I recently met with representatives of the Hands-On Science Partnership to discuss the impact of the CPSIA on their program. This group tries to stimulate kids in grades K-12 to get interested in science by doing hands-on activities with materials used in everyday life. The Partnership puts together a curriculum and related teaching aids – with things like paperclips, nails, rubber bands and other common household items – for classroom use by students. Unfortunately, putting these common items in science kits arguably turns them into “children’s products” under the CPSIA, meaning they must be tested by third party testing labs. If this interpretation of a “children’s product” holds, the testing costs will be too much for the program to survive as it is currently set up. Students and science would be the losers.
I have often criticized the CPSIA because it has forced us to turn our attention away from products that have been shown to harm consumers to regulating things that really should not be regulated. This is a perfect example of something that we should not be regulating. It is crazy that the Hands-On Science Partnership needs to be concerned about doing lead tests on products purchased at an office supply store and then packaged into a science teaching kit for use with children. Even crazier is the fact that if a teacher buys the same paper clip at the same store and uses it for the same science teaching project, it’s okay.
Our regulations should regulate things that really need to be regulated. Hold that thought with a paper clip.