Getting Down to Brass Tacks (and toys, and hooks, and hinges…)

First of all thanks for following my blog,  I appreciate your comments.  I want this to be a place where you can voice your opinions and share your ideas on activities at the Commisison.  Many of you have already participated in this dialogue and I encourage you to continue.

 The lack of flexibility in the lead provisions of the CPSIA effectively requires the Agency to force from the market products that no one considers a real safety risk.  This does not advance consumer safety, diverts staff resources from real safety issues, and puts an unnecessary burden on manufacturers and sellers of children’s products.  Today at our Commission public meeting we were presented with a vivid example of this fact. I encourage you to view the webcast.  Click on “Commission Public Briefing/Meeting (Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.).” My colleague Commissioner Anne Northup made especially persuasive arguments that did not, however, carry the day.

 By a 3 to 2 vote the Commission denied a petition for an exclusion from the CPSIA lead provisions for a small brass fitting on a toy car.  The Commission also voted down a motion I offered to stay enforcement until Congress could address the reach of this provision. See my statement  on today’s vote.

The implications of this vote are significant for the following reasons, among others:

  • First, this is the first opportunity that the newly reconstituted CPSC with three new commissioners, has had to consider the appplication of the lead provisions.  The Commission has now very clearly determined that we do not have the flexibility under the law to make common sense decisions with respect to lead.
  • Second, the impact of this decision goes well beyond the particular toy subject to the petition.  I am especially concerned about what this decision means for our schools, where brass is found on desk hinges, coat hooks, locker pulls and many other items.  Are schools now going to be forced to remove all brass and if so, who will bear this financial burden?
  • Third, brass is found throughout a home and removing it from toys does little in terms of removing it from a child’s environment. If brass were really harmful to children, we would be taking action to remove it from the home but no one is suggesting that there is a safety issue that needs to be addressed in this way. 
  • Fourth, there will be significant economic injury to not only the company that filed the petition, but also to other companies making children’s products with brass in them. 

There has been much lip service, both in Congress and at the CPSC, about common sense application of the law.  Today’s action provides no lip balm.


6 Responses to “Getting Down to Brass Tacks (and toys, and hooks, and hinges…)”

  1. 1 Deb January 11, 2010 at 7:42 am

    So the instrumental music programs in American schools, which are already endangered due to budget cuts and academic prioritization, are now headed for another huge cutback as students under 12 will not be permitted to learn to play brass instruments?

    There goes a large percentage of my job when I return to work after kids….. got me coming and going….

  2. 2 ostrov December 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Thank you,
    very interesting article

  3. 3 deputyheadmistress November 8, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I really appreciate what you have been trying to do.

    It would have been a far, far better thing if, instead of this over-reaching law, Congress had required that only upon learning of the best-available, objective, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence that a specific product or material would lead to lead absorption by human beings or any adverse impact on health or safety would a material or product be subject to these draconian regulations.

  4. 4 Desiree November 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Dear Honorable Nord:

    Thank you for opening up this blog and taking the time to read my comment. I have been recently approached by an exporter of onesies and the quality and design are excellent. However, when I asked if the snaps have been lead tested, I was shocked by the reply, and yes, I did direct them to the cpsc’s website for knowledge of the law:

    “sorry but we haven’t hear about lead testing .
    now.. we have been exporting to u.s.a and europe… australia.. with no problem.
    we can’t let you know our buyer reference.
    we think that your importing line is very strict.
    we had better look for another buyer.
    best regards

    As for now, I do my best to comply with the lead laws, but I know that there are people producing and selling items with no awareness of the law at all. Now this company does not want to sell to me because they think that I, myself, personally, only am being too strict. They only thing I can do anyway is not buy their product, but I think it is crazy that they are producing and selling in the US with no awareness of the law. I am not sure how the word can get out better. I am not implying that I agree with the extent of the law, but I do think that it is very broad and if products can be recalled by the thousands and worth billions of dollars, a massive undertaking needs to be taken to let manufacturers know around the world, or at least all importers, what the policies are. For example today 10,000 art easels were recalled. Over the past moths many thousands of items were recalled for lead paint, but where do they go? Garbage? That is so much waste that could be avoided if the products were never made in the first place. My understanding under the whole of the law is that lead is trying to be removed from children’s products, period. Therefore, the faster it is out of the system and the more manufacturers that know, makes the transition possible. Actually, at Wal-Mart and Babies R Us (where there was a lot of scrutiny), there have been some ingenious designs on clothing to make them compliant and embroidery is a detail on most clothing available instead of screen printing.

    Even at the last children’s clothing trade show I went to, there were several vendors with fantastic clothing and I asked, since they had buttons, if they had been tested, and they did not know what I was talking about. Some thought I was lying or, since “no one told them” they could produce what ever they like. Other booths were packed with buyers ordering shirts with crystals by the dozen, but we know that they are not allowed for sure. It appears that many of the medium sized companies are paying no attention to the law at all, while the small manufacturers are trying to comply 100%.

    Eventually, since I have stopped buying buttons and zippers, along with many other designers, the button and zipper companies would come out with perfectly compliant fasteners or go out of business. At this point, they could apply to you and state that they have undergone rigorous testing and all of their items are compliant. Then it would be up to the CPSC to say, OK, they have proved, as the textile industry did, that these items are perfectly safe and can be used without further lead testing. If the law cannot currently be changed, at least having everyone as possible know the restrictions is imperative.
    The small businesses are doing a great job keeping informed, it’s the larger manufacturers that probably caused the cpsia that are not getting the message and it’s the larger manufacturers that at selling to the majority of the public resulting in thousands of recalls.

    Desiree Vittorio
    “It is about the little girl who wears the clothes and what she inspires.”

  5. 5 jennifer November 4, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to provide a platform of OPEN two-way conversation. We appreciate your efforts! Today is yet another showcase of the problems with this law. We all want children to be safe but this is beyond ridiculous.

  1. 1 CPSIA’s ban on brass Trackback on November 7, 2009 at 11:55 am

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