Monday, October 19, 2009

CPSIA - Do-Gooder Congress Ends The Green Toy Movement

For those of you hoping to see toys become "greener" this year, forget it. Mr. Waxman and Ms. Pelosi have different ideas. Having California-ized the country and made phthalates and lead illegal at virtually any perceptible level under the noxious CPSIA, Congress made the possibility of using recycled materials too risky. Clearly, using recycled plastic is good for our planet- there is less waste and less damage to the environment. It is also thrifty and sensitive to our limited resources. Unfortunately, when using recycled materials, there is virtually no control possible over the presence of phthalates or lead contamination. Ah, the inviting prospect of a CPSIA violation! Importantly, this also means that each batch will be different and subject to random failures. Contaminants cannot be controlled.
It's a shame that toys and educational materials won't be able to be recycled. Given the CPSC's recent Resale Roundup initiative, they won't be resold either. Landfills will bulge courtesy of the CPSIA and Congress. The charm of the toy business is going away . . . fast.
The reduction in product innovation and the premature death of safe products under the CPSIA is costing money, jobs and economic vitality right now. The weakened state of the economy has not left the Small Business community feeling flush. It's time to acknowledge that the factors affecting Big Business are worlds apart from those affecting Small Business. Big Toy may be prospering right now (Mattel 3rd Quarter earnings were $230 million and Hasbro's 3rd Quarter earnings were $150 million), but the little guys are getting killed. The consequences of fear of random (and sometimes unsolvable) legal problems can be felt in the chill running through the industry. I cannot explain why so few people take this seriously.
It is all the more puzzling because of the absence of victims. We are seeing our businesses dismantled before our eyes to make people "safer" yet who is being saved? The hysterical consumer groups and rabid media behind the CPSIA banged drums over the "dangers" of lead-in-substrate and phthalates. If phthalates and lead-in-substrate were so terrible, where are all the victims from years past? I want names, addresses, photos and case histories. Rather than insist that the "danger" is unbearable, advocates for this law failed to prove that people are being hurt. The consumer advocates punted with a non-answer, namely that there is no "safe level" for lead. This hand waving seems to give the advocates some sort of pass on presenting actual data. Likewise with phthalates, the advocates trade on fear but do not present real data demonstrating real harm. Those chemicals have been in the market for decades so if they cause such dreaded injuries, why don't I know about a single victim? Why haven't the newspapers presented case histories - gore sells papers, as everyone knows. The absence of data is data. Congress, where are you?
Again, no one seems to care about these niceties. As long as people "feel safe", then the costs we are incurring must be worth it . . . right?
It's your world, I guess you get to decide.

11 comments:

Holly Jahangiri said...

Oh, dear. What about books (again)? Is recycled PAPER okay?

Anonymous said...

Rick, some day they will wake up too late . .. . because it was always "somone else" that was being affected--until finally, it affects them.

Vivian Zabel said...

This has nearly ruined by business, but no one in power cares.

As someone said, wish we could force Congress to eat books or whatever until they get sick so we can see how many it would take.

Oh, maybe they have already ingested too much lead.

Esther said...

I still find it humorous that Congress has attempted to eliminate a natural element (lead) from the planet.

Carol Baicker-McKee, Ph. said...

Holly, re your question about books, lead is indeed a problem with recycled paper. There was an article about it in Publisher's Weekly last summer - the only new "ordinary" books that were found to exceed the permissible lead levels were those using recycled paper. (But I haven't heard about any publishers changing their practices, given that ordinary books are sort of exempt, for now. We'll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.)

So sad. So unnecessary.

jennifer said...

these folks in washington are just so lame - really - i know i am stooping to name calling but really what else can you do at this point? they sit behind their 6 figure salaries, private healthcare insurance, and spew out all sorts of non-sense, rules, regulations on things they don't know the consequences of - don't listen to us, destroy businesses and then want us to vote for them...um - I don't think so.

Jonathan said...

Lead content in recycled paper OR in the ink is one of the LAST things you need to worry about when we're talking about protecting our children from the multitudes of hazards surrounding paper. For example, just consider the number of Sharp Edge failures (ASTM F963 Section 4.7 Accessible Edges - mandatory) that exist from the several pieces of paper that exist in a 4th Grade Social Studies book. Millions of children (and adults) suffer painful lacerations from razor-like cuts caused by paper each year, much of which is manufactured right here in the U.S.A! I personally get cut by paper about once or twice each year that can often take several days to recover from. The publishing companies are very aware of this and the other hazards associated with paper, but continue to use it to this day in manufacturing children's textbooks! If there were a Warning label on the cover to advise us of the danger that we put ourselves and our children in upon the turning of every exposed page, I would likely be able to take preventative safety measures to insure the safety of myself and my children before reading them a bedtime story. But even the safety gloves that my kids and I now wear won't protect us from an even greater risk that lies between that enticingly colorful and seemingly 'child-safe' coverstock. I've discovered that this stuff can turn into a raging inferno in a matter of seconds when the smallest corner is lit on fire and though I haven't paid a lab to conduct the test yet myself, I suspect that paper would likely fail 16 CFR 1500.44 Flammability (solids) - (also mandatory). Many schools (even public ones) are equipped with a room that is FILLED with highly flammable paper they call a library that they put the noisy kids in to keep them quiet. This is abuse and these types of scare-tactics used on our children need to stop!! Some of you might be aware that many teachers in schools actually REQUIRE that children bring paper home with them after school putting you and your whole family in harm's way! I am surprised that more people aren't as outraged as I am over paper which should have been a banned hazardous substance long before lead. If we each just memorize one story and pass it along to our children, we can burn all those hazardous books once and for all and protect ourselves from the dangers of educational literature forever!!!

Vivian Zabel said...

Sarcasm is dripping from the previous comment, but, Jonathan, please be careful that no member of Congress read it.

Rick Woldenberg, Chairman - Learning Resources Inc. said...

Eagle-eyed Jennifer spotted this story about the 2010 Winter Olympics medals, all made of recycled electronics waste (http://www.mnn.com/the-home/recycling/blogs/e-waste-goes-olympic#). Of course, one of them is made of bronze, a form of brass. One can only imagine the lead content of these dangerous enviro-friendly medals. As Jennifer notes, we can only hope that the Olympics Committee will be sure to withhold these medals from any contact with children.

Holly Jahangiri said...

Jonathan, that was an insightful analysis of the often overlooked hazards of books, particularly school textbooks and library books. I think we should start a petition.

Viv's right, though, the humor would go right over our Congresscritters' heads, and they'd probably find sixteen other safety violations connected with books they hadn't thought of or anticipated when writing the CPSIA.

When will the madness END?

Vivian Zabel said...

Holly, I'm afraid the madness won't end until long after I'm gone. It's getting worse and worse. Ish.