Pull over, sir, we’re checking those socks for lead

by Walter Olson on May 26, 2009

More on CPSIA’s costs: “Even though there is no evidence that his company’s hosiery contains lead, his company will be forced to pay more than $500,000 on lead testing over the next year,” said David McCubbin of Oklahoma’s McCubbin Hosiery. And so long, giraffe teethers:

Suzanne Lang, owner of Starbright Baby Teething Giraffes in Boalsburg, Pa., created 36 patterns of giraffes last year. To test each of these items for lead and phthalates would cost up to $81,000, she said. She only grossed $4,500 last year.

Unless the law is changed, “thousands of small businesses and crafters will be put out of business in this already tough economic climate,” Lang said.

Last month the office of Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a co-sponsor of the measure, “said the bill is doing exactly what it is meant to do“.

{ 15 comments }

1 DAV 05.26.09 at 10:16 am

“Suzanne Lang, owner of Starbright Baby Teething Giraffes in Boalsburg, Pa., created 36 patterns of giraffes last year. …”

Only the finished product can be tested and not just the ingredients? Presumably, the 36 patterns are permutations of the same ingredients.

2 Todd Rogers 05.26.09 at 11:46 am

Let them eat cake.

3 Greg Dwyer 05.26.09 at 12:16 pm

I wonder if anyone has looked into who the lead and pthalate testing companies are giving their campaign contributions to.

4 A.W. 05.26.09 at 1:11 pm

i think this is all an overreaction to the lead scare a couple of years ago. but, bluntly, should we really worry about this outside of china? can’t we just say only toys from china should be tested?

And isn’t the better approach to make it illegal for there to be lead in that stuff and create a cause of action if there is? Then the company makes sure no lead is in there, and lots of plaintiffs lawyers will check in the hopes of making a buck. this is a rare case of using lawsuits as the regulatory method is actually more efficient than forcing each business to bear the cost of proving that they don’t have something they weren’t using in the first place.

5 Xmas 05.26.09 at 2:03 pm

DAV,

Different colors/patterns means different product. Though, the point is moot since ONE product’s tests costs 18 times more than all the gross earnings from last year.

6 Jim Collins 05.26.09 at 2:20 pm

Last time I checked, lead was only dangerous if ingested and metabolized. When was the last time your child ate a pair of socks?

I’m with Greg Dwyer. Who benefits from this legislation. We already know that trial lawyers stand to make millions, but, who else is riding this gravy train? I would hazard a guess that companies like Fisher Price, Gerber, Graco and a multitude of others stand to benefit. Think about it. The second-hand market for kids toys, clothing and furnishings stands to be wiped out. What would happen to GM, Chrysler and Ford if all of the sudden any vehicle more than four years old went away?

When I was a kid, I used to fish a lot. I had these lead weights called split shot that were crimped on to the fishing line. On more than one occasion, due to a lack of pliers, I used my teeth to secure these weights to the line. My health never suffered. Hell, I even played around with Mercury from a busted barometer.

7 Greg 05.26.09 at 4:51 pm

A few months ago when I first read about the CPSIA I thought it was just a poorly drafted law, and that its destructiveness to small businesses was an accident. But after seeing the fierceness with which the law’s supporters defend it even after its destructiveness has become obvious, and after seeing comments like “the bill is doing exactly what it is meant to do” from the offices of people in Congress that sponsored it, I’ve changed my mind.

I think that they’re speaking the truth and that one of the unstated goals of this law is to force a consolidation of the production of children’s products into the hands of a few large companies. From the regulatory standpoint it makes a certain kind of sense – if you want to tightly regulate the safety of children’s products, it’s a lot easier to do if there are only a few companies to regulate. So my forecast is that Congress will attempt to stonewall on any changes to the CPSIA until the small companies have all left the market. Then, and only then, once the market has been consolidated, will they start to amend the law to remove some of the more ridiculous aspects of it and to reduce the compliance costs on the big companies that are now in possession of the market.

8 Greg 05.26.09 at 4:55 pm

To DAV: “Only the finished product can be tested and not just the ingredients? Presumably, the 36 patterns are permutations of the same ingredients.”

No, the CPSIA requires that the components be tested for each product or pattern separately. So if you make one product of three components, you have to do three component tests. If you make three products out of those same three components, you have to do nine component tests. If each of your three products has three different patterns (sizes, colors, etc), then you’d have to do 27 component tests, etc. Actually I think it’s even more complicated than this.

BTW, I’m not the same Greg as Greg Dwyer. I meant to sign my posts with GregS but made a typo.

9 Todd Rogers 05.26.09 at 8:44 pm

Is this what our president was referring to in his inauguration speech when he spoke of “petty grievances?” Nothing like marginalization to make things seem…marginal.

10 ps 05.27.09 at 2:26 am

The bill IS doing exactly what it was meant to do – destroy businesses in the USA. Ten years from now, you will be buying everything from a single conglomerate and you can thank your local congressman for that.

11 William Nuesslein 05.27.09 at 12:07 pm

A thought experiment:
That a child and her bike to Mrs. Murray, the senator from Washinton State, remove a air value and tell her that the bike will be taken from the child becase of the lead in the valve.

One would predict that Mrs. Murray, being a sentient creature, would say that the valve is in side the tire stem and can not possibly injure the child. More likely she would ignore the evidence that CPSIA is bad law. She had good intention when she promoted the law, and intention would prevail in her case.

Let’s bring a guy so the argument is not about the way women think. Mr. Reid, the senator from Nevada, crows about his killing Yucca Mountain. Obviously he has no idea whatsoever about the Science of Yucca Mountain, which Science was settled thirty years ago according to President Carter. Activists kept the project in court with fears of what happens 100,000 years from now.

For Republicans, remember the Terry Schiavo matter. And Elisabeth Dole is actually proud of getting airbags in cars.

Perhaps some large toy makers will be advantaged by CPSIA, but it would only be trivially. We have had decades of misguided code about lead in houses. And don’t forget the hideously stupid Delaney amendment.

And Americans want to tell others how to live!

12 Suzanne Lang 05.27.09 at 5:21 pm

When I stated in my testimony that I created 36 patterns of giraffes last year, it means I used 36 different fabrics. According to the CPSIA, I have to unit test my items. That means although I use the exact same stuffing, thread and labels (and oftentimes coordinating fabric from the same designer) if anything changes I have to retest.

The lead testing alone is $50 per component. My giraffes have 4-5 components per item. This would add an additional $180-$225 to each giraffe I sell… I sell them for about $12-$18 (depending on the fabric). (Nevermind the fact that none of the materials I use even have a risk for lead)

To add insult to injury, I am required by CPSIA to test my items for phthalates because it is an item intended to go into the mouth of a child under 3. Phthalates are a compound added to plastics to make them soft. However, the giraffes are entirely made of 100% cotton fabric, plant-basted fiber filling, and cotton thread. There are absolutely no phthalates in any of the items I use to make the giraffes. I still have to test at a cost of about $400 per component. Again, 4-5 components per giraffe, and the cost is just overwhelming.

I’m not against keeping lead out of toys. However, I am against having to spend money testing for something that is scientifically been proven not there. Congress needs to step up and make some common sense changes to the law. The damage this law if kept as-is will do to our economy and to my family specifically is incredible.

Thank you for using this forum to highlight the huge problem that is the CPSIA.

13 happymom4 05.27.09 at 6:21 pm

I’m sick to my stomach as I see our American way of life being squeezed down to nothing . . . . will America as a whole wake up before it’s entirely TOO LATE?!

14 William Nuesslein 05.28.09 at 6:19 am

Ms. Lang,

You gave away the store when you said “I’m not against keeping lead out of toys”. Do you really want bicycles to be outlawed because of some brass in their air valves?

We are both against hazardous toys. But a bicycle is a bicycle and not a lead hazard. Nice people like you are killing us with your childish acceptance of scare mongering from the lead nuts. And we have that beautiful woman and scientific twit, Jenny McCarthy, fighting vaccines.

CPSIA is wrong not because it ruins your business, but because it is scientifically moronic. I take your word that lead is not in the materials that you use. But a lead nut would say that it could be some day.

We have to, as a culture, reign in the lead, PCB, anti-nuke, anti-vaccines nuts.

15 Dave 05.28.09 at 1:43 pm

Will this all boil down to Civil disobedience on the part of small manufacturers and crafts people?
After all is said and done, can you be liable if there are no damages? For example if your product contains absolutely no lead or phthalates then there is no damage to anyone from these substances. Who cares if the “Man” does not like your testing program. You have not contaminated anyone with the banned substances.

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