Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CPSIA - What Constitutes "Safe"?

One of the tragedies of the CPSIA melodrama is that the consumer groups have completely hijacked the concept of safety, turning it utterly away from concepts of risk assessment. To what, you say? Away from management of identifiable risks to avoidance/elimination of perceived risks. In other words, Congress and our regulators now ignore the data on risk and focus instead on the possibility of risk. The POSSIBILITY of injury, not the actuality of injury.

How much of a difference is this? Pretty big, to judge by the frenzy over cadmium in jewelry. Seven Senators have sponsored a bill called the Safe Kids' Jewelry Act. This law would ban the use of cadmium in kids' jewelry. Is this "good"? I am not sure how to answer that. To my knowledge, no one has identified a single injury from cadmium in children's jewelry. It is undeniable that cadmium is a bad element and has the potential to harm. Ergo, jewelry with cadmium is "bad"? I can imagine circumstances where cadmium in jewelry might hurt a child. Then again, if it were so dangerous, where are all the victims?

If this is going to be the new standard, whether a product MIGHT harm someone, I think we are cooked. Assuming that "prevention of possible injury" is to be used as the standard to evaluate products or components of products, let me ask a few questions to see if I understand the "new rules of the road":
  • How certain must the prospect of injury be?
  • How specific must the circumstances of the prospective injury be?
  • Are we talking about probable injury (more than 50%) or possible injury (odds greater than 0%)? How are those odds to be measured - by unit sold, by contact, by owner, by year, by lifetime use? What's "reasonable"? [Does anyone care what's reasonable?]
  • Are all things that could possibly injure a child now illegal on the same basis?
  • If the answer is yes, when will all those other products be banned and/or recalled? Is equity in the treatment of all products "important"?
  • If the answer is no, then where do we draw the line?
  • How relevant is it that no injuries have been reported?
  • How many incidents are required before we declare a product or substance illegal or recalled? How many newspaper articles, editorials or CEH lawsuits are required?
  • What responsibility do we have to be consistent in the administration of these rules?

Consistency, that's important, don't you think? If cadmium is now tacitly illegal because it might harm a child, do we have to make everything with the possibility of injury to children illegal?

Presumably, since no injuries to children from cadmium has been reported and the Washington Post confirms that doctors do not perceive cadmium as a serious risk (perhaps because it was not prevalent in house paint or in gasoline, hmmm), then anything with the same level of prospective risk would be illegal. That's more or less everything from water to chicken bones to lead to ruthenium. [Pardon me, ruthenium, one of the world's most expensive and dangerous elements, is a-okay to include in children's products.] Why then aren't we closing swimming pools which cause more than 250 deaths each year? What about water - you can drown in two inches of water. No more showers?

Is there something special about cadmium, besides that it has appeared in an Associated Press article?

The mania over the prevention of possible injury has turned the business environment into a feeding frenzy that will drive the business community down, down, down. Is that in anyone's interest? Will we all be safer if we have nothing to buy?

Please consider that the House Energy and Commerce Committee has today weighed in on the Toyota recall. Yes, the same Henry Waxman who is torturing our industry has now turned his talons and sharp teeth on Toyota. Toyota enjoys one of the finest reputations for quality and service in the world. It is renowned as a business leader - and proactively took strong medicine in its gas pedal recall. This is not enough for the venomous Democrats who hate businesses. They need to dig deeper and perhaps damage Toyota enough to help GM and Chrysler, owned by the U.S. government and unions. Bringing the great low, that's the new American way of the Democrats. It makes me SICK.

I want to close with a note about cows - did you know that cows are killers, too? Yes, they are - the New York Times reports:

"The image of cows as placid, gentle creatures is a city slicker's fantasy, judging from an article, published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reporting that about 20 people a year are killed by cows in the United States. In some cases, the cows actually attack humans -- ramming them, knocking them down, goring them, trampling them and kicking them in the head -- resulting in fatal injuries to the head and chest."

COWS kill 20 people a year, cadmium has apparently killed ZERO. We are running pell-mell to ban cadmium from jewelry because a misguided newspaper article fueled panic. Are cows next? Should they be? If cadmium jewelry goes away and cows stay unregulated, will respect for our laws remain?

Respect for Congress, that's another thing.


Anonymous said...

A good question. On the one hand it seems a no brainer that a reportedly every toxic substance like cadmium should not be in children's jewelry. On the other hand when we become fearful of things that have never presented any harm, we lose ourselves in fear and distraction.

So much finger pointing from those who don't actually have to create anything for a living, just live off those who do.

The denigration of American business as evil b is appalling. There are real Americans that put these lives into business and real Americans who support their families with these businesses. There should be a higher bar.

Anonymous said...

If the game of football were a product...

Paul said...

“…Are cows next? Should they be? If cadmium jewelry goes away and cows stay unregulated, will respect for our laws remain? Respect for Congress,…”

We could really get into some serious philosophical debate about this subject.

But from your truly's layman perspective, unlike Congress, laws, supposedly in a way, are just words. Throughout our history, there are quite a few laughable laws, but still, those "words" could only get so funny or sad. Our Congress with our "Congresspersons", on the contrary, is a living somewhat daily ongoing ordeal. Our Congress could jack out one or two or a dozen or more pathetic sad laws per day as it pleases day after day. Yeah, this is not funny.

For a good election year, possibly, American people will remind our Congresspersons how not funny they are. The agenda for the American people's welfare should be ahead of these Congresspersons' political agenda.