Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CPSIA - Wingnuts Against Cadmium

740 days have passed since ANY Democrat in Congress did ANYTHING to help us on the CPSIA. There are 71 days left until Election Day.

On Thursday, in an unannounced Federal Register notice (you all read the Fed. Reg. for fun like me, right?), the CPSC announced that a petition had been filed by four esteemed consumer groups demanding that the CPSC and EPA issue rules against the presence of cadmium in children's products, especially "toy jewelry". Not doubt this effort was coordinated with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) to assist her in her reelection effort. The four consumer groups are the Sierra Club, Empire State Consumer Project, Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides (hmmm) and, our ole' pal, the Center for Environmental Health. Although the petition has not resulted in action by the agency YET, they have requested comments on the petition. Goodie, something else to waste our time on!

The only reason I know about this event is that Bloomberg.com wrote about it last Wednesday. I am sure you monitor Bloomberg for sneak requests for comment by the agency, just like me. If you go the CPSC website, good luck finding a reference to this important Fed. Reg. publication. Oh well, the CPSIA already legislates that we must be telepathic anyhow.

The cadmium mania has nothing to do with health or safety. Even the wingnuts behind this petition are unable to cite a single injury EVER from cadmium in children's products. They ask that rules be implemented "before a child dies or is seriously injured". Well, since this regulation never existed previously and cadmium has been used as a trace component in jewelry for hundreds of years, the argument that this is a "real" risk does not impress me. I hold a degree in engineering but who am I to tell the CPSC how to do math. What do you suppose the probability of injury might be if the instances are ZERO over hundreds of years involving literally trillions of human interactions? Pretty high, I guess . . . .

They better be pretty high, if the CPSC actually cares what the law says. Ha, I gave up on that a long time ago, but for you devotees, here's the deal. I have written about this many times already - the authority to recall consumer products derives from the FHSA which restricts the agency's authority to "imminent hazards". Section 12(a) of the FHSA provides this definition: "As used in this section, and hereinafter in this Act, the term 'imminently hazardous consumer product' means a consumer product which presents imminent and unreasonable risk of death, serious illness, or severe personal injury." [Emphasis added] Is it even theoretically possible for a consumer product containing cadmium to meet this standard if there are exactly zero documented injuries - ever? Of course, we have been told that "anecdotes are not evidence" . . . unless perhaps a consumer group is dishing out the (imaginary) anecdotes.

And then there's the mania in the press. The press seems no better able to evaluate this threat than any of the other urban legends underlying the CPSIA. One wonders how they assess other risks . . . like swimming pool deaths. Oh yeah, real deaths are not a problem if the activity is really fun, like swimming which claims hundreds of children's lives annually. Better to put our resources into cadmium testing - since there are no recorded events of cadmium injury from consumer products. Consider this quote from Bloomberg: "Retailers such as Dress Barn Inc. and Claire’s Boutiques Inc. have recalled necklaces, earrings and bracelets this year after finding cadmium in the products. McDonald’s Corp. offered $3 refunds in June to customers who bought “Shrek” drinking glasses with high levels of cadmium in the paint." [Emphasis added] I have pointed out ad nauseum that the CPSC admits that the Shrek glasses are SAFE but given that the recall went forward and no one remembers what happened, those glasses had to be really dangerous, right??? According to Bloomberg, that seems to be true.

The petition features the usual hyperbolic description of an imaginary crisis with hysterical references to a "rising tide" of incidents (poisonings) and unfounded accusations of manufacturers "substituting" cadmium for lead. Shame that facts hardly matter anymore. They pull out all the stops to embellish their case. If repeated enough, this kind of reasoning becomes accepted as a truth, just like "no safe levels of lead". Our "leaders" seem prone to this kind of duping.

My favorite part of the petition is the assertion of the dire threat posed by cadmium. Again, there are no reported injuries from cadmium EVER in consumer products. The CSPC admitted at last February's ICPHSO meeting that their only toxicological data on cadmium relates to workplace exposure (generally airborne). According to Wikipedia, two big sources of cadmium for humans are food and cigarette smoke. The CPSC has literally NO data on risk from consumer products - principally because there is NO evidence that there is any danger. Given the data, they made the judgment that gathering the data was a waste of money (back when people cared about such things). The most famous incident of widespread cadmium poisoning related to scandalous industrial pollution in Japan over many years. That's a far cry from the situation confronting America today.

Should we crush the toy jewelry market or pummel the rest of us with high testing costs and other legal disruptions because our regulators are unable to distinguish between industrial pollution in Japan on a massive scale, and enamel or jewelry solder with traces of cadmium in it?

According to the wingnuts, yes, we should.

And I remind you - we have 71 days left until Election Day. I recommend that you give generously to candidates that don't come from Mars, have some semblance of common sense and commit in blood to oppose the junk science movement that has taken over the CPSC and Congress. Work the neighborhoods, greet people at train stations and then go vote in droves.

If we hurry, we might get something done before the CPSC turns the screw one more rotation.


Ben S said...

Found it: CPSC site --> Library - FOIA --> Electronic Reading Room --> Published CPSC Federal Register Notices of Interest --> Fiscal Year 2010

Ben S said...