Monday, December 22, 2008

CPSIA and what it means to you

Do you own a small business or just sell things on the side? Do you make anything for those 12 and under? Plush toys? Comics? Illustrate children's books? sell t-shirts with your art on them? Make educational items? Make or sell ANYTHING that is aimed at those 12 and under? Then CPSIA will hurt you.

Got kids? Work in education? It'll hurt you too.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) has a good goal: protect kids from lead filled products. Bravo! Unfortunately it goes about doing so in such a way that it'll drive up costs across the board, drive many specialty businesses out of business, and not really make kids any safer.
So what does this do? It mandates lead testing for ALL items intended for children under 12 or PERCEIVED as being for those under. So stuff commonly regarded as "kids stuff" even if it is intended for adults, such as many comics, games, stuffed toys, etc, still falls under statute.
It requires UNIT testing.
The final product must be tested from each batch. It doesn't matter if all the components going into it are certified and have been tested as having no lead, it still must be tested for lead. It might spontaneously generate!

Conversely, if its a large enough item, because the amount of lead is averaged out over the whole item, you might be able to include one pure lead item that can easily be pulled off and ingested on it and still have it get through testing.

Back to that component testing. Even if all your components are tested for lead, you have to have each type of assembly tested. Lets say you make kids clothes. All your parts have been tested. You make a shirt with it. Then you make pants. The shirt and the pants must be tested separately because they are different units.

Here's an even crazier one.
You publish textbooks. You publish a science textbook. You publish a spelling book. They are printed with all the same materials on the same press... you must test the science book and the spelling book separately because they may contain lead!This basically seems to imply that somehow alchemy works. Non lead containing item + non lead containing item= LEAD!

Radioactivity is also bad. We could test for that too. If we know a item is made entirely of items containing no radioactive materials, odds are finished product won't be radioactive. But we should check anyway.There's also a remote chance that product could be filled with tiny invisible pink unicorns that might gore children to death. We should test for those too.

All items must be tested for lead. The statue however makes no distinction about HOW it is used. Lead does have some legitimate uses. Its actually fairly hard to get lead poisoning. You basically need to ingest lead, drink water laced with lead, or inhale lead particles. Just handling a chunk of raw lead probably won't hurt you. (unless you eat it) Lead is used to protect people from getting overdosed on Xrays. You've probably worn the lead apron when getting dental X-rays. Those lead aprons now can't be made in appropriate sizes for kids to get their teeth X-rayed.

Lead is also widely used in photovoltaic cells (solar cells). So remember those solar calculators you used in math class? None for you. Also used in batteries, so no battery powered anything either. Lead is also used in solder for many electronics. There are lead free solders available but behave differently and may not be as effective. (info on the "whisker" problems of solder) They can have short outs. Just in case your school computers weren't bad a legitimate reason to have lead in that product and there's no real risk of kids eating or inhaling it? TOO BAD. (One manufacturer of lightbulbs for microscopes has announced they will stop selling them because of CPSIA regulations)

Items need to be tested, right? The manufacturer needs to provide a testing certificate to the retailer. No certificate, the retailer can't sell it. The lead level also keeps going down. So even if a product WAS deemed safe at the time it was manufactured, by the time it actually reaches the retailer, it may be unsaleable.Remember that bit about the certificates?

The Consumer Product Safety Administration has been a bit unclear about the whole thing but has definitely said the new regulations apply retroactively to items with certificates. (anything manufactured after November 10th 2008 should have come with one) If its over the limit for new regs but it sitting on a shelf, it must be destroyed.

Objects without a certification still have to be tested. So those copies of Harry Potter and the deathly Hollows that were printed in 2007 that are still available new at Amazon may have to be destroyed as of February 10th 2009 because they haven't been tested for lead. (Amazon is taking this seriously and sent a mail to all affiliates asking them to cough up the lead testing certificates)

So what was the goal here? Stop toxic lead filled toys from hurting kids. The government has a pretty good idea who was responsible for those. But instead chooses to slap EVERYONE having anything to do kids products with onerous testing standards that will drive up costs and probably won't accomplish much. The people that were lying about lead content to start with are STILL going to lie about it and fake their documents... but now there's fifty tons of documents from legitimate businesses to sort through first. Plus there simply aren't enough labs to do all that testing. Many legitimate business go out of business because of the cost. All items become more expensive. Products take even longer to reach market because of huge pile up of tests in lab.

End result, harder to catch the bad guys, everybody pays, nobody wins. (well except testing labs maybe)It's much like hunting for terrorists. There's terrorists out in the world! Let's search everywhere equally hard, including places we're 99.99% sure there aren't even PEOPLE let alone terrorists. Osama Bin-Laden could be hiding in the middle of Antartica! We must look there! Looking in the likely spot would make sense, but sense doesn't seem to have had much to do with any of this.Education, special education, in particular will be hit hard. There's many small educational companies producing very specialized, very complex products for special needs kids. Now they have to go through additional hoops to test equipment that is already tested for safety. (remember something like a motorized wheelchair for a child may have hundreds of parts, easily doubling or trippling the cost... to test for lead that's not there) It'll slow down delivery of those products to those that truly need the help and may means even more just plain don't get the help they need.

Write your congress-critter. Or call. look up info here Write the new president. This law has already gone through.
It can only be amended or repealed at this point.

Collection of articles on CPSIAWashington Post ArticlePhone numbers on who to callsign a petition and anothersee the latest breaking news on CPSIA through TwitterVote the topic up at and read discussionRepost to your own blog! Or link here!

1 comment:

  1. So how does this effect you? What are you going to have to do? Are you closing down?? This is so scary.

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