Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CPSIA - Phthalates and Lead Limits in Waxman Amendment

Two minor but important points in the new Waxman Amendment relate to the ban on phthalates and the 100 ppm lead standard looming in August 2011.

Phthalates: The phthalates ban has been clarified to exclude "inaccessible" components, thus reducing the cost of testing for victims of this poorly-conceived law. The definition of "inaccessible" is based on foreseeable use and abuse by children. The term "reasonably foreseeable use and abuse" is defined, lest anyone misconstrue what the Waxmanis want it to mean, and hence new concepts have been incorporated: "breaking" as well as "the aging of the product". In the past, "reasonably foreseeable use and abuse" has been interpreted to exclude intentional misuse. The term did not typically include aging since most worn-out products are either handled differently or discarded. The changes wrought by this amendment fundamentally alter the common meaning of "reasonably foreseeable" in quirky ways, making a confusing law all the more difficult to understand or apply.

If "reasonably foreseeable use and abuse" includes breaking the toy, it's hard to know which parts will ever be considered "inaccessible". Reading this language by its plain English meaning, I cannot imagine what might survive this legislative test. Worthless. I sense another rulemaking process for the long-suffering CPSC.

The amendment also clarifies that the CPSC can revoke this exception to protect the public health and safety. Remember, we are talking about a rule affecting mandatory testing of internal components that may or may not contain phthalates. Can anyone tell me what threats to the public health and safety could POSSIBLY result from an internal component made with phthalates? Phthalates have been in use in this country for more than 50 years - wouldn't we know about "leaping phthalates" by now? Oh yeah, I'm sorry, i forgot that reasoning and science don't matter anymore. . . .

Perhaps concerned that the CPSC was running out of things to do, the authors added yet another rulemaking on "inaccessibility" for this new exception. They are free to adopt the definition already set for lead. It's up to them. Study up, guys! Can't wait to give comments . . . .

Can you say . . . mania?

It is worth noting that in taking this route to "resolve" the pain points on phthalates, the Dems have chosen to NOT address a pending issue between the CPSC and California. Attorney General Jerry Brown of California sent a hot letter to the CPSC last year indicating his unwillingness to accept testing of the entire product for phthalates ban purposes. In the wake of his letter, the agency reversed course and rescinded its rule permitting a single test on the entire product. This would have been inexpensive for manufacturers.

It is pure fantasy that the Dems would take on Jerry Brown since our Congressional overlords are largely from CA (Waxman, Pelosi, Boxer, Feinstein) and are busy trying to California-ize the rest of the country. Henry Waxman would certainly never preempt Jerry Brown for the national good. Hence the half-a-loaf approach here.

Lead: The Waxman Amendment makes the pending 100 ppm lead standard prospective. This is a tiny bone thrown in our direction. You may consider it a nod of acknowledgement of your pain from the retroactive application of the lead standards and phthalates ban. Nonetheless, this is all you will get.

Again, this is only half-a-loaf. A more thoughtful and helpful change would have been to draw a FIRM LINE under the 300 ppm standard, eliminating the 100 ppm standard altogether as well as the rule ratcheting down the lead standard in the future (forgot about that one, right?). They could have said that the CPSC would be free to lower the lead standard in the future if necessary to protect public health and safety (taking into account the cost and benefit of any such new rules). But they didn't.

The Waxmanis have no interest in such concessions. Whether out of zealotry or pride of authorship, no amendments will emerge if they reflect any concession of error or misjudgment in the Perfect Legislative Process. Thus, the 100 ppm standard can't be removed because they put it there for a reason. We must live with it . . . so they say.

Rumorville has it that the Waxmanis are about to deliver a message to leaders of the business community to fall in line behind this "wonderful" amendment or else . . . they'll get NOTHING. Don't you love this? And I used to think THEY worked for US. What an idiot I am!

And on that note, I encourage you to read ONE more blogpost about this toxic amendment. I still need to show you how the authors are trying to deceive you and gut the system that regulates safety of safeguards against governmental abuse. That is, abuse of the interests of your businesses. It's really something to see.

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