Search Results for ‘cpsia brass’

CPSIA’s ban on brass

By a 3-2 vote, the CPSC has confirmed that the absurd and inflexible Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act bans the sale of children’s products which contain components of conventional (leaded) brass. The vote drew dissents from commissioners Anne Northup (statement) and Nancy Nord (official comments, PDF; further statement at her blog). From the latter:

…The Commission has now very clearly determined that we do not have the flexibility under the law to make common sense decisions with respect to lead.
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…I am especially concerned about what this decision means for our schools, where brass is found on desk hinges, coat hooks, locker pulls and many other items. Are schools now going to be forced to remove all brass and if so, who will bear this financial burden?

…brass is found throughout a home and removing it from toys does little in terms of removing it from a child’s environment. If brass were really harmful to children, we would be taking action to remove it from the home but no one is suggesting that there is a safety issue that needs to be addressed in this way.

Evidence of actual health risks from brass in the everyday environments of American children is, of course, anything but compelling. Rick Woldenberg has been covering the story here, here, here, and here. Greco Woodcrafting predicts rough times ahead for school bands, as well. And the WSJ editorializes today.
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More: this summer the CPSC issued guidance on the closely related topic of ballpoint pens (the roller balls of which include lead alloy); the upshot was so long as manufacturers don’t primarily market any given pen design as being for kids, they’re in the clear, even if large numbers of children are among the pens’ users. (Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association petition and response, both PDF; earlier here, here, etc.) For more on that episode, see 3 Green Angels, NAM “Shop Floor” and more, Rick Woldenberg and more, and Whimsical Walney.

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES from Elise Bake, Der Ball Der Tiere (“The Animals’ Ball”, German, 1891), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

Enviro groups: beware brass at Disneyland

Several environmental groups say objects accessible to visitors at Disney parks, such as brass knobs, test positive for lead. “The groups filed suit against Disneyland in April based on a California law that requires businesses to post warnings when lead levels in fixtures and other items exceed certain levels.” Lead in brass and similar stable alloys is often regarded as posing little or no danger as compared with lead in more readily ingestible forms, but has nonetheless been swept in for similar treatment under various ill-conceived laws. [Orlando Sentinel]

Do NYT editorialists even read their paper’s own CPSIA coverage?

The New York Times editorial page continues to dismiss criticism of the testing burdens of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 on small manufacturers and retailers as “part of a standard antiregulation litany.” But on October 30, 2009 the paper itself ran a sadly belated but otherwise decently executed article PieManEthelEveretta by reporter Leslie Wayne from which a fair-minded reader would conclude that the small makers’ complaints about the law are only too well-grounded (“Burden of Safety Law Imperils Small Toymakers.”)

If one were to take a charitable view, one might commend the Times editorialists for at last deigning to concede that the law might usefully be “tweaked,” at least within a very narrow latitude. They finally acknowledge that there “might be a way to exempt products from testing if they very clearly do not pose a lead-related hazard,” without acknowledging that the great majority of products swept under the law’s coverage fall into exactly such a category. But they continue to insist that even older kids be denied access to products that could not pass BikeItalianPosterCPSIA’s lead testing, including whole categories of products like kids’ bicycles and ballpoint pens whose designs still cannot dispense with the (entirely harmless) use of brass and suchlike alloys. Only the repeated staying or postponed enforcement of many of the law’s requirements has spared the country a long list of similar absurdities — while the legal absurdities that the CPSC has not stayed or postponed have already wiped out makers and vendors of harmless products from coast to coast.

Even under the best of circumstances, the Times’s editorialists would find it hard to live down their cruel, ideologically blinkered track record on the CPSIA issue. But couldn’t they at least pretend to be following the coverage in their own paper? More: Handmade Toy Alliance. And Rick Woldenberg offers a critique of the the Times’s new, and anything but improved, news-side reporting.

CPSIA: hearing set for tomorrow on proposed legislative fix

Readers of this site will recall that as reports rolled in last year of the calamitous effects of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the Congressional leadership, and in particular key lawmaker Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) steadfastly refused to hold hearings or in general acknowledge that the law was causing systematic ill effects of any sort. As resale outlets across the nation swept harmless winter coats from their shelves or stopped dealing in kids’ goods entirely; BadMrsGinger1bas librarians warned that whole collections of pre-1985 books would need to be either put through prohibitively expensive testing or simply discarded; as makers, importers and sellers of perfectly harmless apparel, school supplies, furniture, musical instruments and other children’s items puzzled over ruinously high testing costs and bans on common materials like brass; as smaller, craft-oriented producers began folding, leaving the market to be served by the largest mass-production toymakers and retailers (many of which had supported the legislation); as the kids’ motor vehicle industry, including makers and sellers of dirtbikes and mini-ATVs, found itself transformed overnight into outlaws; even as all this unfolded, Henry Waxman and his counterparts on the Senate side kept the lid clamped down tight on any Capitol Hill airing of such woes. Eventually Waxman held a hearing with exactly one (1) witness, Obama-appointed CPSC chairperson Inez Tenenbaum, who sought to put the best face on the law. (After a false start, a House small business committee lacking actual legislative jurisdiction was also allowed to hold a more varied hearing.)

In recent months, without of course admitting any error whatsoever, representatives of Waxman’s office have been quietly floating amendments intended to correct some of CPSIA’s most blatantly impractical elements. The fixes would be likely to help in some specific areas where opposition has been vocal and influential, BadMrsGinger2bsuch as children’s books and mini-vehicles, while affording much less relief, or none at all, to many others trying to cope with the law. At the same time, Waxman’s staff has been demanding that “business” (conceived as if it were some monolithic group) gratefully sign off on the fix as acceptable and perhaps even accept new provisions that would increase CPSIA burdens. While many affected groups are understandably eager to reach a deal, others, such as persistent critic and businessman-blogger Rick Woldenberg, are reluctant to sign off on obviously partial and inadequate fixes as if were going to solve the wider problems with the law.

The fixer amendment has gone through several iterations; its current draft is here (PDF), named the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, or CPSEA (more background from the committee, PDF, via ShopFloor). Now, at long last, Waxman has agreed to hold a hearing tomorrow (to be chaired by his colleague Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.). The witness list includes persons from Goodwill Industries, the National Association of Manufacturers, Handmade Toy Alliance, and the Motorcycle Industry Council — all of which groups have apparently agreed to support the legislation — as well as Rick Woldenberg of Learning Resources Inc., who continues as a critic, and Steve Levy of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. Of course the difference now, and the reason some of these groups at long last will get their chance to testify, is that they have agreed to testify at least nominally on Waxman’s and Rush’s side — perhaps in some cases while biting their tongues.

We’ll be reporting more in days to come. In the mean time, this would make a good occasion for news organizations to renew their attention to the public policy disaster that CPSIA has wrought.

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES from Honor C. Appleton, The Bad Mrs. Ginger (Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1902), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

A crack in the CPSIA concrete?

In what one hopes is a break from the “no legislative fix needed” united front put forward by the law’s advocates, Consumer Product Safety Commission chair Inez Tenenbaum has acknowledged in a letter to Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif) that at least some legislative action establishing exceptions to the law’s sweeping bans might be helpful. Product Safety Letter has the story. Relatedly:

PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES from Elise Bake, Der Ball Der Tiere (“The Animals’ Ball”, German, 1891), courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

CPSIA: August 14 arrives

Not just our hobby horseOn Friday several key provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 took effect [CPSC release]. The permissible amount of lead in products dropped from 600 parts per million to 300 ppm, ensuring that more zippers, rocks, brass bicycle parts and other harmless items will fail; the new tracking-label mandate went into effect for newly manufactured kids’ goods; and penalties went way up, from a maximum of $8,000 per violation to $100,000 per violation and $15 million overall.

The Associated Press has good coverage. It talks to, among others, Michael Warring, president of American Educational Products, a producer of teaching aids such as globes, maps and animal models based in Fort Collins, Colo. who says he has had no safety recalls or lead problems in his fifteen years of business, but says new testing mandates will cost $2,000 per product item, not counting the costs of tracking labels. The AP story even runs on the New York Times website, thus eroding that paper’s impressive record of shielding its readers from information on the law’s consequences. The WSJ news side quotes new CPSC chairman Inez Tenenbaum as saying the law will be enforced “vigorously”, following similar language in an interview last month (“Tenenbaum said the industry has had adequate time to prepare for the new requirements;” more).

The Washington Times’ editorial gives generous credit to this website for sounding the alarm:

For a year, the Manhattan Institute’s Walter Olson has been compiling horror stories about the Consumer Product Safety and Improvement Act at his Overlawyered blog. Those stories — about what Mr. Olson describes as an “absolutist, not to say fanatical” law — seem to be endless. Yet an out-of-touch Congress continues to ignore the horrible fruits of its handiwork.

The Wall Street Journal editorializes:

Eight bills have since been introduced in the House to remedy the problems [with CPSIA], only to stall in the ideological quicksand of Mr. Waxman’s Energy and Commerce Committee. He has so far failed even to hold hearings.

Greco Woodcrafting has a small toymaker’s perspective.

Deputy Headmistress is irritated by certain blog commenters whose reaction on learning of this law is, “Nobody will enforce it, there has to be a way around it, if you don’t find a way around it you’re too dumb to be in business, it doesn’t mean what it says, they’ll have to take care of it, obviously this wasn’t what the law was for so don’t worry about it, this is just scare-mongering, try this loophole, that other loophole should work…” She also wonders in what sense the law’s consequences should count as truly “unintended”.

Some more background coverage, previously unlinked: Andrew Langer (Institute for Liberty), Roll Call; H. Sterling Burnett and Michael Hand, “Getting the Lead Out Kills Small Businesses, Doesn’t Save Children”, National Center for Policy Analysis #665; Jennifer Upton, Louisville Courier-Journal and Kentucky Kids Consignment Sales. And Hugh Hewitt’s audio interview (auto-play) with Rick Woldenberg comes highly recommended; some print excerpts here [NAM “ShopFloor”].

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

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.

Charity blue-jean donation program

It’s endangered by CPSIA, since organizers have no easy way to know whether a recyclable pair of kids’ jeans might have lead-containing brass in its buttons or zipper and thus be unlawful to sell (though not in fact dangerous). [Nancy Nord]

P.S.: Demise of print publication of Mothering Magazine after 35 years attributed in part to CPSIA and other CPSC regulations that devastated many advertisers [Handmade Toy Alliance]