CPSIA on Thursday: A fine hearing, with one witness…

by Walter Olson on September 8, 2009

YMGcandlestick2A fine hearing/My friends, this is… Rep. Waxman’s plan for a dissent-free panel this Thursday (Sept. 10) is to call as the only witness CPSC chair Inez Tenenbaum, to talk up the merits of the law and her efforts as new steward of the agency. It’s not as if the law’s controversial or anything! The Handmade Toy Alliance wonders whether he’ll get away with it.

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE from Benjamin Cobb, Yankee Mother Goose (Ella Brison, illustrator), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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CPSIA chronicles, September 12
09.12.09 at 9:27 pm

{ 3 comments }

1 Bob Lipton 09.08.09 at 3:36 pm

Doubtless the law as constituted shows major lacks. A much larger budget is needed.

Bob

2 David Eggers 09.08.09 at 4:07 pm

I used to think that the whole ban on rhinestones on children’s clothes was pretty dumb. However, after watching “Toddlers and Tiaras” on TLC I’m not so sure anymore.

3 Michael 09.09.09 at 2:40 pm

While I am elated to finally hear that a hearing is being held to discuss CPSIA, I am speechless with anger that not one single small business that has struggled with this disconnected attempt at further protecting our children has been called forward to testify. The small company that I preside over (66 employees) has served the educational manipulatives marketplace for decades with an exemplary safety record. With this legislation, our ability to continue in business is in jeopardy, not because our products are unsafe but because low volume, low value products cannot support the unnecessary testing and reporting requirements that CPSIA requires. While I appreciate that Congressional and Commission members may come from all walks of life to serve, not one person at this hearing will have sufficient experience with the unnecessary burdens CPSIA places on SMALL business to provide any level of meaningful exploration and dialog during this hearing.

There are so many problems created by this law that one hardly knows where to begin. Perhaps the overly broad definition of “children’s products”, a definition which ensnares many products incapable of harming children from lead or phthalates would be a place to start. Maybe they could dwell on the neutering of the CPSC’s ability to apply risk assessment methodologies to ferret out those products that could actually cause harm from those that cannot conceivably cause harm. Or maybe they should consider the so called exemption process under the law, a process that between excessive requirements, limited scope and astronomical expense on a per product basis is completely beyond the reach of any entity not in a trade group representing homogenous products.

Continuing, perhaps they could begin with the punitive and retroactive application of requirements on existing inventory, or the fact that there still is no reliable method to screen products for lead in paint – not even with an XRF scanner or the fact that there are no accredited third party labs available to test for phthalates – a fact that forces the same product from the same inventory to be tested twice, once for lead and lead in paint and again before February 2010 for phthalates. Or maybe the punitive penalties and the fear that those penalties generate for any final distributor should be discussed. Would anyone carry a product that generates less than $100,000 a year in profit (the current fine) if there was any chance whatsoever that one of 51 state or federal entities could prosecute you should that product somehow exceed limits on lead and phthalates regardless of the rigorous testing that says it doesn’t? Would anyone risk going to prison for 5 years for something they sell $500 a year of? That reality alone will lead to the disappearance of thousands of products from the marketplace. Many of these products help the disadvantaged to participate in society, they allow the crafter to stay out of poverty, and the profits they generate feed, cloth and educate the children of the people who create the products. Real harm is being done to those children right now because of CPSIA.

This law was written with only mass produced and mass marketed products in mind – everyone lives and understands the big box, retail world. The testing requirements, the reporting requirements and the penalties all speak to individual products that sell in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The group meeting in this hearing has already heard from that group when the law was written. The fact that ‘firewalled’ labs were provided for and that one rather large company now has six of them is direct proof that large business has had a say. When will small businesses have a chance to air its issues and concerns? When will Congress and the Administration ACT to correct the issues created by CPSIA, issues that are actually harming children right now? I implore Waxman to open the legislative process up as soon as possible to the small business community. Its members deserve representation too, the users of its products deserve to have those products continue to be available in the marketplace and its employees and their children deserve to be kept safe from hunger, cold, and ignorance – the hallmarks of the poverty that CPSIA is having on real people, right now.

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