Monday, January 26, 2009

WSJ Letters to the Editor 1-21-09

New Lead Law May Have Toxic Consequences for Jobs

Thanks for putting the editorial spotlight on the new lead in children's product legislation passed by Congress last year ("Pelosi's Toy Story," Review & Outlook, Jan. 14). The sad part is that adequate federal law existed to stop the import of Chinese toys containing lead, the importers simply did not obey existing law.

Now comes the silly part. The prior law was based on toxicology (how much lead can be extracted from the children's product through use or abuse). The new law only considers total lead in the product. And the maximum allowable lead content starts at a very low level, and keeps getting smaller in future years. Many metals, metal alloys, and a wide range of other materials are perfectly safe and comply with the earlier law, but will become "banned hazardous materials" on February 10.

The new legislation covers "all products designed for children under 12 years old." The crowning glory is that all children's products now need to be tested for lead content. By the way, did you catch that this means all children's products in existence on February 10, not just children's products manufactured after that date?

Put it all together and we have a spectacular example of incompetence. For example, elementary schools are designed for children under 12 years old. Does this mean that everything inside the school, and all of the construction materials used to build the school, need to be tested for total lead content by February 10? What about library books? The Consumer Product Safety Commission can make exclusions, but the law is very broadly written, allows no phase-in time, nor does it grandfather previously made products.

The law says "The Commission may, by regulation, exclude a specific product or material from the prohibition . . . if the Commission, after notice and a hearing, determines on the basis of the best-available, objective, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence that lead in such product or material will neither -- result in the absorption of any [my emphasis] lead into the human body . . . [OR\][or] have any other adverse impact on public health or safety." This doesn't seem to give the CPSC much wiggle room.

All products and materials that exceed the total lead content will need to be disposed (a few examples of these banned hazardous materials include bicycles, desks, ballpoint pens, chairs, computers, and HVAC systems).

It will indeed be an early (and very long) summer break for our children.

Jeff Green
Midlothian, Va.

Thank you for highlighting this issue. We are a small Washington, D.C.-based manufacturer (probably the only one) that will likely be compelled to close our doors because of this legislation. The minimum cost for testing our products -- harmful items such as headbands -- would be triple our gross revenue. As a result of this law, only the Wal-Marts of the world will continue to exist. The opportunity for individual expression or individual initiative will be permanently quashed.

Let's hope that Congress can do the right thing before hundreds of thousands (or millions) of quite small businesses go under as a result of this crushing and utterly unrealistic legislation.

Marc Chafetz


Joshua said...

Marc, you are in Washington - can you visit anyone in Congress to discuss the CPSIA problems? Many of us have been able to reach congressional staffers with calls and letters and maybe, hopefully we are being heard...
Get everyone you know to call your rep.-- your friends, neighbors, customers.


eric said...

Essentially, on February 10 my existing completely safe completely lead-free products will be rendered worthless by an act of Congress.

Isn't that unlawful seizure without due process? Is there a constitutional argument here?