Tomorrow, the Commission will consider whether, under the CPSIA, children’s products need to meet a new standard that drives lead content from 99.97% to 99.99% lead free. Our staff has not told us there are health benefits to be gained from this change. Our staff has told us that, by regulating at this miniscule trace level, we should expect to drive up costs, limit consumer choice, and drive some businesses out of the market (thereby costing jobs). I predict that this result will not be an issue for a majority of my colleagues; it should be.
Last week I got an email from an executive of a company whose product line includes some children’s products. He told me that his company planned to spend at least $80,000 trying to retrofit two products totaling 16,000 units:
- In one product, a part that will have to be replaced contains 105 ppm. That misses the proposed limit by less than one thousandth of one percent.
- In this product, a second part contains 179 ppm, so it is 99.9821% lead-free but not 99.99%.
- In the second product, a part tested at 114 ppm, making it 99.9886% lead-free but not 99.99%.
One of the products is a small toggle lock used on the top drawstring closure of a sleeping bag. The other is a similarly innocuous product that kids do not mouth or swallow.
This expense is just for two products from one company. Imagine how many others are out there making children’s products that will bear similar or greater cost for no health benefit. There is no concern in any corner, including here at the agency, that these products may expose children to dangerous levels of lead. Yet while these products are perfectly legal today, come August 15, they cannot be sold.
The agency had the opportunity to try to stop such a wasteful outcome. Instead, we are poised to require these kinds of crazy results throughout the economy. While the law is written in a way that greatly limits our options to stop these crazy results, even within the framework of the law, we have done very little to try to regulate in a more sensible manner.
We need to direct the agency’s resources to address actually dangerous products. Congressional action to correct the obvious problems with the law is also sorely needed. In the meantime, the waste continues and the costs we all must bear increase. Our staff has told us that health benefits to be gained are minimal from this effort but great expense will occur. Consumers are not benefited by such a result.