Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CPSIA - CPSC Says "Ahhh, Don't Worry About It!"

What me worry?!

In a TV piece called "Mom Outraged Over Lead in Baby's Toy" (watch the video here), a Georgia mother found "an ominous warning" on a toy drum she purchased for her 16 month old from Toys R Us (one of the toughest retailers on legal compliance and quality control, btw). The label read: "Warning: contains lead. May be harmful if eaten or chewed. May generate dust containing lead."


And I was wondering why anyone would buy a drum for a 16 month old . . . .

Mom was not happy: "Even if it's just a little bit of lead, I think lead in anything for a child is just insane."

When consulted, the CPSC assured her that it didn't mean anything. It's all about a California law that requires labels for lead levels that have nothing to do with safety. Scott Wolfson, who can really turn a phrase, intoned: "We respect California law, but parents should know that the safety of their children is not necessarily at risk if they see that label."

This is so rich on so many levels.

First, the CPSC is prohibited from assessing risk under the CPSIA. How is it that their spokesman is allowed to assess risk? I thought Congress decides what's risky now. The CPSC can't be trusted, right? As usual, particularly when Mr. Wolfson is involved, the CPSC's position is whatever is best for THEM. To heck with you. For purposes of this story, they magically regained the ability to assess risk.

Let's review - as a matter of law, the CPSC's job is to enforce the standards. They are literally prohibited from considering whether compliant products pose a risk. They are just measurers now, the "cop on the beat", determining whether products are inside the circle or outside the circle but never whether the circle is in the right place. So how can they fashion a judgment that lesser levels of lead aren't risky? The best they can say is that Congress didn't apparently think those lead levels deserved attention.

I am thinking of Sargeant Schultz from "Hogan's Heroes" . . . .

Second, the CPSIA is loaded with superfluous labels. The philosophy of warning consumers through labels pasted over labels is central to the precautionary principle that drove this law. How Mr. Wolfson can advise consumers to ignore a warning label without blushing is beyond me.

I believe the reason they try this stuff is because they think we're so stupid that we won't notice. Or that we're so docile we won't say anything. In any event, it hardly matters because they sure aren't going to listen to us.

Third, this situation proves beyond a shadow of a doubt what I have been saying for three years - that lead labels are a tacit ban. I have long resisted lead labels on any of our products. [Please NOTE - this is only happens under technical application of these stupid rules (gotcha's), such as labels for rocks, light bulbs, coated electrical cords, etc., and only on educational products.] If you put a label like the Georgia label on your product, it will die and you will have to drop it. Plain and simple - listen to the Georgia Mom. She's normal and has some common sense - if the company is warning you about lead, don't ask any questions, just don't use the product. Why else would they be warning you? Duh.

A tacit ban.

So the Illinois law and the California law that require these labels are not only violations of Constitutional protection of interstate commerce, but they are also preempted by federal law. The States are not allowed to ban products that are permitted to be sold by Federal law - they are preempted from taking that step. When you put a label on a product that causes consumers to not buy the product, you destroy the economic viability of the product, thereby killing it. This is a tacit ban, a ban in as many words. It is illegal.

Scott Wolfson apparently doesn't see the problem. Consumers should know that this label isn't serious, he says. I assume he thinks consumers should know that the other labels they should know are serious. If they have any questions, perhaps they should call him. He knows-it-all.

Or maybe Moms everywhere should get better at reading Scott's mind. That's the ticket. Fuggedaboutit.


Anonymous said...

Wow. This episode and your analysis sums up so many things that are wrong with the CPSIA. Knock 'em dead tomorrow.

challengeandfun said...

This sounds a lot like the "Boy That Cried Wolf" to me. Parents that are bombarded by labels that don't make sense (and which the CPSC says to ignore) will start ignoring all labels.

Does that make children safer? Does it make a young child safer when a parent begins to ignore choking hazard warnings and age appropriateness warnings?

Anyone that has been to California has seen the cancer warnings outside what seems like every building. Pretty soon they become irrelevant.

This is not to take away from your point. It is very clear from this story that parents will also stop buying perfectly safe products. It is a lose-lose for everyone.

Esther said...

The response by Scott Wolfson is so typical. The Progressives in Congress pass intrusive, Nanny state legislation and then tell us commoners we don't need to worry about it. The truth of the matter is that the plain reading of the legislative wording in the CPSIA, as an example, tells us that the CPSC CAN regulate garage sales because they are a form of retail. They CAN send CPSC policemen to your yard and charge you with violations of that law. They tell us they won't do it, but the truth is they CAN. This problem shows up in so many pieces of legislation that it's impossible to know what the law even is anymore. It certainly is irresponsible of Scott Wolfson to say what he did because it's plain wrong.