Monday, March 30, 2009

Congressman Dingell's Letter/My Responses to It

When Congressman Dingell sent his letter to the CPSC asking them 10 very pointed questions, I had high hopes that we might be moving in the right direction. But so many times, it seems like we are still standing still. Before long there was a movement to send email responses to Congressman Dingell. I sent mine along to be included, but I had actually already sent him my responses to his questions -- I had written up two 1 page letters, and faxed them to him. (I couldn't find an email address on his website, but the fax number was there...)

My first fax to him:

6 March 2009

Congressman Dingell,

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.

Catherine Jaime


My 2nd fax:

Congressman Dingell,

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?

You asked:

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?!?


Catherine Jaime

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