Sunday, February 8, 2009

CPSIA - The Emperor Has No Clothes (Updated)

From: Rick Woldenberg

Sent: Sun 2/8/2009 3:39 AM

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Cc: ''; ''; ''; ''; Etienne Veber; ''; ''; 'Stephen Lamar ('; 'Nancy Nord ('; 'Joe Martyak ('; 'Mary Toro ('; ''; 'Patrick Magnuson ('; 'Carter Keithley ('; 'Rick Locker ('; 'Desmond, Edward'; 'David Callet ('; ''; 'Pamela Gilbert ('; 'Robert Adler'; 'Dan Marshall ('; ''; ''; Judy Bailey (;;;;; ''; ''; '';;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Kerrie Campbell (;;;; Lisa Brown (;;;;;

Subject: RE: CPSIA - The Emperor Has No Clothes (Updated)

I thought you might be interested in learning of the effect of your CPSIA on the Mollison family discussed in my January 10 email entitled "The Emperor Has No Clothes". In that email, I discussed the sad situation of Raven Mollison and her mother Denise in Hawaii. Ms. Mollison feared having to close down her store because of the dramatic impact of the CPSIA on her business, and in the process, causing great concern to her daughter over their family's ability to pay for her medical treatments. Like so many others, Ms. Mollison was responding to the economic incentives in the CPSIA to discontinue important but harmless entrepreneurial activities; in this case; she closed her store rather take the risk of violating the new law. See, also reproduced below. We can only hope a black market will develop in her dolls to help Ms. Mollison pay her bills. Yes, a black market in America - what a lovely innovation caused by the CPSIA!

This is one of the great ironies of the CPSIA, a law that grew out of Congress' mania-driven suspicions of low integrity in the business community producing and selling children's products. The rational choices being made by many businesspersons to suspend innocent but valuable activities, whether to close stores, discontinue products or to stop selling in certain markets, are largely driven by a passion to COMPLY with law. The prospect of being a scofflaw is horrifying to most businesses and most Americans. In the case of the incredibly restrictive and damaging CPSIA, the law of the land was designed for the worst of society, and imposed on everyone. The casualties will be many, all in the cause of avoiding imaginary risks. Read on below:

Posted: Feb 5, 2009 10:22 PM CST
Updated: Feb 6, 2009 06:24 AM CST
Featured Videos

Hawaii doll maker closes despite temporary hold on anti-lead law

New lead law on kid's items threatens to close local doll shop

By Mari-Ela David -

KAILUA (KHNL) - Some possible relief for those who sell children's products, from toys to clothes.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a temporary stay on the controversial anti-lead law that takes effect February 10.

But, even with the stay, a doll shop on the Windward side of Oahu says it will still be forced to close.

In Kailua, little Raven Mollison holds what's left of her mom's at-home business.
"It's the last doll that my mom made so she gave it to me," she said.

Her mom Denise, ran a doll shop to pay for Raven's medical supplies. The eight-year-old has Russell Silver Syndrome, which stunts her growth.

"I'm very sad that she's shut it down out of business," said Raven.

But Denise says she has no choice. A new anti-lead law calls for safety tests she can't afford.

"Parents and consumers are hesitant to purchase my products and truthfully I don't blame them. If I could provide the certification then everything would be fine but my hands are tied," said Mollison.

In response to critics who call the law a job-killer, CPSC has issued a stay of enforcement which puts testing requirements on hold for a year until it can work out a compromise. But business owners must still abide by the new lead limits.

"The snag here is they're saying 'don't test but follow the guidelines'. You can't be sure you're following the guidelines unless you test so it's a catch 22," said Mollison.

For Raven's sake, Denise is launching a new business.

"My only life raft is making wristlets until this mess is resolved," Denise said.
"It's very important so then I can get feeding more, so then I can grow," said Raven.

On Thursday, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint introduced a bill to reform the law, saying "Congress has overreacted and threatened to kill thousands of jobs, small businesses and harm charities around the country. We simply cannot allow this law to go unreformed."

DeMint's reforms would allow small businesses to use certification from suppliers and manufacturers.

That way people like Mollison won't have to shoulder the costs of testing.
Congress passed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 last Fall after a lead paint scare in children's toys made in China.

The act bans children's items containing more than 600 parts per million total lead.

Businesses that sell used children's items, such as thrift stores, are not required to test their products. But they cannot resell them if they exceed the lead limit.

From: Rick Woldenberg
Sent: Sat 1/10/2009 3:34 PM
To: ''; ''; Robin Appleberry (
Cc: Etienne Veber; 'Michael Gidding ('; 'Nancy Nord ('; 'Joe Martyak ('; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; Larry Lynn; ''; ''; '';;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; Pamela Gilbert (; Robert Adler
Subject: CPSIA - The Emperor Has No Clothes

I recently saw this video about a doll store in Hawaii that is planning to close because of the CPSIA and recommend that you watch it, too:

I am sure the world can live without another doll store. However, the owner of this particular store and her special needs child will suffer certainly. Should we care, especially since the law is making children so much "safer"? I think so, and here's why:

1. There is no reason for ANYONE to suspect that this doll store has EVER harmed anyone in any way. Can anyone provide ANY data to suggest that this store's products will harm anyone because of lead? No, absolutely not. I am fully confident that we can all agree that these dolls are highly unlikely to be harmful because of lead. So what have we accomplished?

2. Recognizing that these products could not realistically have any lead safety issues, the requirements of the law are extremely wasteful in this case, and are so serious that they threaten the very existence of the store and its products. [Notably, although the press is only focusing on the cost of testing, the list of problems caused for this doll store does not end there (not discussed in the video or in this email).] So what have we accomplished?

3. The diversion of capital and human resources to wasteful activities like excessive and almost neurotic testing prevents all kinds of alternative, productive uses of the financial and human capital being wasted. So what we have accomplished?

4. Given that the products and services of this store are useful and its profits are also deployed usefully in society (see the video), and further that as a direct result of the CPSIA the store will have to close, what have we accomplished?

The story of this doll store is TYPICAL of the ill effects of this law. Don't be distracted by the particulars of this person's story - she stands for everyone similarly victimized by the CPSIA. The storyline may change but the story remains the same - there is a societal recognition that American products are safe. The idea that our economy is "full" of unsafe children's products is fed by fear mongering, not facts. The CPSIA with its excessive "zero tolerance" approach neither contributes to additional safety (whatever that means) or to the efficient functioning of the economy. The day of reckoning is coming, and these cries for help are being ignored. Something must be done . . . .

So I am here to announce, for the first time, that the EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES. The CPSIA has nothing to do with safety - it is about vengeance, retribution and displaced anger. The discussion about safety under this law has become abstract and spiritual in nature, as though "safety" were a state of mind or some kind of karma level. That's not how the real world works - safety relates to RISK and risk can and needs to be defined. By drafting the CPSIA in such an absurdly overly-broad manner, Congress has created the conditions for debates like whether this little doll shop makes lead-laden dolls. I find it hard to dignify such debates by taking them seriously, as the notion that the subject dolls are somehow a safety risk is patently absurd, as is obvious to anyone living in the real world filled with real products and real risks.

How did this happen? The Emperor's new set of invisible clothes were borne of anger from "43 million toys recalled in 2007". [See] What exactly happened in 2007? The lead-related recalls related to LEAD-IN-PAINT, not lead in substrates. [In addition, there was one tort involving one piece of lead jewelry.] Lead-in-paint has been illegal for decades. I hate to be a killjoy, but this means that the problem in 2007 was compliance with law, not the strictness of the rules. This is a behavioral issue, not a restrictions issue, and requires a thoughtful solution tailored to the nature of the problem (lack of compliance). By extending the law well beyond the known safety issue (lead-in-paint) to a laundry list of imaginary risks not associated with actual injuries, we end up arguing about whether cloth dolls, culturally-authentic clothing, microscope bulbs and Harry Potter books present a lead danger. If we are going to pay to prevent safety "risks" of that microscopic magnitude, why stop there? If children's products up to age 12 are such a serious (and undefined) lead safety issue, why aren't dog toys? Why aren't products for adults? What about industrial products? What about products we put on spaceships?

And, no, the CPSC cannot clothe the naked Emperor. It's simply not workable to write an ultra-complex law no one understands and then instruct a federal agency to just go "fix it". Even if that were possible, if a magical set of rules could be written that would fix the law so that all these various unthreatening situations could be addressed one-by-one (shoemakers, doll stores, t-shirt vendors, the needs of stores with less than five employees, blah blah blah), we would be left with such a vast crazy quilt of FAQs, interpretations, legal opinions, rules and regulations that compliance would become only a theoretical possibility. Again, don't blame the CPSC for the state of the implementing rules - until you try to write them yourself. Even the tax code makes more sense than this.

The Emperor Has No Clothes - the CPSIA's gotta go. We can have plenty of "safety" without such a vindictive and overly-broad law on the books. I hope you will invite industry to help you urgently draft this new law, one to protect American children and the American economy appropriately for our lasting communal benefit.


Richard Woldenberg
Learning Resources, Inc.
Tel 224 436 0265


Anonymous said...

YES - this is a point I raised in my blog last month - located here -

THANK YOU for making this statement clear to our legislators - this law IS discriminatory.

I am a mother of three and I know - as you know - it is BASIC COMMON SENSE - that our children spend as much time in our cars and on our carpets as they do fiddling with toys! I know that babies faces come in as much contact with nursing bras and mother's maternity tops as they do with onesies! If we're going to take such draconian measures with ONE industry associated with children, then we need to do so with ALL industries that are so intimately associated with our daily lives, as family. How will other industries respond? Will the major car manufacturers be ignored by our legislators? Yes - let's take a sharp look at the automotive, home interior and every other industry under the sun.

Oh - and let's not forget our nation's SCHOOLS...

How old are the desks and lockers? What about the tiles and carpet and chalk boards and cubbies? They have books and binders and computers and staplers; white boards and plastic lunch trays and metal water fountains. The list is ENDLESS - how will our schools respond to what I see as potential liabilities here, given they cleary DO expose our children to so many different variables - items that have endured YEARS of use and abuse? Tell me that school bus isn't just LOADED with lead (and those plastic bench covers, phalates!) - who will finance all of THAT testing? Or are they "exceptions" - does anybody know?

Seriously - if this is all REALLY about "safety" for our children, we CANNOT FAIL to address what our children are exposed to for the majority of their waking hours, five days a week! The hypocrisy of it all!

Rick - thank you - I shall link to this story, too. I feel like Sancho Panza - you?!

Anonymous said...

News Flash--In response to the current peanut scare, there is a committee in congress silently drafting the CPSOA - Consumer Peanut Safety Overkill Act. Key components of the act state that all food products must be certified they do not contain salmonella prior to sale. This act covers all food items including those that do not contain peanuts or any peanut byproduct, including fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, natural foods, processed foods and packaged foods. Food is being defined as any product placed in a person's mouth and swallowed. Therefore, due to the broad definition as defined in the CPSOA, food is being defined to include items that normally do not contain salmonella such as beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic), chewing gum, hard candy, and all medicines taken by mouth. The commission will look into granting exemptions for certain products within one year after the act goes into effect, but until that time all food items, as defined by the CPSOA, must be removed from supermarket, pharmacy and other retail shelves plus farmer markets, farms, slaughter houses, processing plants, warehouses and any other place the products may be found unless the product has been tested to prove there are no traces of salmonella.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! Your extension to schools, school buses and everything else in our homes truly shows how absurd and discriminatory toward small businesses this law is!

I'm getting very tired of telling new clients and existing clients that our screen printing studio no longer prints those fab organic childrens clothes we offered to our clients the last 2 years. We only print for adults now...makes me sick but even though the gov doesn't have money or personal to enforce this, I refuse to allow my business to be taken down by hungry consumer protection attorneys offering me a "settlement" to not go after us for not testing!

Here's to all of us continuing to have the energy to keep up the fight.

American Canvas
Screen printing sweatshop free and Eco friendly apparel
For Adults Only

Valerie Jacobsen said...

Thank you for your blog.

We have a small used bookstore in Clinton, Wisconsin. The CPSC promised Friday not to prosecute retailers who sell children's
books published "after 1985."

Wow. I've been watching all of this progress, and this was definitely not expected.

In our bookstore, we have 7000 children's books catalogued. We discovered today that 65% of our children's chapter books were printed before 1985. About 30% of our children's picture books were printed before 1985.

Many of these older books have painted cover titles and other paint decoration on the covers. Honestly, I am assuming that many of these older children's books *do* have over 600 ppm lead in that single component.

It's 1920's paint. It's 1950's paint. Why shouldn't it be over 600 ppm lead?

But in the case of some of these books, three or for generations have read them successfully, and NO case of lead poisoning has *ever* been traced to them.

My husband and I support our eleven (yeah) children with this business family business. Sales are already well down in this economy, so we can't refuse to sell children's books tomorrow; we need the income.

And, as an ethical matter, I really can't discard our cultural heritage like this. I was willing to resist the Fire Department of Fahrenheit 451 long before I became a bookseller.

I'd like to run a black market in quality children's books if necessary, but at the same time it's not like the CPSC has never destroyed a small and entirely harmless company before.

To the point of my post, I am trying to get the word out on book discussion lists. What is your policy for quoting from your blog? Is quoting okay provided that I include a link to your blog and your online catalog both?


Valerie Jacobsen
244 Allen Street
Clinton, WI 53525
(608) 676-6000