactly what determines that something is a “children’s product” under this law? For instance, which books that I carry will be covered by these requirements, and which will not? How am I supposed to determine this?
I may be reached at CLC at email@example.com or 256-325-3305 or fax: 256-325-4405.
Thank you for your timely assistance with this problem. We realize that you have many pressing issues to deal with in Congress,, but this has become one of the most pressing for us.
Creative Learning Connection
8006 Old Madison Pike, 11-A
Madison, AL 35758
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." https://secure.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/110
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I've realized that, in various ways of course, for the last two months..I just hadn't thought of it quite that way. Might have something to do with the fact that I was recently studying the fallacies of economics...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The CPSC currently consists of only two Commissioners – Nancy Nord and Thomas Moore. On 20 March, Mr. Moore’s two-page letter appeared on the CPSC website. It would not be an overstatement to say that we do not see eye to eye with Mr. Moore, or vice versa.
Comments from Moore’s letter, and my reactions to them:
" ... two Commissioners who do not view the Act in the same light and who do not always agree on the Act's meaning...That is also why there is no Commission response to your questions.”
"Despite the hue and cry of some in the business community who will never be happy with the closer scrutiny and accountability..." Wait! WE'RE the bad guys?
"However, I think that when the agency gets the third Commissioner we will be better able to address some of the concerns voiced by staff and by industry. Until then any legislative “fixes" are premature. Only the Commission should recommend what, if any, changes should be made to the CPSIA…” So, we in the business world are told to forget changes until they can get their act together?!? Maybe the whole law could just be put on hold until then?
Ms. Nord, on the other hand, did try to get reasonable answers to the questions asked. She referred them to the CPSC staff – who responded with a detailed, well-though out 21-page letter. It was somewhat comforting to read their responses to Mr. Dingell’s questions. I have included highlights from the questions, “the staff’s answers”, and my comments below. (I hope to finish in the next few days…)
1.To what extent has robust implementation of the Act been hampered by CPSC’s lack of resources?“The CPSC has made implementation of the CPSIA our highest priority.”
This sounds like the first problem with this Act to me – so the CPSC has gone from its real task of “Saving Lives and Keeping Families Safe” to focusing on implementing CPSIA – which will not save lives.
“As we implement each new requirement, we are seeing unanticipated issues arise, and we are learning more of the far-reaching effects of the CPSIA…”So, it seems the CPSC is getting unintended consequences, even if Congress is not.
2. Given the paramount importance of ensuring children’s safety and the overall mission of the CPSC, to what extent are the deadlines in the Act practicable for CPSC and industry to meet acting with all deliberate speed?“…the deadlines mandated in the CPSIA have jeopardized our ability to meet Commission priorities and proven to be too much for a relatively small agency to handle all at once”
Just the question being asked NOW was aggravating…Retailers and Resellers are being hit hard by the February 10, 2009 deadline already – we would have liked this discussion to have occurred at least one month before that deadline, not one month after it! And if the deadlines are too much for the CPSC, imagine what they are doing to businesses.
“…the statue did not permit the agency to exempt products from the scope of the definition of children’s product…”While Congress is busy blaming the CPSC for its actions and lack of actions, they have done nothing to untie their hands, and give them the power they need to make these types of decisions. (Apparently it’s easier to play the blame game than it is to fix a bad piece of legislation.)
“…each of the various initiatives in the Act…will require significantly more time to implement than anyone originally anticipated.”So will they move the February 10, 2010 deadline again? If so, how about sooner rather than later?
“The Commission staff must have some relief from the deadlines imposed.”While we would concur, we would point out that affected businesses (and consumers) need relief even more!
“Use of risk assessment methodology would all the Commission to establish priorities, provide for common sense exemptions, and set CPSIA implementation deadlines.”
“Risk assessment” and “common sense exemptions”? Great idea. How about sooner rather than later? Neither of those seemed to be factored into writing the law.
“…An ideal solution to these challenges would be for Congress to let the Commission decide what level of testing is required for which products…”Since the CPSC must enforce the law, it would seem appropriate that they have some flexibility in making decisions about the law.
“The question asks us to comment on the impact of the deadlines on industry…every industry needed more time to determine which, if any of its products were covered under the definition of children’s product, test those products for compliance, and develop new methods of manufacture…”
“The scope of products covered by the new regulation and the amount of inventory implicated went well beyond what many may have contemplated.” To which we say, Amen!
Friday, March 20, 2009
It is supposed to be a coincidence that the Rally is being held on April Fool's Day, but I wonder...I was just thinking about Shakespeare's line: "Oh, what fools these mortals be." I couldn't help but think that it connected well to CPSIA.
I am very disappointed that I will be unable to personally attend the rally, but I will be following it on-line. I hope it contributes to the overturning of this horrendous law sooner rather than later.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
And then I look again. Back at CPSC, back around the internet. Where are the facts? What are the facts?
And each time, much to my relief (no, that's not quite right!)...there it is again...The truth...In the midst of all the misinformation, it really can be found. Yes, the testing requirements have been postponed until February 2010 by the last minute stay. But not the other requirements! As a reseller I still cannot sell items that violate the new lead and phthalates limits -- even though I have no real way of knowing which pre-owned items do and do not violate them!
And because of the nature of my business, I have to think about reselling, retailing, and manufacturing. And only the manufacturing part has gotten a slight reprieve.
My recent research took me to a Printers Website -- ImPrint: Making Print's Mark on Capitol Hill. They spell out exactly what the stay did and didn't do in their industry.
So, no, unfortunately, over a month after CPSIA has gone into effect, the resellers and the retailers of this country are still suffering under the unreasonable burdens of this bad law.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
This is the second article that I've read recently that uses this basic line in the middle of it: "Lead poisoning has been linked to irreversible learning disabilities and behavioral problems." In both articles, the comment is made in the midst of the article -- with no explanation. The statement is true, as far as it goes, but I would contend that it is inaccurate when taken out of context like this! Yes, lead poisoning has been linked to all sorts of problems. But fortunately, most of the things being taken off the market by CPSIA have not been linked to lead poisoning.
In fact, the CDC has been dealing with lead poisoning almost 20 years longer than the CPSC. And a health communications specialist at the CDC said lead-based ink in children's books poses little danger. She is quoted in the article as saying, "But on a scale of one to 10, this is like a 0.5 level of concern." Frankly, with their two track records, I take the CDC's word for that over the CPSC!
I would also think that Librarians would be good sources of information about what libraries are going through with their books. But the Houston librarian quoted in this article seems to think banning children's books printed before 1986 is no big deal: "Frankly, most of our books have been well-used and well-appreciated...They don't last 24 years." Maybe children in Texas are harder on their library books than they are here in Alabama...We find children's books in ours that were printed before 1986 on a regular basis -- in fact I bought 40 library books from a library not so long ago -- all more than 30 years old, and all in very good condition.
It is good to see books and CPSIA being addressed for a change -- now let's hope Congress will actually start listening to all the fuss sooner rather than later!
Monday, March 16, 2009
The store manager is now facing what many of the rest of us have been thinking for a month or more now: “When in doubt, throw it out."
I was bothered by the attitude and quotes from Scott Wolfson, the CPSC spokesperson that is quoted in the article:
Wolfson "explained by no means is the aim of the CPSC to impair the ability to do provide goods to consumers. 'Charities, thrift stores, We’re not looking to put them out of business,' he said...The 'multi-million dollar' fines are for 'manufacturers and retailers,' Wolfson added, 'Thrift stores, we want to help them make the good decisions.'"
Wait, let me get this straight. They don't want to put us out of business...But they want us to "make good decisions"...And considering the way the law is written AND the way the law is being interpreted, how exactly do they expect us to do that? Has he not read the CPCS's "Guidance on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters and Charities" Here they state, right at the beginning of the document: "You can protect yourself by screening for violative products. But more importantly, as a business person, you do not want to be selling products that have the potential to cause harm to anyone, especially a child."
How exactly would we know what has the POTENTIAL to cause harm to a child? Especially since, they go on to answer the question: 'How can I determine if something has lead in it before I sell it?' by telling us we MUST:
* Test the product;
* Refuse to accept or sell the product, which will mean disposing of it if you already have it in your inventory;
* Use your best judgment based on your knowledge of the product;
* Contact the manufacturer about questionable products."
The only feasible option of those listed, for most resellers is to refuse to sell the product. And they even went on to tell us "which will mean disposing of it if you already have it in your inventory."....But we're supposed to believe they don't want to put us out of business...What am I missing here?
"...So, here we have an industry icon, who is a small business owner, and arguably, the Number One motorcycle dealer in the country, challenging the authority of a federal agency which is enforcing a lousy law that threatens to put a lot of people out of work and, possibly, unnecessarily endangering a lot young off-r0ad riders."
Our best wishes to Mr. Smith -- and hopes and prayers that he doesn't end up in jail because of this crazy law.
Across the country, the occasional local media are spotlighting the problems being caused by the new regulations in their community. But coverage of any kind is limited at best. I first contacted our local media two months ago (TV, radio, and newspaper) and they have ignored CPSIA almost completely!
So many industries are being hit on so many levels: books, clothes, jewelry, crafts, toys...manufacturers, consignment shops, and retail shops as well. Some of the financial hits are right now -- in the inventory we can't sell, some will be in the future, in the products we won't be able to sell because of the increased costs of testing.
The one industry that seems to come up most often in the news articles I do see is the ATV industry. As the good weather of spring moves into summer months, their losses just continue to mount.
Many articles deal with the pain being felt by the ATV industry, here’s one of the latest: Youth ATV and Motorcycle Ban: “In addition, dealers can also no longer sell parts or accessories that were made for these products. ‘We can't even take them in on trade so the consumer can't trade them back into us, they can't buy parts, they can't buy anything that was designed for a youth under 12 years of age,’” explains one of the ATV dealership owners hit hard by this law.
This article is from a couple of days ago: The Kids Bikes Ban: Digging Deeper -- What's new on the battle against the Feds Many of us can relate to the opening line: “Right now, we're all wondering: How could this happen?”
And in Delaware: “Rules on toxin stall mini-cylce sales” Which again, starts with these words that most of us agree with: “The government talks a lot about taking action to help small businesses. But businesses say they could do without this kind of action.”
One question I do have for the Congressmen and CPSC folks who don't seem to "get it" -- How could motorbikes, bicycles, ATV's, etc. be made without lead? Never mind the ludicrous idea that any of those are posing health hazards with respect to lead poisoning...But they can't be safely made without lead...Which I thought would/should give them automatic exemption under this crazy new law....But apparently, like the fabric and apparel industry and the book publishing industry, they continue to wait for their exemptions...Meanwhile much of their inventory can't be sold, bikes can't be fixed, and so on...
Lead and The Center for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/
It would be beneficial to all of us fighting CPSIA if one part of our government spoke to another. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) has been fighting lead poisoning in children for almost 20 years now. And doing a very good job of it, from what I can determine. I would think they are more of experts in this area than either Congress or the CPSC. Since neither of those groups will listen to us, I wonder if there is someone at the CDC that they would listen to!
I have been wandering around on their site, and reading through various of their statements for the last few days, and have run across many things there that go along with what we have been saying and fighting.
For one thing, they seem to be attacking the problem logically and scientifically (neither of which can be said for the current “Kings of Lead Prevention” at Congress and the CPSC. One of their first paragraph states clearly: “CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is committed to the Healthy People’s goal of eliminating elevated blood lead levels in children by 2010. CDC continues to assist state and local childhood lead poisoning prevention programs, to provide a scientific basis for policy decisions, and to ensure that health issues are addressed in decisions about housing and the environment.”
Some of the CDC's actual accomplishments (as opposed to what CPSIA has failed and will continue to fail to do) include:
Since its inception in 1990, the CDC childhood lead poisoning prevention effort has:
* Funded nearly 60 childhood lead poisoning prevention programs to develop, implement, and evaluate lead poisoning prevention activities;
* Provided technical assistance to support the development of state and local lead screening plans;
* Fostered agreements between state and local health departments and state Medicaid agencies to link surveillance and Medicaid data;
* Provided training to public health professionals through CDC’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Training Center;
* Developed the Childhood Blood Lead Surveillance System through which 46 states currently report data to CDC;
* Expanded public health laboratory capacity in states to analyze blood and environmental samples and to ensure quality, timely, and accurate analysis of results; and
* Published targeted screening and case management guidelines which provide health departments and health care providers with standards to identify and manage children with elevated blood lead levels.
The CDC has a lengthy document on their website (http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/about/fedstrategy2000.pdf) about the Federal Strategy in 2000 to almost completely eliminate lead poisoning in children by 2010. Guess what, they didn't need CPSIA to do it! Since the CDC began its work in 1990, they have almost completely eliminated childhood lead poisoning!
Their tips to prevent lead poisoning, which again, not surprisingly to us, don't include removing their old books, clothes, bikes, etc:
"Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead.
The goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. There are many ways parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead. Lead hazards in a child’s environment must be identified and controlled or removed safely.
Lead-based paint is the major source of exposure for lead in U.S. children. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. However, it is the deterioration of this paint that causes a problem."
In fact under their FAQs, they have a very short list of the other possible ways to get lead poisoning, outside of old paint in older homes:
"Other sources of lead poisoning are related to:
* hobbies (making stained-glass windows)
* work (recycling or making automobile batteries)
* drinking water (lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures, valves can all leach lead)
* home health remedies (azarcon and greta, which are used for upset stomach or indigestion; pay-loo-ah, which is used for rash or fever)."
What is most amazing to me is that NOTHING on their list of concerns for lead poisoning is being dealt with by CPSIA -- and NOTHING that is being dealt a death blow by CPSIA was ever a lead concern for the CDC!!!
Again, for those of us who are dealing with a law that wants to impede the selling and purchasing of products intended for children up to age 12, the CDC, has a much more reasonable view of who is at risk:
* "Children under the age of 6 years because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths."
And what should we do to prevent lead poisoning in our children. Besides keeping them away from peeling and cracking paint in old homes, this was part of the CDC's advice: "Regularly wash children’s hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Both are known lead sources."
Again, it is not their books, clothes, bikes, or other items that are exposing them to lead risks. It is the old paint, and the dust and soil that have been contaminated by old lead paint!
Should we be concerned about lead poisoning in this country? Yes. Should we be overreacting and banning items that have never caused lead problems? Obviously not. The CDC deals with the question of prevention:
"How your child may be exposed:
Lead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. Children may be exposed to it from consumer products through normal hand-to-mouth activity, which is part of their normal development. They often place toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth, exposing themselves to lead paint or dust."
So, again, the ingested lead is a problem for children six and under -- if and only if they eat the lead-laden product (such as a small piece of jewelry, but not the handlebars on their bicycle!)
"Just wearing toy jewelry will not cause your child to have a high level of lead in his/her blood. However, small children often put things in their mouth. If you have a small child in your household you should make sure the child does not have access to jewelry or other items that may contain lead."
In the federal strategy paper mentioned above, the CDC clearly explains who is at risk (and again, the list does not include 12 year olds!):
"Lead is most hazardous to the nation’s roughly 24 million children under the age of 6. Their still-developing nervous systems are particularly vulnerable to lead, and their normal play activities expose them to lead
paint hazards and lead-contaminated dust and soil. Children between ages one and three are at greatest risk because of normal hand-to-mouth activity and the increase in mobility during their second and third years
which make lead hazards more accessible to them."
Sunday, March 15, 2009
“First do no harm”. This motto of health professionals should be a requirement for our elected legislative officials. Instead, it seems that their motto is “good ideas make good laws”. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 is a great example of that not working.
On February 10th, the economic world stood still – and very few people noticed. It was not the economic tidal wave that had been predicted earlier in the year – but the waves were felt across the country, and will continue to be felt into the future.
Activist groups such as Consumer Union and Citizen Watch applaud the law, and are working hard to keep any changes from being made to it. They mock the naysayers as being ignorant and misinformed, and accuse small business people of overreacting to this law.
For those who have missed the outrage on either side over CPSIA (which would be most of us), let me explain it briefly:
The background: In 2007 large quantities of lead laden toys were imported from Asia; much fuss was made about it when it was discovered, and thousands of toys had to be recalled.
The response: From these unfortunate incidents came a wide-sweeping bill. Because it was presented in the name of “protecting children”, little attention was paid by our elected officials to the overzealous nature of the law brought before them. Our congressmen and senators, almost without fail, voted for the bill. (Only one congressman voted against the final version, and just three senators.) And on August 14, 2008, President Bush signed it in to law. Some aspects of the law went into effect immediately, others were slated to go into effect six months later, on February 10, 2009, and still more a year later, in August, 2009.
With the above facts, it is not a stretch of the imagination to believe that many of us who are being affected by the law have spent more time studying it and debating it than did our elected officials who enacted it. Most of us who are being affected by it had not even heard about it until a month or so before the February 10th deadline. But since then we have become immersed in it: Reading the 60+ page bill itself (which we can safely guess most of our Representatives did not do); and pouring over the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) website: reading their responses to the FAQs, viewing the hearings they had with the fabric and apparel industry and the book publishers, and much more.
A summary of the law: In short, all children’s products (defined as products intended for children 12 and under) must meet newer, stiffer lead limits and phthalates limits (an element used in making some plastics more pliable). AND all said products will eventually need to be tested and certified to meet those limits (more on that later).
The problems: It sounds good to say that we want children’s products to be safe. But let’s look at how wide sweeping this piece of legislation is:
1) Children up through age 12 are included – an upper age of 5 or 6 would have been more in line with the problems that had occurred, and the purported intent of the law, and made the implementation of it much less drastic.
2) “All children’s products” are being included – which sounds like a good idea until you look at what “all” includes.
3) For example, books are included in “all”. “Regular books”, which could easily be defined as those without play value, have never been recalled, and never been a health risk. Yet they are currently included in this law.
4) Children’s clothing and other fabric items are being included, even though these have been seldom included in recall issues. (And where there has been an issue – it has generally been unacceptable lead levels introduced through silk screening or fasteners – coming in from Asia.)
5) And there is no distinction in the law to mass produced items that end up on “big box” store shelves (and again, where the problem initially came from) and items that are being hand-crafted or self-published on a small scale (neither of which caused the problems “being addressed” by this legislation).
6) And resellers are being required to abide by these restrictions – not just those who are retailing new items.
Why are any of the above problems? Let’s review the most important ways:
1) Let’s start with resellers. Again, it sounds good to say that we want all unsafe products removed from store shelves. But what does this become to resellers? The CPSC has been talking out of both sides of its mouth in this regards. They issued a “clarification” that resellers are not expected to test the products that come into their stores. However, and this is the big problem, they cannot sell things that are banned by this law – that would include the thousands of things already recalled, and the countless more that will become illegal under the new lead and phthalates limits, but that are already in circulation. When the CPSC was asked how resellers could possibly know if something had too much lead – the answer was simple: “Test it”.
2) And the list of items that have been recalled is massive. I spent an hour looking over the CPSC’s data base of over 4,000 recalled items, and cannot even imagine having to go through that every time a used “children’s product” came into my store. Resellers who are paying attention to these two requirements may well decide it is easier to stop carrying children’s products than to worry about the risks of inadvertently violating the law. (I know at least one reseller who is cutting out all risky children’s items as a result of this.) Has anyone thought through the practical implications of this for families who rely on the second-hand market to make their budgets work? And how many items will end up in landfills now that really didn’t need to?
3) Once the next stage goes into effect – it will become practically impossible for hand crafters, and self-publishers, who produce “children’s products” to continue, because they will have the same testing and certification requirements of the “big guys”. This is not economically feasible for most of these small businesses, and most of them will have to stop producing those items when this portion of the law is enforced. Fortunately, the deadline for the certification and testing requirements has been moved out another 12 months, but it still remains out there on the horizon in the not so distant future.
4) Many perfectly safe children’s items (such as books and most clothing items) that remain in the market will go up in price in the near future because of the testing and certification requirements that are being applied across the board to all children’s products. Again, it’s not that all of these requirements are unreasonable, but what is unreasonable is that they are being applied to an entire market, instead of just the areas that would make sense (such as children’s toys).
As parents, we want our children to be safe. But we do not expect the government to do our job. We are capable of making sure that their toys are safe and that they don’t eat their books. We don’t need a “Nanny Government” to do our jobs for us.