Wednesday, July 1, 2009

CPSIA - Lead Labels, Who Cares?

Some laws, like California's Proposition 65 and the infamous Illinois Lead Poisoning Protection Law (see my previous post) include labeling provisions to "inform the public" of the presence of various unwanted substances, even trace amounts. After all, it's the public's "right to know" that motivates these consumer protection laws. Sounds good, right? Well, if you are on the receiving end of this good work, it feels like business death. For instance, in the Illinois law (Section 6(b)), labeling is required if lead-in-paint on a toy exceeds 40 ppm. This is intentionally lower than the federal lead-in-paint standards of 90 ppm (as of August 14, 2009, that is) since Illinois is competing to win in the Race to the Bottom as the national leader in "being safe". The Illinois standard is also equivalent to national average of lead levels in DIRT. Yes, dirt (see the report of the American Academy of Pediatrics). Thus, the Illinois law does not make lead-in-paint levels above trace background lead levels illegal but does require that consumers be informed of these "elevated" lead levels in a helpful product label.

So, if you are the lucky manufacturer who has to label his/her products for lead levels that conform to the excessively precautionary federal standards in order to satisfy Illinois or California laws, will you survive the experience to tell the tale? I have argued in testimony to an Illinois House subcommittee that the answer is "no". Consumers will not ignore these labels and will treat your product as though it were poisonous or radioactive. This would not be good for business - to say the least. I, in fact, told the Attorney General's office in Illinois that this might prompt Illinois companies to relocate across the border into saner States like Wisconsin or Iowa.

My vivid imagination, right? Can you imagine the voices I must hear in my head?? Well, perhaps not. Read about the story of lip gloss at Target in Indiana where a recall of a legal, safe product was incited by a panicked consumer reading a Proposition 65 label in Indiana. You can't say you haven't heard it before. Feeling safer already?

Hey Congress - what if some of my other predictions come true, too? Are you ready to stand up before America and tell them that these terrible problems were your handiwork? Is that the Obama Revolution you want to foment?

1 comment:

Michael said...

Rick--

California wants to add many more chemicals to Prop 65. That's exactly what I would be worried about while I'm going broke...

Maybe the public will wake up.

Don't expect Congress to do anything unless they are concerned about re-election.

The answer is activating the grass roots--and that is hard to do.

But, thinking that Congress cares is absolute folly.