In 2007, Mattel discovered excessive levels of lead in some of its imported Fisher Price toys. It immediately recalled millions of toys and self-reported the violation. Nevertheless, it has been hit with class action lawsuits. And if you ever had any doubt that the CPSIA was an overreaction and unnecessary to protect consumer safety, Mattel last week paid $2.3 million in fines for the violation of pre-CPSIA law. [CNNMoney via ABAJournal]
The impact of a hazard is the product of individual risk and exposure. In the case of the Chinese produced toys there was an exposure of 253,000 toys for lead paint and 18 million toys with magnets. Since there is no evidence of actual harm to any child, the individual risk must be small, nearly zero. Many of the toys were recalled before being sold, so the argument is somewhat diluted. None the less, there never was a danger to any child from the toys.
Statutory definitions are an aid to regulation and litigation. But they can provide a hook for extortion, as was used in this ridiculous fine about the toys, and for public interest nuts. Why would anyone want to deprive children of bicycles, or a poor child of a warm, if second hand, coat for winter?
While I think the CPSIA is as poorly written a law as anyone who pays here, the fining of Mattel is NOT demonstrable proof that the previous law worked satisfactorily. CPSIA, in its wrong-headed, destructive manner, attempts to prevent the entrance of these tainted products into American homes.
What is needed is not to go back to the situation before CPSIA, but for the people in Washington to do their jobs correctly and draft a law that makes sense.
Unfortunately, as they seem to be busy trying to regulate all of the health and medical industry before summer break — and what a mess that will be! — fat chance.
[…] is home to an estimated 500 toy companies — most of them far smaller than crosstown giant Mattel — and they’re in much distress from the law. [Alexa Hyland, L.A. Business Journal] The […]