Thursday, June 25, 2009

New CPSC Chairperson

Inez Tenenbaum was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to lead the CPSC. Nancy Nord, who has been in that position is fortunately still a Commissioner. Nancy's voice has continually been one of common sense in her approach to the CPSIA. This law, however, does not give the CPSC much room to implement it in any way that prevents devastation to many businesses while not providing the added safety that it promises. I eagerly away action by Tenenbaum to show how she plans to provide effective leadership on this matter.

I remind everyone to continue to read Rick Woldenberg's blog at for the latest developments and his intelligent commentary.

There is also a new site at to get new information, developments and many other links to other related sites.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Letter from CPSC toxicologist

I got the following quick response to a question I asked a CPSC toxicologist regarding a document referenced by blog allegedly showing how CPSC dismissed effect of CPSIA on small business. Turns out that document was only speaking to a procedure, not the actual law. I thank Kris for the quick reply clarifying the ruling. Here is the reply:

Dear Ms. Ballas,

Thank you for your message. The FR notice that you quote from is for a specific Commission rulemaking. This rule establishes formal procedures that companies may follow to request certain actions by the Commission. The economic analysis refers only to the potential impacts on businesses that might chose to prepare a request. It certainly does *not* refer to the impacts of the federal law--the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008--which as you state has significant impacts on businesses.

I hope that clears up some of your confusion.


Kris Hatlelid, Ph.D., M.P.H.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814-4421
301-504-0079 (fax)

Dick Durbin Attack Part II

Dick Durbin's proud of his attacks

I have reprinted his statement in it's entirely so that I can discuss some of the most egregious aspects of it. My comments are in italics.

Durbin: Don't Be Fooled - CPSIA Most Important Consumer Legislation In More Than 30 Years

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) – a measure signed into law last year which gives the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) new authorities and resources and significantly strengthens its ability to protect Americans from defective and unsafe products.

“In the last few years, dozens of children were killed and thousands more injured because of dangerous toys on our store shelves. (Where is the support for these statistics? I am unable to verify.) Recall after recall had many in Congress wondering if America’s consumer watchdog agency had lost its bite.(If there have been many recalls, does that not indicate that the CPSC is doing it's job very well?)”

“In response, Congress passed, and President Bush signed, the bipartisan Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act - virtually eliminating lead from toys and children’s products, (With no effort to determine risk assessment) providing new enforcement tools (exorbitant fines and the unleashing of 50 Attorneys General to enforce this law unevenly) and requiring manufacturers to prove their products meet national safety standards before those products can be sold in stores.(at a cost of hundreds of dollars for each batch of each style of each product, thereby putting many businesses OUT of business)”

“Don’t be fooled. The CPSIA is the most important consumer legislation in more than thirty years. (I agree here. It is the most important because it was passed without due consideration of what it entailed or how it could be implemented resulting in devastating losses to consumers and must now be undone.) It has made consumers safer and the CPSC stronger. (That remains to be seen)CPSC has the authority and the responsibility to offer guidance about the law’s implementation and its effect on industry. (Offering guidance is what the CPSC has been doing but the law gives the CPSC very little leeway in making exemptions.) But above all else, it has a duty to place consumer safety over industry convenience. (Neither the CPSC nor the affected businesses have in any way placed convenience over safety)

“Sadly, some at the CPSC are doing everything in their power to thwart effective implementation of this law. (Simply untrue, Nord and her staff have been doing everything in their power to try to implement this poorly written law). The same people who presided over the decline of the agency and resisted additional resources and authorities to strengthen its mission, are now refusing to apply commonsense interpretations to basic safety provisions in the CPSIA.”(as stated previously, commonsense interpretations have been protested by the misguided proponents of this law and overturned in courts)

Durbin chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government and has been a leader in attempting to strengthen the beleaguered consumer watchdog agency. Last year, Durbin was instrumental in passing the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and was responsible for providing the largest funding increase in the history of the agency (hasn't been received to date)to help address critical staffing shortfalls, technology upgrades, and laboratory space needs (No additional monies have yet to actually been issued to the CPSC while expecting them to implement several sweeping legislative initiatives).

Last week Durbin sent a letter to Nancy Nord, Acting Chairman of the CPSC, expressing concern with her recent comments criticizing new legislation, (Nord criticizes the aspects that are deserving of that criticism. She has shown admirable interest in safety while trying to assist businesses in common sense ways as much as this law allows. The law was written so as to give very little leeway to the CPSC as evidenced by the overturn of a critical decision regarding retroactivity of the phthalates restrictions.) and showing continued resistance to modernizing and reforming the much maligned agency she leads. (I see no evidence of resistance to modernizing. The resistance has come from members of Congress such as Durbin who steadfastly refuse to open their eyes to see the damages caused by this law without a resultant safety increase.)

Dick Durbin, here's my message to you. Read some of the articles about the unnecessary damages caused by this law. They have appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine. Talk to Rick Woldenberg of Learning Resources. If you won't even enter into a discussion on this matter, then expect me and every other Illinois voter I can reach out to, to oppose your next election campaign.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dick Durbin attacks Nancy Nord

Dick Durbin letter to Nancy Nord

This is an offensive letter. Written by a senator who only cares enough to send people form letters, he totally attacks Nancy Nord for voicing her opinions about the CPSIA. Her recent response was written in conjunction with many CPSC staffers to show that the remarks were in no way simply Nord's opinions. Durbin ignores all this and accuses her of 'grossly mischaracterizing the law'. It is Durbin that does that, not Nord. He does not acknowledge even one flaw in the law, despite all the clear evidence. He speaks of increased funding levels with no mention that no additional funding has actually been received by the CPSC. Doesn't this guy or any of his Illinois cohorts (Jackson, Rush, Schakowsky, Biggert) have the ability to listen?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eloquent Post on CPSIA effects on thrifters

The CPSIA Shoves the Poor Off a Cliff

Chicago Tribune Editorials 3/28/09

It is time for me to cancel my subscription to the Chicago Tribune. There is only so much I can take and there's plenty of news alternatives. In an editorial about how dropside cribs will no longer be manufactured due to the injuries arising from them, they felt it necessary to once again boast about their involvement in CPSIA as follows:

"This page has pushed the Consumer Product Safety Commission to be more aggressive in protecting infants from the dangers of unsafe cribs. We heartily supported congressional action last year that gave the commission more money and more authority to ferret out and block unsafe products."

So that's all they have to say about the effects of CPSIA. Not one word on the disastrous effects.

Ironically, just below that editorial one was an editorial about the Salvation Army and how certain areas of the country have a shortfall in donations. No mention of how CPSIA is hurting the Salvation Army as documented in one of my earlier posts.

Are You Angry Yet?

Democrat leadership has allegedly prohibited Democratic members of government from participating in next week's CPSIA rally on Capitol Hill. What is happening to our democracy? Do you still believe that these people are representing any of your interests or just their own?

Learning Resources Blog

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why do XRF testing?

On a resalers message board someone asked "aren't we shooting ourselves in the foot by promoting the XRF testing parties? A shop in Bend did this and publicized the results; being that 30% of her used clothing tested positive for lead. We aren't "required" to test, so why are some of you doing so and publicizing it? I feel it adds to public fears and makes our case weak. That is, if we are, in fact, trying to salvage our rights as resellers."

Here is my response:

In my opinion, testing is about education and doesn't add to public fears. Some want to talk about this topic in depth and others just dismiss the entire thing and that is individual choice. Many people are justifiably concerned about lead in children's products and I am trying to make information available to these people. Not doing so would be sticking my head in the sand and pretending the issue doesn't exist. Not knowing the facts don't make them any less factual. By testing, I can tell my customers more about the specific lead levels that are being found and the items in which lead is being found. I went a step further and invited the public to bring in items of concern to have them tested for lead. I'm pleased to report that some volunteers at a local thrift shop came to learn more. I even invited Nancy Cowles, Executive Drector of Kids in Danger (one of the organizations behind CPSIA), and was delighted that she came.

I believe that people are entitled to make decisions for themselves (and their children) and some may want to avoid items that contain lead. The few that have indicated that they concur with the CPSIA can choose to buy only items that are certified lead-free just as many choose to buy organic food. Many people don't believe that the levels of lead we are finding are dangerous and so choose to continue to purchase these products. So as I see it, my job is to give them the best information that I can so that they can make their own decision. In this way I hope to earn their trust and respect. This is my effort to refute the statement that resale stores put profit over safety. The rights of resellers to sell things don't trump the rights of buyers to have as much information as I can give them about the items they purchase.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Results of March 8 XRF testing at my resale store

I can't say enough good things about Tony Osborn of CBRNE Technologies. Very knowledgeable and professional and personable to boot.

The torrential rains worked hard to keep people away from my store but we went forward with the XRF testing in spite of it. There were only a few members of the public who showed up to take advantage of learning more about lead in consumer products. These folks came from consignment and thrift stores and were interested to find out more about this topic. It was good to see that there are a few organizations who truly care enough about the safety of the items that they sell to get more first-hand information. I was disappointed that more people did not show up because I had hoped to raise money for the Northern Illinois Food Bank Kids Backpack Program.

In addition to media coverage in the Naperville Sun and the Chicago Tribune local section, I also sent out nearly 800 invitations via my email newsletter and Twitter notices went out. Nancy Cowles from Kids In Danger did come out (thanks Nancy!) to be supportive in our quest for information and education. She brought a Reebok charm bracelet similar to the one that the child from Minnesota died from ingesting. Interestingly, the charm on the one she brought passed the XRF test but the clasp failed.

Tony showed us the Niton XRF gun and explained how it works. He showed us how two items that look identical can be so different when it comes to lead content. One children's cup tested at no detectable lead content while the other one that looked identical, failed miserably. This highlights the fact that to be certain, each and every item would have to be tested, not just a sampling. So any results we saw cannot be extrapolated to apply to any other items.

He tested many items in my store and the results were surprising to me. I had been told that raincoats and rain boots were highly suspect but all the raincoats in my store tested as safe. Rain boots did not, but Tony mentioned that lead is used in them to reduce the growth of mold which seems like a desired property in rain boots! I think the health hazard of mold is more likely than that posed by the possibility of lead ingestion from these boots. We did not find a lot of fails in the shoe section other than the rain boots.

We moved onto the toy section and most toys, even painted wood ones (made in USA), passed. We did see failures in some painted wood toys (made in China), however as well as some eyes in stuffed animals. So in spite all the focus on 'toxic toys', our results showed very few failures in this area. We did not spend much time on equipment such as strollers and high chairs but found no failures in the ones tested.

The children's clothing area is the one that my customers need the most and consequently where we spent the most time. We spent a considerable amount of time testing zippers, snaps and buttons in children's clothing and found many failures, particularly in buttons. Brand names with problems included Ralph Lauren, Child's Place, Gymboree, Carters and Osh Kosh. Zippers were a mixed bag with some passes and some failures. We did not find any failures with snaps but admittedly, did not have the time to test numerous samples. Snaps and zippers seem far less likely to be ingested so buttons are more of a concern (to me, anyway). Having heard that they were a potential problem, we tested all the 'fake pearls' we could find but found no failures.

We did find some older books to test with the only failure being Horton Hears A Who from the 1940s. That was interesting.

Some items that are made by local crafters passed, including hair clips, washcloth and bib 'faux suckers' for gift decoration, and plastic jewelry. Some charm bracelets failed.

I did not expect this experience to give me answers that would direct my actions. I just wanted to see for myself the extent of the problem in my store. The overall results were in line with what could have been predicted but I just feel more confident making decisions for my future, having seen it for myself. And it did reinforce that there is really no way to know which items are in compliance and as the limits continue to reduce the allowed level of lead, it will become more difficult and there will be even more failures.

I have begun a transition from children's items to teen and women's items and will continue to do so. I will continue to write to my government representatives in spite of their nonresponsiveness and do what I can to fight CPSIA for all children's industries. I don't see a good future for children's resale though because it is becoming increasingly difficult to operate. Checking each and every item for recalls and other compliance is already a difficult task (About 30,000 items pass through my store each year) and the extremely small margins that come from selling these items don't justify the potential liability of missing just one thing and thereby being forced into bankruptcy. That is not a reasonable business environment. All this while other organizations blatantly ignore the law and/or mislead the public about the safety of their products and achieve a competitive advantage by doing do. My customers are confused by the mixed information and become frustrated when I try to educate them and need to refuse items that I have accepted in the past and others are still accepting.

I will carry children's items in the short term and continue to watch this issue with great interest to see if the law changes as a result of the increasingly vocal contingent of businesses and people that are adversely impacted by it. I hope that it changes enough to allow me to continue to offer great children's items at an affordable price to many who need that. There are so many great people that I have met on Twitter that are doing so much to spread the word by writing eloquent blog entries and reaching out to government officials and media representatives to raise awareness of these issues. Without them, I would have surely given up by now. I am encouraged by the efforts of Rick Woldenberg who has organized hearings on Capitol Hill on April 1st in spite of the deaf ear the Congress has towards the problems with CPSIA.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Difference between Cautious and CYA actions

Again, Once Upon A Child says they have a magical list to know what is safe

Citing the CPSIA law, both Goodwill and Second Fling consignment shop have exited entire categories of children's items.

"But Trish de la Motte is not worried about her resale store, Once Upon a Child. The toys, clothing and furniture there are safe, she said. That is because her store is a franchise, and the franchisor has worked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and gotten advice about what not to buy. "We have a list of what is OK to buy and what is not OK to buy," she said. When it comes to baby equipment and furniture, she has never purchased anything more than five years old to make sure it's up to standard. Ms. de la Motte also has sent e-mails to her customers to let them know the precautions the franchise has taken to make sure everything in the store is safe."

"There is no comprehensive list of potentially hazardous toys." says PIRG.

It is impossible to even reliably guess which items do not comply and saying that everything in their store is safe is false and utterly irresponsible.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wall Street Journal gets it right!

Estimated loss due to inventory over $1 billion

Big Brother is watching you!

CPSC Operation SOS

A little note from the Consumer Product Safety Commission on how they have set up a covert operation to spy on people trying to sell non-compliant items on the internet.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Write to Glenn Beck!

Glenn Beck has not reported on the effects of CPSIA because he believes that there has been no public outcry. PLEASE send him an email at (the Glenn Beck general email address)

telling him that this issue needs his attention!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More resale and thrift updates

CPSIA Chronicles on

The wide array of varying reactions is indicative of CPSIA's complexity. Some secondhand stores are accepting all children's items and some are accepting none. And some are defining what to accept for themselves. And, a link to the article in the Naperville Sun on From My Room!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Common Room: Who Lobbied for the CPSIA?

The Common Room: Who Lobbied for the CPSIA?

Outstanding research on the formation of CPSIA and how people and interest groups affected the outcome.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

and now, a summary from Planet Moron

CPSIA - a summary

I love all my friends on Twitter. They point me in the direction of great articles like this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CPSIA Poetry - Here's mine

Here's My Limerick:

There once was a lead law called CPSIA
It caught all of us in it's GripSIA
Old toys and books now are banned
No used clothing in this land
That have buttons or snaps or ZipSIAs

And some Haiku:

Chilling legislation for
Kids biz large and small

C'mon folks. You can do better than I did. Give it a try.

Rush Limbaugh on CPSIA today!

See last item on page

This has got to be good!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dr. Seuss was prescient!

So I officially started my pre-1985 children's book collection today. I went to gather these 'banned hazardous materials' from my store shelves and fell in love. When I opened the cover to this 1965 Fox In Socks book, I hit the floor laughing. Turns out that Dr. Seuss was prescient and foresaw this whole CPSIA thing. To view my entire collection of a dozen books so far, click here.

Dr. Seuss Meets the CPSIA

More Absurd Developments

As usual, Walter Olson does a great roundup of the latest CPSIA craziness at CPSIA Chronicles

Lots of articles and posts regarding the removal of pre-1985 children's books from bookstore shelves.

Ballpoint pen manufacturers requesting an exemption.

There is also a new bill regarding a two-year exemption for thrift and consignment stores. Now I have a childrens consignment store so you'd think I'd be jumping for joy at this one. Well, I'm not. First of all, chasing exemptions is not what needs to happen here. Everyone needs to work together with the goal of reexamining this entire law, not just lobbying to save one industry or another. The only positive thing that I can see coming from all the requests for exemptions is simply that flooding the CPSC with these requests may make them take notice that nearly everyone has a valid claim for exemption. Which speaks to the ridiculous nature of the law.

And now the CPSC has opened up a 30-day comment period for what products should be covered by the phthalate limitations. Guess the terminology used in the law didn't make for straightforward definitions. Like, do things that facilitate sleeping include mattresses? blankets? bumper pads? Why do things that facilitate sleeping fall under the phthalate limits anyway? Is phthalate absorbed more readily when sleeping? When do babies even come into contact with a mattress? Do bibs really facilitate eating or are they just there to catch the crumbs? If you put a terrycloth shirt on your baby will that be defined as a bib? And how on earth will we figure out what to do about bottles since they fall under both the FDA and the CPSC? So what will the CPSC really do with the information they get? That remains to be seen but I suggest we all take a whack at providing some common sense. CPSC Request for Comments

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So this is all making kids safer?

Safety Act Puts Kid ATVs, Motorbikes in Storage

$100,000,000 worth of them.

Safety Law Doesn't Mean Alls Well in Toyland

"While the phthalate ban was hailed as a victory for children's health, it's no guarantee that the products are safe.

That's because companies currently aren't required to publicly disclose the chemicals they use in place of phthalates — and little is known about the health effects of one of the most widely used alternatives."

Anyone remember the answer to flammability standards in kids pajamas? Tris. Yes, Tris - later found to be a cancer causing agent. Deja Vu Anyone?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Forgotten Small Business Laws


Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

These laws are designed to protect small business from burdensome and unfair regulatory action. Read them carefully and see how much this whole CPSIA mess is contradictory to the intent of these laws. It's hard to select just a quote from them because the entire text is relevant but here's an easy one:

IN GENERAL.--For each rule or group of related rules for which an agency is required to prepare a final regulatory flexibility analysis under section 605(b) of title 5, United States Code, the agency shall publish 1 or more guides to assist small entities in complying with the rule and shall entitle such publications 'small entity compliance guides'.

(2) PUBLICATION OF GUIDES.--The publication of each guide under this subsection shall include--

(A) the posting of the guide in an easily identified location on the website of the agency; and

(B) distribution of the guide to known industry contacts, such as small entities, associations, or industry leaders affected by the rule.

(3) PUBLICATION DATE.--An agency shall publish each guide (including the posting and distribution of the guide as described under paragraph (2))--

(A) on the same date as the date of publication of the final rule (or as soon as possible after that date); and

(B) not later than the date on which the requirements of that rule become effective.

So, the posting of the guide on THE DAY the law took effect did not even come close to meeting the requirements of distribution of the guide. That alone should be grounds for delaying the effects on small business. The fact that the phthalate ban became retroactive just a few DAYS before the implementation is contrary to any remotely reasonable approach. The CPSC should not be able to be overturned by a state court.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Five Favorite Things Affected By CPSIA

1) the grandmother who comes into my store and tells me that without my resale store, she would not be able to afford to buy anything for her grandchildren

2) the smiles on kids faces as they uncover their 'treasure' because their mom can say 'go find something' from my store shelves because she knows it won't cost that much

3) getting up each morning looking forward to the privilege of meeting all the great people who come into my store ranging from the environmentalist, to the frugal, to the under-employed, to the poor, to the just plain practical

4) selfishly, the satisfaction I get from providing a community service to those who want to sell their great kids things and those who want to buy them

5) all the choices that are being taken away by the government. In America I have come to expect to have the freedom to choose those things that I enjoy, be it a ride on a roller coaster, a piece of chocolate, or a handmade hairbow for my daughter. I don't want to live my life in a bubble. I don't feel so good about the government taking away my right to choose.

CPSIA for Dummies?

Hey, some great news. I was told to expect a 40-50 page document (aka CPSIA for Dummies?) from my friends at the CPSC by Monday (or Tuesday morning at the very latest) that will explain in excruciating detail everything that resale stores need to do to be in compliance with CPSIA. Nothing like being prepared! I may have a whole hour or two to digest this sure-to-be clear and concise document, review each of the 20,000 some items in my store and take the appropriate action for each one and still open for business at 10:00 am. Stay tuned - I'll be sure to link to this beauty as soon as I get it! Prepare for some simply outrageous commentary!

UPDATE: Seriously, this is it?

So all I need to do, then, is avoid selling all toys, jewelry, and clothing that has snaps, zippers or other closures. Alrighty then.

Nope, that wasn't it. Stay tuned, the sequel will be issued any day now ...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ban on Phthalates now retroactive

LA Times

Great. Four days before implementation and now entire categories of children's items must now be discarded. There is no test for phthalates like the XRF gun for lead so no way to know.

Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal press release If you think states Attorney General's offices will respect CPSC opinions, then read this.

Opinion piece on Blumenthal's press release

Salvation Army

Salvation Army store in Richmond, IN stops taking children's products

In this article, they claim to have made this decision because they "care more about children's safety than exemption". Must be a coincidence then that this decision was made just a few days before CPSIA implementation. They were clearly avoiding the work involved with wading through the CPSIA mess and the liability that now results from it. Being concerned about children's safety does not include preventing access to affordable secondhand items, over 95% of which are 100% safe.

Weekly CPSC CPSIA Missive

CPSC Enforcement Policy Announcement

Well, a few materials are now 'exempt'. Cotton, wool, wood, certain dyed and undyed textiles. Ordinary children's books post-1985. While I don't subscribe to Waxman's assertions that the CPSC is entirely to blame, this should have come out a week after the law was signed.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

USA Today article

USA Today on CPSIA

Finally getting accurate major media coverage.

USA Today on CPSIA part II

Well, maybe not entirely accurate. In this follow up, they say "The commission also tried to ease the worries of thrift store owners who sell children's clothes. The agency said it won't prosecute anyone for distributing or selling most clothes, such as T-shirts and baby blankets."

Excuse me for mentioning that only, say tshirts and socks, are made entirely of exempt fabric. That would certainly not constitute 'most' clothes. And blankets are still subject to phthalate testing. And the release did not say they won't prosecute, it said they GENERALLY won't prosecute. Take that to the bank.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Proposed Stay of Enforcement from CPSC

Proposed Stay of Enforcement of Testing and Certification Requirements

I'm not convinced that this does anything more than the previous 'clarification' that says resellers can sell items but they are still responsible for selling products that exceed the lead limit. This stay just puts manufacturers in the same boat. Back to innocent until proven guilty but doesn't really change the law. It does give manufacturers additional time to request exemptions and obtain GCC's so it helps the small crafters a lot - but only temporarily. Over at Etsy, they are all doing a happy dance thinking it is business as usual. They need to realize that it is nothing of the sort.

We still need Jim DeMint (senator from South Carolina - one of 3 to vote against CPSIA) to get his reforms through. In it, he starts off by requesting a six-month stay of the regulations, not just the testing. Jim DeMint's CPSIA Reform Letter

Thursday, January 29, 2009

1/28 Letter to CPSC

Letter From NAM to CPSC requesting delay in implementing CPSIA

Here's an idea

If we choose to buy that unlabeled cookie at the local bake sale, is that illegal? Or is that within our scope of free choice? How about the bowl of popcorn at the bar? I would not take a handful given that I do not know what is in them nor whose hands have touched them. But I don't deny others the right to do so nor is that illegal. So let's look at children's products the way we look at food products. After all, those fat, sugar and calorie laden kids foods aren't illegal. It's just that one look at the ingredient label and many people don't buy them.

First of all, let's set a reasonable age - items for children under 3 is good and is the accepted age cutoff for choking hazard warnings so why not this? Why 12 and under when the sole reason for doing so is just because those children are likely to have younger siblings? Secondly, allow common sense component testing. Then just mandate that all these items must be labeled with an 'ingredient-like' label listing the lead and phthalate levels or a label with a warning that these levels are unknown. We use food labels to determine what products we choose to eat and to offer to our children - do the same thing here. Empower us with good information on which to base our decisions. The free market will determine the success of items that are labeled with unacceptable or unknown levels.

Rather than a pass/fail type of system, a quantifiable number can be used. By identifitying the amount of the substance, it will allow for future changes in determining an acceptable level. Under the current requirements, when the lead limit falls to 300 ppm, a product deemed 'safe' under the 600 ppm law will then be 'unsafe'. Then when other substances need to be tracked they can simply be added to that 'ingredient' label. Some parents may want to choose to only buy products that are less than 100 ppm now and they should be enabled to make that decision now.

I see parents handing their children donuts and cookies to eat and heading straight for McDonalds for french fries. Do I approve? No. Would I do that with my kids? No. Do I believe in their right to make that decision? Yes. Because many decisions are not that simple and government cannot dictate at that level, even if we all agreed. In Illinois I can legally put my child on a motorcycle without a helmet. A parent can take their child to a monster truck show and risk a part being propelled through the air and killing that child. A parent can get a pet Rottweiler who ultimately turns vicious and kills the child. A parent can give their child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and that child can die from salmonella poisoning. A parent can give their child a taco and the child can die from bacteria in the tomatoes - oops I mean the lettuce. And therein lies my point. No one can provide 100% safety for themselves or their children. The best we can do is get good information and improve the odds. And it is up to each of us to determine the level of risk that we are willing to take. I admire those that actively seek out safer foods, cleaning products, beauty products, medicines and drugs. I am trying to become more aware and make better choices. It is my right to choose to do that or to not do that. And if I choose to buy that unlabeled cookie at the bake sale or the unlabeled hair bow for my child's hair, I strongly believe that is my choice to make. All I ask is for the information to be available to make an intelligent decision. And if it is not made available, it remains my choice whether or not to purchase the product.

So what is unworkable about this idea? Seems fair to me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Ray of Hope

Congressman Joe Barton / Congressman George Radanovich letter urging Henry Waxman to conduct a hearing on CPSIA immediately with the intention to delay the enforcement of CPSIA due to it's devastating effects on small business.

Letter to Henry Waxman

I want nothing more than to find reasons for optimism but I do have some concerns about their request. They talk of common sense and obvious issues - if anything was obvious in this matter or if common sense was going to prevail, this never would have gotten this far. They say there "should be no disagreement on this small matter". Small matter? This is huge. They go on to request "simply delaying the imposition of pending CPSC action" to work our way through the issues. There is definitely nothing simple about delaying any action. Again, the finger is being pointed at the CPSC to solve this crisis, this time by asking for their inaction on this new law. Many businesses have already changed their entire practices based on this law and some have already gone out of business because they couldn't. The monster has been unleased and already the victims are piling up. Only drastic, almost inconceivable action can cage this monster. But I will wait with bated breath while this unfolds and hope for some kind of rescue.

From Fashion-Incubator

Another must-read article: Don't Throw Yourself under the CPSIA bus

Excerpt: "Even more outrageous, unnamed staffers are reported to have stated that no hearing would occur until an additional CPSC Commissioner was appointed, and that CPSC would be “unable” to appear at any earlier hearing. In other words, they have no intention of holding hearings in advance of the February 10 implementation date, despite the reams of data they possess on the many serious problems their law is causing. Actually, it is my understanding that the CPSC has requested such a hearing, but that request apparently fell on deaf ears. Spin, spin, spin - and then tell everyone that all discordant views are misinformation or the confusion of [fill-in-the-blank] people. Finally, to cap it off, we understand that House staffers are simply “too busy” to attend meetings with industry and the CPSC to discuss the details of the real life impact of the law." quote from Rick Woldenberg - link to original article

Friday, January 16, 2009

Congress Reacts

From the Committee on Energy and Commerce official website: "Chairmen Henry A. Waxman and Bobby L. Rush, together with Senator John D. Rockefeller, incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Senator Mark L. Pryor, sent a letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission expressing concerns about implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. The letter highlighted four issues of particular concern and urged the Commission to take swift action to address critical issues of implementation."

WARNING WARNING The letter below is filled with back pedaling and passing the buck. Blames implementation of the law rather than poorly written legislation. The letter is written as though the CPSC can change the law. In my opinion the law IS being interpreted as it is written. Congress will not in any way retreat from their position that the law is fine and that it is up to the CPSC to 'interpret' in any way they like. By interpret, they mean entirely change the meaning of the actual words.

Read Letter

Keep in mind that these guys are only technically asking the CPSC to consider these recommendations. Even if these new 'interpretations' stand, the effects of this law remain devastating. But here they are:

1) Ordinary books that do not have any components other than normal paper and ink should not require testing. Yay! Libraries can stay open!
Clothing that is dyed or undyed should be considered for an exemption from testing if it contains no painted, plastic or metal components. That leaves what - tshirts? Clothing with unpainted wooden buttons? Dresses with fabric ties?
2) Neither retailers nor resellers like thrift and consignment shops need to test existing inventory but, as usual, still need to meet the new lead limits. So resale is not getting different treatment than any other retailer. This is big news for all retailers. Now they too just need a 'level of confidence' to be able to conduct business. Until they get caught selling anything that does not meet the law.
3) Ask the CPSC to consider component testing. This is a big one for home crafters. At least they wouldn't have to test the final products. Many components that they currently use, however, won't meet the new limits. Certainly not by February 10.
4) Ask the CPSC to give more guidance to small business. chuckle, chuckle

Oh, and they asked the CPSC to do all this by February 10, when the law goes into effect. You might say they're telling them 'to get the lead out'. I don't blame Julie Vallese of the CPSC for resigning. I would, too.

Rick Woldenberg's Response

The effects of CPSIA on children's products in 2009

Ten Predictions

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Must See TV

Raw Video Feed Julie Vallese CPSC Spokesperson

Watch Julie as she talks in endless circles without ever really answering a question, all the while looking down her nose at all the poor unfortunate folks who just can't understand the things that she can. She doesn't even mention that this legislation specifically addresses lead in children's products until pressed by the interviewer. I was reassured to hear that CPSIA contains "very specific and new definitions on regulating products with lead". Gee, I wonder where they hid those specific definitions. Also that all I have to do as a reseller is to "simply need to make a business decision at a level of confidence that the products they are selling meets the law". She goes on to say that I can choose how to do this any way I like, including just looking at something and making an "informed decision." At the end of the day though, she kindly reminds me that I must still follow the law. Clear as mud.

And if you don't have the stomach to watch 7 minutes of government speak, here's a good review (by Mark of Rescue Marketing) of this so-called interview.

CPSC’s Vallese interview review re: CPSIA

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why the uproar began in January

Toy Industry Approach

Wow, this certainly answers a few questions I had about how we got to this point. The large manufacturers and retailers were intentionally keeping this quiet so they wouldn't jeopardize their Christmas sales. Explains why all the uproar began in January. Now their efforts are to push the whole thing back to buy themselves some time. Meanwhile, all the bad press about the hazards of shopping resale are being published. So the environment filled with uncertainty may hurt their sales during months when they don't have much in sales anyway and they have the coffers to wait it out. Meanwhile many small businesses will go out of business trying to define their current business or restructure it.

So the large toy manufacturers and retailers will benefit from the groundswell of support from the public intended to support the small businesses so adversely affected by this including not only resale but the countless small and micro businesses that create unique, handmade items for children. For example many Native American craft businesses create countless culturally-inspired items for children that carry on their culture. These will now be required to undergo the same expensive testing as the made in China plastic toy in your McDonalds Happy Meal. Guess what - they can't afford to do that so will just have to quit selling them.

I found it so perplexing why I heard nothing about this between August (when it became law) and January (a month before it takes effect). Mystery solved.


For those of you who thought it couldn't possibly apply to books:

Link to CPSC response regarding childrens books

It reiterates that CPSIA does indeed apply to books intended for children 12 and under.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Government Response to FMR

I'd like to report on my results from writing to my government representatives. Dick Durbin replied with a generic letter patting himself on the back for this legislation. Judy Biggert has not replied. When I spoke with a live person in her office he said snottily, "What do you want HER to do??" Naperville city manager's office - "I don't know anything about this and can't help you" Rod Blagojevich - ok, so I didn't bother. Barack Obama is a litte preoccupied with his new job and his replacement hasn't yet been seated in the Senate. All this from a state that allows these same kids to ride on school buses with no seat belts and even a motorcycle with no helmet.

CPSC Press release regarding resale

This is NOT a ruling, exemption or exception to the CPSIA... it is nothing more than a Press Release. All it really says is that resale and consignment shops do not have to provide proof that the items they sell meet the new standard. It does NOT relieve us of any liability / fines / jail time for violations of the law.

February 10, 2009


What this means is that all existing children's items including clothing, toys, books and all types of equipment essentially cannot be resold if they do not meet the new lead and phthalate standards. Not by consignment stores. Not by charitable organizations. Not on Craigslist. Not on Ebay. Not at your garage sale. Violations are punishable by stiff fines and jail time.
In addition, expensive testing standards for all products intended for children under 13 years old will effectively shut down many home based / crafting businesses.

The law

Here is a link to the actual text of this legislation.