CPSIA: Things I learned at the rally

Last Wednesday’s CPSIA rally at the Capitol drew an overflow crowd of hundreds, with thousands more reportedly watching from around the world via webcast. Many speakers had powerful stories to tell, and cameras from CNN and ABC were on hand to record them; AP mentioned the event in covering the dirtbike-ban story. There is, as you might imagine, no way to upstage a six-year-old motocross champion who declares from the podium, “I promise I won’t eat my dirt bike”.

A few things I learned by attending:

  • Ordinary bikes (not the motorized kind) are clearly out of compliance with the law because of the leaded brass in certain components, and have been given no exemption. I’m still wondering why the CPSC directed the motorbike dealers to tarp over their inventory but did not do the same with the ordinary-bike dealers. Earlier here; much more (PDF) in this CPSC submission by Mayer Brown for the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association.
  • Until I saw their handout leaflet, it hadn’t sunk in that the non-profit and charitable giants in resale, including Goodwill, Salvation Army, Easter Seals, Volunteers of America, and St. Vincent de Paul, have banded together in a Donated Goods Coalition. Good for them, and I hope someone listens.
  • Held up for inspection

  • Even blogging the subject as much as I have, I’ve somehow said almost nothing about CPSIA’s requirements for batch numbering, labeling and tracking of kids’ products, due to hit later this year. It seems these requirements all by themselves will suffice to wipe out small producers in droves even if the crazy testing requirements can somehow be made sane.  A few write-ups touching on the subject: Handmade Toy Alliance (Word document), Kathleen Fasanella/Fashion Incubator, Publisher’s Weekly.
  • The rally happened because of the efforts of grass-roots business people around the country, above all Rick Woldenberg of Learning Resources. (The story of the Oregon delegation could stand for that of many others.) Motorbike people were much in evidence. Also present: people from trade associations from regular businesses not been much heard from in the CPSIA furor of recent months, including makers of shoes and footwear, cribs, and even household cleansers, all of whom turned out to have stories to tell. Who knew there was a whole association specializing in the little items you get when you put in the quarter in the vending machine and turn the crank?
  • Kids’-book author (and valued commenter) Carol Baicker-McKee was there and gave a superb talk, making effective use of a copy of Orwell’s 1984. Otherwise, however, among groups deeply affected by the legislation, the book and library trades were conspicuous by their absence. I wasn’t the only one who noticed this; so did Publisher’s Weekly.
  • I finally got to meet face to face many persons who have been favorably mentioned in these columns over the past three months. I was not surprised to find a whole lot of nice, dedicated people, the sort of people you’d want to be making products for your children to use. You, Reader, would have enjoyed meeting them too.
  • Many members of Congress spoke. All were Republican, and a few were pretty good. For better or worse (maybe some of each) there was a minimum of partisanship, with scant mention of the reports that the Democratic House leadership had ordered members not to attend. Several lawmakers minimized the institutional role in the debacle of Congress (which passed the law last year almost unanimously), instead seeking to throw the blame onto the CPSC’s management, which put them surprisingly close to the position of Henry Waxman himself. One GOP member said it was important to be nice to the Democrats and not alienate them, since they held all the power. Not observing the nicetiesThis may have been good advice, but I was still a little surprised.
  • Amid a great deal of talk about unintended consequences, very little was said about there being actual adversaries out there, who know quite well what the law is doing and support it anyway. If more than a word or two was breathed about the roles of Public Citizen, PIRG, or the various members of Congress who are actively hostile on the issue (and not just “needing to be educated”), I missed it. Which meant (it seemed to me) that some of the good people who’d taken the trouble to come to Washington were going to be surprised and perhaps unprepared when they discovered figures out there like, oh, just to pick randomly, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, whose positions are not so much unreflected-on as deeply hostile (and with mysteriously unsourced numbers too).

Speaking of which, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumers Reports, confirmed once again that it falls into the “hostile” and not merely “unreflective/ uninformed” category with this deplorable hatchet job, which provoked a slew of angry, substantive comments; see also blog posts including those of Carol Baicker-McKee and Sheeshamunga.

More rally coverage: Domestic Diva, Polka Dot Patch.
Public domain image: Yankee Mother Goose (1902), illustrator Ella S. Brison, courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.


  • Consumer Reports may have done a hatchet job, but from what I read in the comments section they may soon have people arriving at their door with pitchforks and torches.

  • Walter…I was such a pleasure to meet you at the Rally! We’re so greatful for your continued contribution to our cause!

  • Thanks, Walter! We followed the whole thing via the live streaming (Oh thank you Lord for high speed access obtained just the day before after about 3 years of hassle with the company who needed to provide it!!) but it was still interesting to hear your summary. I was surprised at the “be nice to the Dems and don’t blame us if we are nice too” angle.

  • Well done.

  • Walter-I so enjoyed meeting you after the rally! THANK YOU for covering this and continuing to ask questions. The rally was a start, but our work is far from over. You help give us a voice, and we are very grateful! Keep up the good work!

  • Thanks so much for all your work on this. I watched the hearing online, and thanks to the organizers for that too. Let’s hope something positive comes from this. I am at a loss as to why there is so much political foot dragging on this.

    BTW, not only ATV’s and bicycles, but shopping carts, school buses, and the family car fall under CPSIA. I wonder. If someone tests meat, fish, milk, fruit and vegetables, what are the lead levels there?

  • I don’t believe that most of those things in fact fall under the provisions of the law, though. Among products not covered by CPSIA are those not primarily intended for the use of persons under 12; various product categories closely regulated under other federal laws, such as medications and firearms; and various products with which children may come into contact but which are not considered “consumer products”.

  • Thank you Walter for your support and excellent reporting regarding CPSIA. It was a pleasure to meet you in DC!

  • I see products from the mom’s eye view and appreciate your legal eye view and input.

    Every shopping cart I have ever seen has a seat for a child. To me, therefore, it is made to be used by a child.

    School buses are specifically manufactured to be used by children, including those under the age of 12. I can’t see any way that someone could say otherwise.

    I suppose ‘the family car’ can slip out from under CPSIA as the manufacturer doesn’t know if the purchaser has kids. But there is that gray area. I’ve had auto dealers tout all the kid friendly features, like the child safe locks, the child safe windows, the spill proof upholstry, and so forth.

    Again, much thanks for your efforts on this.

  • AND the built in booster seats that flip down out of the main seat, and the head phones for the built in DVD players and . . . .

  • […] Walter Olson has allowed us to cross-post the following: […]

  • Walter, could you write a piece about the specialty products (the man spoke at the rally) like the eye blink machine for kids who are paralyzed and use blinking as their only form of communication.

    This should be a story for 60 minutes.

  • Yes, that man’s presentation about the law’s effect on assistive devices for special-needs kids was pretty riveting, and only one of a number of such accounts already out there (I linked a few here.) I should really blog it, although it shouldn’t take blogging from me to get the press to cover such a natural story.

    His name, according to my notes, is Steve Kanor, and his company is called Enabling Devices Inc. in New York.

  • Senator Durbin is a really nice man of limited intellectual capacity. His letter states his firm belief that thousands of children have been harmed by lead in toys. This belief is universal. Who would put saving household crafts above the wide spread poisoning of children. Unfortunately we do not have cross examination to demonstate that Senator is the grotesque fool that he is.

    CPSIA is just an affect of the corruption of our agencies and professional societies brought on by bad law, activists, and a generally moronic press.

    Everyone, every time, has to stress the foolishness of the lead hazard.

    And we can’t paint the Pulaski Skyway because of extreme lead regulations.

  • […] of the Washington scene help bring us that debacle, but — much less forgivably — they have continued blindly or mendaciously to deny that there is anything that needs fixing about the law at all, even as its damage has […]

  • If you are reading this, likely you are working for an amendment to the CPSIA. Uniting all sectors effected by this law, and getting them to agree on one amendment that would work for most of us, have been a challenge.

    We all agree our lawmakers need to bring in some common sense changes to this law. We do not all agree on exactly what these changes should be, but we all want to see the safe products freed up from the requirements of expensive testing.

    CPSC has told us that they need legislative approval to develop a risk-assessment program under CPSIA. Pooling our resources to work on a risk-assessment ONLY legislative piece might help us get it passed as soon as possible. This legislation need not design the risk-assessment program or procedures, it just needs to authorize CPSC to use a risk assessment program when applying the lead and phthalate testing and labeling portions of the law. CPSC can then design the program.

    Please let me know what you think.

  • My understanding is that risk assessment has already been done for phthalates by the CPSC already. The ban is unnecessary as children mouth their toys about 2 minutes a day when 75 minutes a day would be required.

    If a child sucks on a spring in a ball point pen, lead is the least of his problems.

    Senator Durbin says there is no safe amount of lead, but his law has a 600 ppm, going down to 100 ppm, allowance. The law is crazy on its face and must be annulled.

  • Thank you again for your excellent coverage. Concerning the groups like Consumers Union and Public Citizen, I’m thinking that there’s no way they even read the legislation. It just seems impossible to me that anyone could actually read it and think it was a great idea. Seems like they focused on the two words (safety improvement) in the title and kinda got stuck there.

  • Overlawyering our fresh food to death…

    Walter Olson at Overlawyered sounds the alarm about what Washington’s proposed food safety reforms may do to small farmers, farmers markets and suchlike. Excerpt: What could possibly go wrong? The answer, it seems, is “plenty”. Patrick, and the othe…

  • Here is a new YouTube video of interviews with motorcycle racers.

  • […] books being thrown out and pulled from library shelves by the thousands. It harmed poor people and special-needs kids. It rendered many ordinary bicycles illegal and made motorcycles more dangerous to […]

  • […] to the board of directors of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine”; in its blind and clueless advocacy of a maximally onerous CPSIA, Consumers Union has taken a back seat only to Public Citizen […]