CPSIA chronicles, February 21

by Walter Olson on February 21, 2009

digdeeper

  • For the Handmade Toy Alliance, Jill Chuckas responds to the NYT’s ever-so-clueless CPSIA editorial. The Alliance also recently published a Myth vs. Fact sheet. Among the points addressed: “Myth: Violations of the CPSIA this year will not result in penalties.” “Myth: Further clarification is all that is needed.” and “Myth: Products Tested to European Union Standards will Satisfy New US Standards”. And did you know it’s now unlawful to donate to a charity (let alone sell) a children’s item with paint on it, even if you painted it yourself using lead-free paint, if you haven’t put it out for third-party testing?
  • It’s my impression that beyond the precincts of the “consumer”/Litigation Lobby groups, the bill’s original sponsors on Capitol Hill, and of course the New York Times, it’s getting harder to find all-out boosters of the law who still maintain there’s nothing wrong with it. On Tuesday, however, the Houston Chronicle did publish a perfectly inane editorial taking this view, the refutation of which is left as an exercise to the reader.
  • Deputy Headmistress at Common Room has taken the lead in blogging many angles of the law and her latest must-read examines the legislative history of CPSIA’s enactment, including the roles of Public Citizen, the Consumer Federation of America, PIRG, and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), as well as business groups like NAM, the latter of which warned against some of the law’s more extreme provisions as placing various advantages into the hands of plaintiff’s lawyers. This makes a good jumping-off point for further research on whether the ongoing CPSIA calamity should truly be regarded as a case of “unintended consequences” and, if so, unintended by whom. One tidbit among many: she says that Travis Plunkett, testifying for the Consumer Federation of America, spoke in favor of rules (not adopted) under which “all product sellers [would] be required to post bonds sufficient to cover the costs of a recall in advance of any ‘potential’ recalls.” Typical New York Times coverage of the day, by the reliably pro-regulation Stephen Labaton, can be found here.
  • Tom Pearson, Punditry by the Pint:

    I’ve written before how law and regulation can be an insurmountable impediment for the weakest, poorest and most powerless in our society. In this case at least we will partly realize what we’re missing when the great independent thrift and book shops start going under and fewer people make handcrafted clothing and toys for children. Still, we’ll never see what could have been in this small niche of our largely self-created social order. This is how the American dream of hope and opportunity dies, one well-intentioned, but misguided rule at a time.

    Life is a messy and wonderful experience. If you try to hermetically seal life, even children’s lives, from risk, you will kill all that messiness and creativity that makes life worth living. Yes, risk can be damaging, painful and even fatal, but, in this case, the cure is worse than the disease.

    Another libertarian view from J.D. Tuccille in the Examiner: “In the name of the children, we cut the kids off from their own history.”

  • Yesterday (Friday) the Consumer Product Safety Commission published a bundle of letters it received pro and con on proposed exemptions from the lead rules. Plenty of raw material here for CPSIA-watchers (long PDF file);
  • Since many people these days visit Overlawyered for the ongoing coverage on this topic, I’ve added a new display on the rightmost sidebar (under the red teddy-bear-as-St.-Sebastian icon) with sub-category tag links for libraries, apparel and needle trades, toys, and so forth. I’ve populated these categories with old posts somewhat in haste, so if you see omitted posts that aren’t tagged with relevant labels, give me a shout.

Public domain image: Grandma’s Graphics, Ruth Mary Hallock.

{ 3 comments }

1 Lora 02.21.09 at 1:57 pm

There has been a bill proposed (H.R.968) that I’ve yet to hear many talk about??? As it stands it has 4 cosponsors. At the very least we ought to be urging members of Congress to support this.

HELP U.S. MANUFACTURERS AND SMALL BUSINESSES

From: The Honorable John B. Shadegg
Sent By: randi.meyers <> mail.house.gov
Date: 2/11/2009

Dear Colleague:

As you know, certain provisions in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) are set to take effect on February 10, 2009. While CPSIA is well-intended to improve product safety, it is dangerously flawed.

As supporters of the CPSIA’s intended purpose, which is to assure that no lead is used or added in the manufacture of any children’s products, we understand its importance. However, it appears that there is still great confusion as to what the requirements of this new law are and that the February 10, 2009 compliance deadline is unrealistic.

It is for this reason that we have introduced a bill that will address the complications that implementing the CPSIA will cause. This bill will delay the regulation for six months. Due to the confusion and uncertainty in the small business community, it is crucial that the regulations be delayed so that the small businesses that are the heart of this nation are not forced to close their doors.

Secondly, the bill will allow small manufacturers to use the testing and certification that their component suppliers have done to certify that the components do not contain an impressible amount of lead. This will be both a money and time saver. If lead is not a component when tested, it will not appear when a product is put together.

This bill will exempt thrift stores, yard sales, consignment shops, and other re-sellers from the prohibitions in the Act. When the CPSIA was drafted, it was not the intent of the bill to include Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or flea markets. This is because these sellers are not the source of the product safety concerns that were discussed last year.

Our bill will provide a good-faith exemption that will benefit small manufacturers and help keep them in business. If a manufacturer can show that an error in compliance was made in good-faith, our bill will provide them with a one-time exemption from sanction. This rule is designed so that manufacturers will not take advantage of the exemption, while giving them a chance to adjust to the new regulations.

Finally, our bill will require the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to provide small businesses with a compliance guide. The new regulations are extremely technical and impact a number of small businesses who do not have multi-staff compliance departments to interpret and apply regulations. Our bill would require the CPSC, in consultation with the state and federal Small Business Administration, to develop a compliance guide that addresses the concerns of the small business community.

Please join us in supporting our small businesses by co-sponsoring this crucial legislation. If you would like to cosponsor this legislation or if you need any additional information, please contact Randi Meyers in Rep. Shadegg’s office (5-3361) or Sallie Taylor in Rep. Bartlett’s office (5-2721).

Sincerely,
Roscoe Bartlett
Member of Congress

John Shadegg
Member of Congress

2 William Nuesslein 02.22.09 at 9:26 am

I am a fan of Roscoe Bartlett who is both a scientist and a legislator, but I am deeply disappointed by his letter. Lead has been with people for all recorded history and then some. It is natural. Only a nincompoop would fear the lead in ball point pens.

As a matter of policy, some small businesses going under would be fine if there was any evidence that their products actually harmed anybody. It is the lack of harm from incidental lead or phthalates that is the problem.

Certainly Mr. Bartlett knows about the anxieties created from the breast-implant scare, and he must know of the irrational fear of power line and nuclear power. His letter adds credence to the lead lunacy. Shame on him!

3 Lora 02.22.09 at 11:04 am

I agree with you, William.
But people are funny creatures. They swallow a camel and strain at a gnat.

Simplicity and truth are always resisted while sensationalism will be widely and eagerly excepted. That’s just the way it is.

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