Friday, October 2, 2009

CPSIA - Tenenbaum Doesn't Know What Testing Costs

At a public meeting this week on September 30 between Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and representatives of the NSSEA (National School Supply and Equipment Assocation, http://www.nssea.org/), Ms. Tenenbaum related her belief that a lead test costs "$35". This is consistent with propaganda put out by consumer groups. I recently wrote about a representative of WashPIRG who contends that testing costs are as low as $75. Yet, I have documented testing costs FAR higher than this. Who is right?

I would like to report that the rumored $35-$75 lead tests is RIGHT . . . and WRONG. As the linked test quotes and invoices indicate, our (recent) cost for a lead test (plastics) is $75, less our 35% discount ($49). The cost of a lead test (metal) is $90 less discount ($59). Since I know you are curious, flammability is $70 less discount ($46), physical and mechanical is $245 less discount ($159) and phthalates is $350 less discount ($228). You will notice that these prices are not firm, and vary from one invoice and quote to the next. That said, it's close enough for government work, as they say . . . . If the individual test cost was all we needed to know, Ms. Tenenbaum might be completely right, at least directionally. But she's not.

Of course, unless you use only one material in your product, you will have to pay for more than one test. Normally, this adds up to quite a few tests for a single item. I have summarized the test details below for the attached test quotes and invoices. As you will see, the tests required per item range from 9 - 121 lead and phthalates tests. [This ignores the miscellaneous tests and charges. You will note, by the way, that one of the attached invoices include a $101 charge to confirm that our tracking label was compliant. Good work if you can get it, I guess . . . .]

The notion that testing costs are $35 is pure fantasy, Ms. Tenenbaum. The world is more complicated than that.

Amazing, it turns out that what I have been saying since November is right! Shame that no one at the CPSC or Congress was listening.

See the data below:

Telescope:

24 lead in substrate
23 lead in substrate (metal)
26 phthalates (7)

Cost: $8,635

[I am reporting only the quoted or invoiced test costs. There will other, significant costs, associated with these test reports. In the case of the telescope, we have to give 23-24 samples ($2600) plus spend at least $500 on FedEx costs. I have also omitted the smaller tests, to keep this essay focused. You are welcome to examine the test data linked above.]

Pretend & Play Bakery Set:

9 lead in coatings
22 lead in substrate
21 phthalates

Cost: $5,350

Let's Tackle Kindergarten:

5 lead in coatings
30 lead in substrate
5 phthalates

Cost: $2,397

Talking Microscope:

6 lead in coatings
20 lead in substrate
41 phthalates

Cost: $3,678

Playfoam Creativity Set:

56 lead in substrate and coatings
34 cadmium
31 phthalates

Cost: $6,483

Busy Pets:

3 lead in coatings
21 lead in substrate
7 phthalates

Cost: $2,114

Jumbo Animals:

24 lead in coatings
22 lead in substrate
12 phthalates

Cost: $3,565

Healthy Food Set:

11 lead in coatings
35 lead in substrate
48 phthalates

Cost: $5,973

Trail Mix & Match:

12 phthalates

Cost: $1,714

Over & Under The Sea Mat:

9 phthalates

Cost: $1,130

6 comments:

Geoff Jones said...

Your figures are right in line with mine (including the discounts). Let's not forget that we get those discount for doing volume business with the testing laboratories. Because we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on testing (yes, hundreds of thousands) we are entitled to better rates than small manufacturers and crafters. Unfortunately we aren't as big as Mattel who has their own laboratory to run their tests (convenient), but at least we get a better deal than most in terms of cost savings for tests. I think it is "short-sighted" (I am being kind, this is a family blog) that the head of the CPSC thinks that testing is so "inexpensive". As you mention it isn't just one test (I can't remember the last time a product came across my desk that only required one test) it is multiple tests for different colors, different materials, and thanks to "short-sightedness" from the congress, different sizes. Those costs add up to some pretty hefty testing invoices.
Although perhaps I am being short-sighted, and haven't given Ms. Tenenbaum credit, perhaps I could send her some products to test at her quoted rate of $35, I'm sure that if it is so inexpensive we should all find out who she is using for testing (and hope they are accredited).

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it’s just that Ms. Tennenbaum has never actually seen a product. Somebody should take her aside and show her one and explain how multiple part are put together to make it. I’m sure with a little help she would get it.

On the other hand perhaps, since she works for government, she may just think that being off by a factor of 250 is normal. After all, as you said, that’s plenty good enough for government work.

As for the Target thing – why the heck didn’t they just test every unit? That’s THE ONLY way to be sure. This is not rocket science after all. Yes, I know that testing is destructive. But this keeps the consumer groups happy because if it ain’t made of organic cotton or unfinished wood (or platinum) kids shouldn’t be handling it anyway.

It’s just you child poisoning children’s product manufacturers who don’t get this. After all how many children did you kill and sicken during the great recalls of ’06-07? That’s right – Zero – by all accounts. That is not good enough and we will see to it that you spare no expense in improving that record. It’s for the children after all and even if only those zero children are saved it’s worth it!

So please, stop the hysterics. You have no right to question the Great Henry Waxman, nor even the rest of the Ordinary Congressional Democrats who kneel at his feet. Fortunatly, and as a lifelong democrat I’m proud to say, the Congressional Democrats have wisely deemed to ignore all criticism in this regard. After all, if the CPSIA had flaws they wouldn’t have written it in the first place, now would they?

Kathleen Fasanella said...

Tenenbaum's statement leaves me speechless. It's akin to saying a dress should only cost fifty cents because it has only five cents of elastic in it.

Wacky Hermit said...

I do hope NSSEA took that opportunity to set Ms. Tenenbaum straight...

J-momma said...

Rick,
We are also a NNSEA member seeing the same testing hardship. Have you put any thought into creating a "testing collaborative" (for lack of a better term) whereby members could leverage economies of scale to negotiate lower testing costs with "preferred" labs? If we were all able to negotiate together we might fare better than each small importer/manufacturer negotiating alone.

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

I have sent J-Momma's comment to the NSSEA for their consideration.