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.