Can't let a wonderful occasion like this go unnoticed - HAPPY BIRTHDAY CPSIA! Two years ago today, President Bush signed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act into law, giving vast new powers to CPSC and promising wondrous new levels of "safety" for children in our country.
And how much safer we have become! In my post "Numbers Don't Lie", I abstracted the injury statistics from CPSC children's product recalls over the prior 11 years. I know from "someone who should know" that the CPSC does not tabulate injury statistics like this - so I am your only source even on the second birthday of the CPSIA. No matter, the spreadsheet indicates that there were 242 recalls of children's products between August 14, 2008 and the end of my study, April 21, 2010. By contrast, there were a total of 657 recalls of children's products between August 14, 2008 and the randomly-selected end of my study, March 5, 1999. The injuries associated with lead that proceeded the CPSIA were one death and two asserted injuries, and after the CPSIA - one asserted lead injury (in two years). [See "Numbers Don't Lie (Update No. 1)".] What an achievement! It's so, soooo clear we need this tough new law. . . .
By the way, I don't mean to be too "science-y", but a reduction in lead injuries from one death and two asserted injuries in nine years to one asserted injury in two years is simply not a statistically significant reduction. And we must consider additionally that ALL of the injuries, before and after the CPSIA, were ASSERTED BUT NOT VERIFIED. So there may be ZERO recorded actual injuries - we just don't know. This makes our health improvement objectives even fuzzier.
And the cost of the CPSIA "final solution"? Well, I have calculated that, using the HTA's estimate of $5.625 billion in annual CPSIA compliance costs (which I believe is low and in any event was calculated before the CPSIA showed its hand on testing frequency - see below), the 11-year cost of compliance is a mere $61.9 Billion. Using EPA metrics for the economic value of a human life and one lost IQ point, and giving full credit to each of the three asserted but unverified lead injuries, I have calculated the cost of the injuries to be $6.1 million over 11 years. That's pretty symmetrical, don't you think? $62 billion in costs to save $6.1 million.
Spend $10,000 to save a buck. That sums up this era in a single sentence.
Oh, but it gets even better. In case you, or pick any regulator, are too dense to understand the implications of those numbers for the future prospects of the children's product market, the CPSC has recently published a rule for comment on testing frequency and "reasonable testing programs". This rule was due on November 14, 2009 (hence the "15 Month Rule") but was delayed because the CPSC understood the rule's potential to literally kill all small businesses in this market. [That would include our business, btw.] So they held a two-day workshop in December 2009 to hear ideas and industry concerns and then spent months crafting the rule. This rule has been in the works for two years now. You have to figure they're serious.
The CPSC was kind enough to illustrate the costs our business can expect under their sparkling new rule. So I broke out my trusty calculator (again - too math-y? too science-y?) and determined that they intend for us to spend a mere $10,000 per item per year in testing. This includes destroying 54 samples of each item in the process of testing. Anyhow, think of how many products you make - and multiply by $10,000. That's your annual testing bill now.
Drum roll, please . . . our bill will be a mere $15 million per year! Pretty exciting to get off so easy. No doubt our bankruptcy will make American kids safer. Of course, I am pretty sure it won't make them any smarter - our educational products will cease to exist. Then, of course, their ignorance of math and science might qualify to run the CPSC. There's always a bright side to tragedy and catastrophe, I suppose.
It is worth a passing note that this is my 490th blogpost on the CPSIA and its terrible effects. I have submitted comments letters by the bushel basket, testified numerous times at the CPSC (often at their request), testified in front of Congress, been on national TV and radio, wrote Op-Eds and been featured innumerable times in various publications, held a rally on Capitol Hill, met with Commissioners, Congressional staffers and members of Congress, and so on. The CPSC's actions are not being taken in ignorance. They are being done in the face of reason. This is not partisanism - this is "know nothing-ism".
So Happy Happy Birthday, CPSIA! Your work is not done, unfortunately. Our company is still breathing.