Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Report to Congress - Starring YOU

CPSIA Update: So We All Agree, Then? Congress Must Act!

In this blog post, The National Association of Manufacturers recognizes how important your stories are to show the Congress the impact of the CPSIA!

"[Northup] attached written comments from trade association and individuals — including people who have their own crafts and small businesses — that effectively buttress her recommendations. (Northup’s Dec. 24th opinion column in The Wall Street Journal, “There Is No Joy in Toyland,” helped move the debate in the right direction.)"

Friday, January 22, 2010

The U.S. Isn't as Free as It Used to Be

The U.S. Isn't as Free as It Used to Be

I know you will especially appreciate the above article from the Wall Street Journal.

It reports that America has dropped in regard to being “economically free” according to the new 2010 Index of Economic Freedom. We could fix this if we can find a way to help our nations entrepreneurs and small businesses without over-burdening them with unnecessary compliance costs!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Letter to the Editor

In response to a letter to the editor (A Partisan Assault on Child Safety Law, December 31) regarding my December 24th op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, I wish to make several points:

First, regarding the letter’s assertion that there is “bipartisan” support for the CPSIA:

- At least 11 bills have been introduced since the CPSIA’s passage to amend the law to avert its unintended consequences, including some bills by Democrats.

- Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have written more than a dozen letters to the Commission to request leniency in the law’s requirements for small businesses, exemptions for specific products they feel should not have been impacted by the law, and other changes. To date, the Commission has not addressed these concerns due to a steadfast determination to narrowly interpret the statute.

- Last month, Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) explicitly asked the Commission to report back to them with recommendations on ways to amend the law to make it more workable – a report which was submitted on January 15th.

- For the past year, Republicans in Congress have requested that the Majority hold hearings with stakeholders on the CPSIA, to no avail.

So, to infer that the CPSIA still holds bi-partisan support is absurd and completely false.

Secondly, regarding the “bio-availability” of lead in children’s products, there are terms like these used by non-scientists, the media, as well as CPSC Commissioners describing lead that are worth taking a moment to explore. The author of this letter uses a few of them:

- “Exposure” – The concept of “exposure” to lead is broad. “Exposure” in this context can mean that a product with lead (i.e. your house keys) is in the same room as the person “exposed.” Thus, if you are “exposed” to unsafe levels of lead, this does not necessarily have anything to do with whether you lick it, digest it, or in any way consume it so that it gets into your bloodstream.

- “Absorbability” or “bio-availability” – Not to be confused with “exposure,” the absorbability of lead would mean, for example, when you touch a bicycle handlebar and then lick your fingers, how much lead actually gets into your bloodstream? Very, very, very little, if any. If you continued to touch that handlebar every day and lick your fingers afterwards, there is no plausible possibility you would be at risk of absorbing too much lead.

But more importantly, absorbability is where experts (Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health) have found that lead paint in old houses as well as lead in dirt near old gas stations can be very dangerous for small children. In other words, the risk of absorbability with lead paint in an old home that becomes chipped is quite high. The CDC advises that children under five years old with blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood be treated to prevent lead poisoning (

However, none of these agencies has ever found that a child touching or mouthing the brass on a toy car, playing a brass musical instrument, touching a vinyl lunchbox, or riding a bicycle, could ever rub off enough lead, day after day, to ever affect his or her health. Yet, these are the types of products outlawed by the CPSIA.

If you are concerned about “exposure” to lead (as the author of this letter may be), which does not necessarily have anything to do with ingesting lead or a health risk, then you may be interested in simply banning lead in all consumer products, everywhere – with no resulting health benefit at the end of the day. But if you are concerned with the “bio-availability” or “absorbability” of lead and what products actually could cause a rise in the blood lead levels of young children, as I am, you would prefer a policy allowing for de minimis absorbable lead (e.g., as the Food and Drug Administration permits 1 microgram of lead in a piece of candy) where a child is not at risk, combined with a focus on heavy enforcement for items that do pose a risk, like the solid-lead small parts or jewelry referred to in the author’s letter that can be swallowed and absorbed—as well as lead paint in old homes.

I appreciate an open, thorough debate on the science behind these issues and welcome comments. It is essential that the facts and the science behind the risks of lead absorption be front and center as the Commission implements the CPSIA and Congress addresses recommendations to amend it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Recommendations to Congress

I believe that the CPSIA should be amended to reflect the real risks associated with lead absorption. I wholeheartedly supported the consensus recommendations in the agency’s report to Congress, however, my statement suggested several additional amendments that were not included in the Commission’s consensus report:

1. Focus CPSC resources on what we know may actually harm children: Only require third-party testing and certification for products that may contain more than a de minimis amount of absorbable lead (i.e., an amount that could meaningfully raise a child’s blood lead level)

2. Provide the agency flexibility in treating products for 12-month-olds and products for 12-year-olds differently, according to risk: An 8-year-old is not going to suck on a bicycle tire valve stem, and it makes no sense to ban lead in such a component where there is no risk of harm to a child.

3. Give the Commission flexibility to provide relief to small businesses: We have been informed by agency staff that the current statute does not allow this.

4. Avoid adding new exclusions to the statute that would be arbitrary, subjective, unreliable, and only available to companies that can afford to petition the agency: For example, a so-called functional purpose exemption would be all of these things—and it would also radically transform the CPSC into a product pre-approval agency. Statutory exemptions should be written in such a way that those who qualify for them can take advantage of them without agency sign-off.

5. Allow thrift stores, garage sales, and other resellers to sell second-hand goods: Under the CPSIA, the statutory limits for lead and phthalate content prohibit resale, even where the agency has never found these items to be unsafe. This policy threatens to put an end to the second-hand children’s clothing market.

To read my statement that accompanied the CPSC report, click here

To read the CPSC's report, click here

Friday, January 15, 2010

Congress WILL hear you

Today, my fellow Commissioners and I sent a report to Congress presenting some of the issues the Commission and the small business community have faced due to the unintended consequences of the CPSIA. I voted in favor of the recommendations in the report because I agree that statutory changes are needed. I also added a lengthy statement to the report with a number of more specific recommendations, including many of your notes and ideas.

Because of you and the concerns you shared with me, I had real life examples to show them about the costs and hardships the law is placing on America’s small business community. In my statement, I added an appendix with letters you have sent me – from the requests to extend the stay of enforcement to your recommended changes for the law - as this was a great opportunity to share the insights of people who are dealing with the unintended consequences of this law every day.

Together, we have a chance to persuade Congress that the CPSIA needs some changes – and I am hopeful that they will heed our requests and put this agency back on a course of focusing first on health risk and child safety and move away from interpreting and applying an unwieldy statute that has many provisions that provide little to no benefit for consumers.

Thank you for sending me your stories and recommendations and I hope you will continue to do so!

My appearance on Stossel

John Stossel on CPSIA

Last night, I was honored to be a guest on John Stossel's new show, Stossel, on Fox Business. As we discussed the CPSIA and it's testing and certification requirements, I tried to convey to him the HUGE cost it is imparting on already safe toys - especially those made by small businesses and crafters. You should have heard the audience's reactions! When they learned that the Goodwill and other charitable organizations were not able to sell products that are NOT a real threat to children, they were outraged! Please watch and let me know what you think!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Six Of One, A Half Dozen Of The Other

AP: Feds probe cadmium in kids' jewelry from China

Today’s AP/W.Post story shows a major unintended consequence of the lead content limits. By banning lead above 300ppm, Congress has led some manufacturers to make items containing cadmium at over 900,000ppm—which is far more dangerous than 300ppm of lead. A similar problem has emerged from Congress’s ban on certain phthalates. By not allowing manufacturers to use phthalates, which this agency has previously found to not be harmful, manufacturers have turned to using other plastic softeners that have not been tested or found safe by this agency.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Note on the Sunshine Act...

As we heard in Wednesday’s hearing, transparency in government is not always a sure thing. It is ironic that the very law that was passed to ensure openness and transparency in Commission activities, the “Government in the Sunshine Act of 1976” (5 U. S. C. 552b) actually does more to tie our hands in a 5-member Commission than to help us. That is why I believe strongly that we need a public hearing next week to discuss the recommendations the Commission will send to Congress on amendments to the CPSIA – before the January 15th deadline.

Once the President appointed a full bench to the CPSC last year, moving the membership from two Commissioners to five, the Sunshine Act requirement kicked in that more than two Commissioners are prohibited from being in the same private room with one another to discuss a pending matter---such as, the kinds of recommendations we should send to Congress to amend the CPSIA, or how we can find more flexibility in the law for small businesses. As a result, our only time for discussion amongst ourselves on these crucial issues is during our weekly public hearings over the webcast.

The consequences of avoiding direct communications with your colleagues (other than 1-on-1 discussions), an over-reliance on staff to fill the gaps, and finally, preventing any discussion of the matter in public are twofold: 1) As a Commissioner, my conversations with another Commissioner on these important topics quickly become meaningless after that Commissioner or myself have furthered the discussion at another time with one of the other three, and; 2) The spread of information from Commissioner to Commissioner (or through staff) often becomes a game of “telephone” where the fact or anecdote starts with one person, is passed to another, and may be barely recognizable by the time it gets to the other Commissioners. Stories take on a life of their own, as I have experienced firsthand, and significant things like facts get gently pushed aside in the interest of deadlines and schedules.

The implementation of the CPSIA is the most important issue before the Commission at this time. If we do not have an open, public discussion amongst the five Commissioners about why the CPSIA needs to be changed and what we will recommend to Congress, the facts and truth behind these issues will never fully see the light of day. Incorrect assumptions on the economic impact of the law or the science behind it will go unchallenged. There will be little to no “sunshine” on the Commission’s activities to make changes, or avoid making them, on a far-reaching law that has impacted thousands of families and businesses—and which we are running out of time to fix.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Transparency and the CPSC

Today’s public hearing was certainly one of the more “spirited” ones I have participated in since joining the Commission! The fact that my motion was denied and we will not be openly discussing our report to Congress is a huge disappointment and really shows how important it is for you to share with me your ideas and thoughts on what changes should be made to the CPSIA. Please email me at as soon as possible so your views are not completely shut out of the report we send to Congress (or at least my statement!)

To see today's hearing, click here
More information about today’s hearing: CPSIA - Transparency, Tenenbaum/Adler-style!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

We aren't alone!

In Case You Missed it: Lone Voice of Reason at CPSC

Glad to see that Angela Logomasini at the Competitive Enterprise Institute also thinks we need more common sense...

Monday, January 4, 2010

What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear...

'Can-do' vs. 'Stand-Pat'Entrepreneurs could be the key to recovery

Today's piece from the Washington Post by Robert Samuelson links economic recovery to entrepreneurship...and regulatory restraint. Here's hoping for a New Year's resolution at the CPSC to find the least costly regulatory policy to protect families and children from harm so that our children are safe and their moms and dads still have jobs.