Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hugh Hewitt Interview with CPSC Chair Nancy Nord About CPSIA

I came across this March 13, 2009 interview by Hugh Hewitt. He is not someone I normally listen to, but this interview with Consumer Products Safety Commission Chair Nancy Nord about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act piqued my interest. It is worth the read. Here is the link: Nancy Nord Interview.

From reading this interview myself, I believe the CPSC is aware of the impact this law has on buyers and sellers of children's products. I also believe Chair Nord when she says that Congress, businesses, consumer groups and opinion leaders need to work together with the CPSC to bring about changes in a law that was passed quickly and without (IMHO) the appropriate consideration for the limitations this law puts on business people who are interested in producing safe products for children.

What is also clear is that exemptions for lead levels are limited. Trace amounts of lead, under this law, are considered illegal, even when, in actuality, the lead levels are so low they are not going to harm consumers. With this in mind, it is difficult to make decisions about which products to bring to market. Something I think might be safe today may not, in actuality be compliant with the law. The responsibility still falls back on the manufacturer (large or small) of products intended for children ages 12 and under. A heavy burden, particularly for small businesses and microenterprises. The CPSC is charged with enforcing the law as enacted. It is up to Congress to rewrite or amend the law so the CPSC can provide sellers with common sense regulations. And it is up to us, the citizens of this country to educate ourselves about this issue and start a dialogue with our local, state, and federal officials.

Phthalates, as the law is written, continue to be a banned substance and, to date, the CPSC has not approved testing procedures for this substance. So business owners are forced to make decisions about their products (i.e., destroy inventory) without appropriate guidelines and testing procedures in place. Frustrating and financially devastating indeed.

The Congress, when passing this law, knew they were tying the CPSIA's hands. I have heard this before and Chair Nord confirms it in the interview:

"You know, when the law was being enacted, the professional career staff of this agency went up and met with the Congressional staff. And with respect to exclusions pointed out to them, very explicitly, that the language that they were using was going to tie our hands, and that we should be able to have at least some sort of de minimus standard with respect to how these exclusions were going to be implemented. The Congressional staff’s response was that is exactly what we mean. We are not looking for a de minimus exclusion standard here. When we say there can be no lead in these products, that’s exactly what we mean."

I am still a supporter of the intent of the CPSIA. Safety is a good thing, especially when it comes to children's products. However, I shudder to think how much time and money and resources are being wasted regulating products that are already safe. If we know the products that are safe (already proven by scientific standards), would not it make more sense to focus on substances and products known to be unsafe?

I want to comply to reasonable safety standards. And I appreciate what information has been trickling down from the CPSC so I can begin to look at my inventory with the regulations in mind. I am, however, still unsure about how to proceed with some of my products. There remains, for me, a lot more questions than answers. I am still waiting for the day when common sense will prevail around this issue.

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