Thursday, January 14, 2010

CPSIA - Keeping Government Out of Children's Products May Require Toxins

The Cadmium circus rolled on today with Senator Amy Klobuchar rushing to save America by calling for hearings on cadmium. Ms. Klobuchar must have been in quite a hurry to save America:

"Jumping on a report about toxic levels of cadmium in children's jewelry from China, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pushing for a hearing on the issue. Klobuchar, D-Minn., sent a letter Tuesday to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., that says, in part, 'this metal has no place in children's toys.'" [Emphasis added]

Jewelry . . . toys . . . it's all the same, isn't it? Heck, when you're saving children's LIVES, these piddling details are merely the hobgoblins of little minds (Ralph Waldo Emerson must have been from Minnesota). If her heart is in the right place, who cares if she has any idea what she's talking about?

Not one to let down her adoring public, Ms. Klobuchar shared some of her expertise on the CPSIA and toxins: "Citing [the CPSIA], Klobuchar wrote that although there are 'currently no cadmium restrictions on toys and jewelry, cadmium is a poison and if ingested, can hinder brain development and lead to other health problems in children.'"

This is, strictly speaking, not true. Well, how can you expect Klobuchar to actually check a factual statement like this? She is one busy Senator, there's no time for dilly-dallying. It's not like she's a lawyer (oops, she is!) or actually participated in writing the CPSIA (oops, she did!) and voted for it (oops again, she did). She probably even read the law at one time (oops . . .).

One of the brilliant changes put through by Ms. Klobuchar and her Congressional brethren in the CPSIA was the codification of ASTM F963 (Section 106 of the CPSIA), the formerly-voluntary standard of the toy industry. This document (it's really long, don't blame her for not leafing through it) imposes a requirement of not more than 75 mg/kg of cadmium in toys. The CPSIA even required the CPSC to examine the effectiveness of the ASTM standard within a year . . . and they did it without changing any requirements relating to heavy metals. But that was before the latest headlines.

Of course, Ms. Klobuchar was simply joining the fun along with Senator Schumer who introduced anti-cadmium legislation to save us, and Chairman Tenenbaum who encouraged people to rip jewelry off the necks and wrists of their kids: "We have proof that lead in children’s jewelry is dangerous and was pervasive in the marketplace. To prevent young children from possibly being exposed to lead, cadmium or any other hazardous heavy metal, take the jewelry away." [Emphasis added] Joe McCarthy would have loved this free-for-all.

Even the AP is now scratching its collective head. The same AP reporter issued a new article today puzzling over the panicked regulators: "When pressed, Tenenbaum's spokesman Scott Wolfson explained parents should grab the trinkets and toss them. Just be sure to 'safely dispose' of the merchandise under applicable state and federal environmental law." [When I read quotes like this, I think if there wasn't a Scott Wolfson at the CPSC, we'd have to make one up.]

The AP article carries on: "So what are America's Moms and Dads to do? While neither Tenenbaum nor Wolfson would outright say not to buy cheap children's jewelry, that inference was clear, too. A tough conversation around the kitchen table: don't buy any new stuff, don't give out any new stuff, don't play with the old stuff. In fact, get rid of the old stuff, but in a manner that doesn't risk putting toxins from the jewelry into the environment. And make sure you don't go out and resell the jewelry through online auctions or to a thrift store, said Wolfson." [Emphasis added] Wolfson has a way with words, doesn't he? Reporters must love him . . . .

The AP sums it up: "So instead of focusing in on specific items, as a recall would do, the CPSC officials are taking on an entire industry. . . . [The testing for AP] only looked at 103 pieces of low-priced children's jewelry — finding 12 items with cadmium content above 10 percent of the total weight. . . . Clearly, the CPSC is worried beyond those limited test results. Even during the height of product recalls from China several years ago — when millions of items of jewelry or painted toys with high lead levels were taken off store shelves — the CPSC did not issue such a public warning. Under the administration of President Barack Obama, and with Tenenbaum replacing commissioner Nancy Nord atop the agency, the CPSC is projecting a much more aggressive image." [Emphasis added]

Cooool under fire! I think the CPSC isn't going far enough. It is clear that we in industry do not measure up to our leaders' high standards and expectations. Imagine having to wonder what will be in the paper every morning, the pressure, the angst. [If it's in print, it must be true - just ask the Zhu Zhu Pets folks.] So, to avoid all that stress, I recommend that the CPSC take the bold step to make everything illegal. We should be required to turn over all of our possessions to the government for safe disposal according to applicable environmental protection laws and then move, naked, back into the caves where things will be much safer. This should make things simple and besides, the enforcement and legal staff create NOTHING BUT WORK for the Commission. My heart bleeds.

But wait, that won't make us safe just yet. Cadmium is in our food, in our water, in our air, in cigarettes, in batteries and fertilizers, in our workplaces - horrors! I just had an epiphany - Cadmium is so ever-present in our environment that it must be the cause for human mortality. There, I put that sentence in writing and published it - so it must be true. The CPSC therefore should ban food, water and breathing. It's the only thing they can do to save the human race.

And I used to think we had too much government. You ain't seen nothin' yet, baby. . . .


jennifer said...

this is leadership we were waiting for? what happened to investigating? what happened to going after the companies who aren't managing their supply chains well and praising the ones that are. do we really think the population of people who can only afford to shop at the dollar store are going to dispose of their children's possessions first of all and then do it in accordance with state and federal environmental laws - even when they are most likely safe?

clearly no one wants toxins in products but they continue to bash the children's industry in a way that is hurting everyone and doesn't make logical sense. she doesn't understand how to balance safety and commerce. feels like the doomsday clock is moving forward.

Anonymous said...

On my way to work this morning there was talk about the amount of time it is taking for "Super Amwerica" to react and aid in Haiti - then I must be taking time for Obama to test all the products we are donating for lead, cadmium, phthalates, and warning labels.