Sunday, September 20, 2009

CPSIA - Consider the Source (Part II)

From an article in today's BNA entitled "Need for CPSIA Changes Debated",

"In an interview with BNA, Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, praised the commission's July decision on fashion jewelry accessories. Cowles told BNA that lead is a severe toxin with no safe level.

She added that while more common sense could be applied to determining which products are hazardous, consumers overall do not want products containing lead.

“People will come up with other ways to put [jewelry] on children's clothing that isn't toxic. Whether the lead [in rhinestones] leaches out fully, it's hard to know, but we don't want lead in our children's products. We will come up with other ways to decorate our clothes,” Cowles said."

There are other quotes from consumer groups in this article that set my blood ablaze, but I thought this one deserves special "heralding".

I should note that I have written about rhinestones extensively, and debunked the opinion expressed by the estimable Ms. Cowles thoroughly. [See my "Jewelry" tags.] You may wonder, why do I care so much about rhinestones. Our business does not use rhinestones, so what's the big deal for me? Rhinestones is a poster child for the stupidity of the law. The impact of the CPSIA on rhinestones is the impact that is bedeviling the entire children's product industry, from toys to books to shoes to bedding to what-have-you. If rhinestones go down, safe as they are, we all go down. If we can save rhinestones on a rational and fair basis, perhaps the rest of us will get fairer treatment.

That said, I have a couple comments on Ms. Cowles' remarks. First of all, she is fear mongering, not advocating for you and your children. She says rhinestones are "toxic" - I say "prove it". The people behind the CPSIA are left with few options to save their precious law but to deceive the general public about health risks. The case on rhinestones is out there to be examined by Ms. Cowles. Why not attack rhinestones with data and analysis? Because no data or analysis exists to weaken the case FOR rhinestones. The "there's no safe level of lead" mantra is faulty. We already consume plenty of lead in our air, our food and our water daily. The rationale that trace presence of lead in children's products is somehow the health "tipping point" has never been proven and frankly cannot be asserted on a reasoned, scientific basis. The lead we consume in our normal daily activities dwarfs the lead you might ingest from casual contact with children's products. If there really is "no safe level for lead", then our wise Congress should attack the big sources of lead first, and leave the rest of us for later.

Second, Ms. Cowles is sending a lot of people down the river with her casual condemnation of rhinestones. I would note that many industries use rhinestones in their products. The people who run those companies, are employed by those companies, are supported by income from those companies, trade with those companies or value those products in their lives, will ALL lose if the likes of Ms. Cowles get to run our society. Does that make ANY sense to ANYONE (besides Ms. Cowles)?

I keep thinking of the prescription she offers for living a safe and wondrous life. She says we will (and should) find something else to decorate our products with. Perhaps Ms. Cowles decorates herself with the jewels from Pretty, Pretty Princess. That's what she is suggesting, that we get used to plastic jewelry. Perhaps Ms. Cowles can live with getting gifts for her kids from a vending machine, but that's not how I want to live. As I have noted before, inexpensive stones are a way for people to bedeck kids with jewelry inexpensively. Rhinestones are important to a lot of people, some of whom may not have the economic wherewithal to switch to diamonds and rubies. In addition, it's an inexpensive way to let little kids have a bit of bling. If you are trying to make your little kids look special for social, cultural or religious reasons, I think Palladium earrings may be somewhat impractical for most people. Little kids to tend to outgrow their clothing and shoes quickly. Parents can't really afford to buy and rebuy clothing and jewelry using precious stones as their kids grow, and may never warm up to Pretty, Pretty Princess jewelry. If this is the way it has to be, I think we should think more insightfully about who is writing the rules for our society.

Increasingly, the recommendations of consumer advocates are ringing more and more hollow. How crazy has the world become? Consider this quote from the November 2008 "Trouble in Toyland" report issued by the Vermont PIRG:

"Some children’s toys, jewelry and cosmetics may contain toxic chemicals, especially lead and toxic phthalates. . . . PHTHALATES AND OTHER CHEMICALS Avoid toys made of PVC plastic; which often contains phthalate softeners. Choose unpainted wooden or cloth toys instead."

Yes, PIRG wants us to use cloth toys and plain unpainted wooden toys to be "safe". But how "safe" are these toys? The CPSC, after due consideration, has informed us in their new phthalates testing standard: "Examples of materials that do not normally contain phthalates and, therefore, might not require testing or certification are . . . Natural wood [and] Textiles made from natural fibers, such as cotton or wool . . . ." Uh-oh! PIRG is telling you to buy products that MIGHT contain phthalates! Ouch. [To be fair, I have no idea how phthalates would get in there, but heck, the CPSC says they MIGHT. They must know something I don't.]

So PIRG has it wrong - we can't even play with cloth toys or wood. What's left? Rocks. Oh, no - rocks need to be tested for lead, phthalates and sharp points! Well, perhaps after the Residential Rock Roundup is wrapped up, we will all be safe to move into caves to play with our rocks. Ms. Cowles, get your own cave - you can't play with my rocks.


jennifer said...

Today at the park I witnessed an 8 month old continually put berries in his mouth that were dropping from the tree. The mother was busy in a conversation with another mother. I think she wasn't able to recover all so the baby ended up eating a few. Whose fault would it have been if the baby choked on the berries? With the thought process of people like Ms. Cowles, she would likely say it was the fault of the park district for having such trees and would likely ask for the removal of dropping berry trees. We all know in the real world it is the parents responsibility to watch their children. No matter if we are talking about berries or rhinestones, Rick is right...where does it end if the Rhinestone ruling isn't reversed or addressed...? This is just the beginning. We cannot let people like Nancy Cowles run our lives.

Sebastian said...

What? Are you suggesting that the powers that be would remove something from a park in response to some parents who weren't properly supervising their children? Despite rules in my community about what age children may be at home alone, at the park alone, etc, there are families who interpret "within sight or hearing" to mean that they can be on the sixth floor of their apartment opposite the park and that is good enough. The tire swings were recently removed from all of the playgrounds because of a few incidents. But every tire swing incident I had witness involved children who's parents were not supervising them.
The tire swings were my kids' favorites, but too bad for them.
In a similar vein, too bad for my kids if they want to read a book that is out of print or if I'd rather have sturdy older hardbound editions or if I'd just like to support used bookstores instead of buying new. Older than 1985 crosses the "bright line" of acceptability.

Anonymous said...

“People will come up with other ways to put [jewelry] on children's clothing that isn't toxic. Whether the lead [in rhinestones] leaches out fully, it's hard to know, but we don't want lead in our children's products. We will come up with other ways to decorate our clothes,” Cowles said."

Perhaps she would like us to decorate children's clothing with food products? What other product would we want our kids to ingest?

One of the points that really bothers me with this is that we are taking known products - lead, of which we are fully aware of the risks (or lack thereof in this situation), and telling chemical companies to develop NEW substitutes, say for a ball point pen, for which we have no idea of the risks.

Ms. Cowles personally wrote me that while she was sorry that I and others had to close our businesses, in 5 years all the old stuff (you know the dangerous stuff I sell now) will be off the market and we can open again.

Too bad we'll be bankrupt by then.. Ms. Cowles, how do you sleep at night when you shut down businesses that help families and have never been shown to cause any harm. Very dangerous.

Paul said...

Ms. Cowles is SORRY? Sorry as in she is so busy dealing/enjoying her influential spotlight of her life that she is SORRY she doesn't care about the very real detrimental consequences to decent people's livelihood before making irresponsible and deceptive statements that go against facts and data? Ok... ..., Ms. Cowles, you are sorry, we hear you LOUD and CLEAR.

Sebastian said...

I don't know how to get this issue more on the radar of the groups that will be impacted. A friend of mine is has been a dance teacher for 30+ years. She is a member of Dancemasters, a professional association of dance instructors. She contacted her chapter in the spring about this law and has never heard back.
Since she collects money from parents and orders recital costumes (many covered with sequins, spangles, rhinstones and other shiny bits), it seems like she could well be considered a reseller under the law.
Where is the concern and outrage on the part of those who are going to feel the restriction on costuming?