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February 2009

Kathleen Fasanella kicks some serious butt

Kathleen Fasanella is a guru in the apparel industry who was another early advocate against CPSIA.

She ticked off toady congresswoman Janice Schakowsky [D-IL] enough that Schakowsky wrote her a letter, even though Kathleen is based in New Mexico. It seems that Kathleen dared to speak out against CPSIA, and hasn't been fazed by the usual hype. It is quite obvious that the congresswoman did this to curry favor with someone. How pathetic that a 64-year-old supposed woman's rights advocate, who has been in the House for 11 years, still has to brown nose.

Kathleen posted a reply, that is just wonderful.

The only good thing about CPSIA is that it is bringing some great people out of the woodwork!

Rick Woldenberg's testimony/letter on TSCA

Rick Woldenberg is rapidly becoming a near mythic figure in his tireless devotion to cleaning up the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) mess.

He wrote a letter (2.1 MB pdf) that was included into the record of the February 26 hearings held by Rep. Rush's subcommittee on the revision or amendment of TSCA the Toxic Substances Control Act). The subcommittee is apparently considering changing the focus of TSCA into a precautionary law much like the EU's REACH.

Interestingly, to change TSCA into a precautionary law would require overlooking the terrible example of the CPSIA, a blatantly precautionary law that avoids all concept of risk assessment.

As Gib Mullan, Director of the Office of Compliance and Field Operations of the CPSC stated on February 26 at the ICPHSO (International Consumer Product Health & Safety Organization) Conference in Orlando, Florida (, "Congress made it clear that [the CPSC is] to get away from 'that kind of analysis'". Thus, the CPSC is a precautionary law in which the regulatory agency is prohibited from considering if there is ANY risk associated with banned or restricted products.

Rick is pleading that Congress amend the CPSIA urgently before it singlehandedly devastates the children's product industry, many tens of thousands of businesses.

Save us from the CPSIA urban legends

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was jump-started on the tragic death of young Jarnell Brown, who had ingested a lead-containing charm from a charm bracelet in 2006.

Based on a widely publicized story in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, many thought that the bracelet in question came from his mother's new shoes.

Jarnell swallowed part of a charm bracelet that came with his mother's new Reebok sneakers. Doctors said his lead levels were three times the danger level. His death caused Reebok to recall 300,000 bracelets and eventually pay federal regulators a $1 million settlement.

After a good deal of research, I can conclude that the bracelets were packaged with children's footwear only—although such a definitive statement is not actually made anywhere.

As it happens, there were numerous inconsistencies in the reporting of this entire tragic business, including the health of the child before this incident, how he obtained the bracelet, and how a child with supposedly no history of ingesting foreign objects did so.

Moreover, this bracelet appeared only in shoes for girls, so one might assume that his mother did not buy them for him, and her original account whereby the bracelet belonged to a friend makes more sense.

At any rate, the bracelets were in violation of existing standards, and CPSIA does not really change anything.

Another story has to do with cribs used in day care centers. Commercial cribs intended for this application can be provided with clear plastic sheets to be placed at the head and foot of the cribs, allowing workers to see the kids if the cribs are lined up. The sheets also prevent direct cross-contamination.

Since phthalates (also banned under CPSIA) are used in the manufacture of acrylic plastics, it was thought that the sheets could not longer be used. Furthermore, the only other approach would be to use polycarbonate, but this contains BPA, another banned substance. Thus, there would be no solution to this problem.

It turns out the although phthalates are used in the manufacture of some acrylic formats, they are NOT used in acrylic sheet. Only, try finding that out on your own!

The plastics and crib people are not exactly shouting this information from the rooftops. Believe it or not, their position is that since a price tag containing phthalates could be put on the crib (or on the sheet itself) how can they guarantee that the product is phthalates free?

BPA is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate, so that problem does exist.

Are the dreaded consequences of CPSIA really "unintended"?

You may have been hearing about the effect the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) is having on small business.

The Draconian testing requirements (Yeah, it is mighty important to test for lead in clothing or handmade unpainted toys) threaten to close down thousands of small outfits. And, this all happened because Mattel (primarily) imported toys from China with excessive amounts of lead.

Of course, the big toy outfits are all in favor of CPSIA, and one cool benefit for them is wiping out the competition. As always, the regulatory environment favors the bigs—who are most often the reasons why the regs are needed in the first place. Kind of ironic, don't you think?

Some conspiracy buffs even surmise that Mattel and other big toy companies purposely imported the lead-contaminated toys to set this up. Beyond all this, how can consequences so egregious and so obvious be "unintended" in a bill that was read (or should have been read) in draft form by hundreds—if not thousands of people before it became law?

My take is that most of the members of Congress did not read it. The provisions were essentially dictated by wild-eyed consumer "protection" groups to underpaid/overworked and possibly clueless staffers.

Bear in mind that the gigantic National Survey of Children's Health considers dozens of factors to be more important than environmental exposures. In fact, the ONLY question related to the environment has to do with smoking in the home.

As we rapidly approach the time when pediatric cardiology may actually become a significant specialty because of the tremendous growth in childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes, how can we even bother with CPSIA?

The only lead hazard is lead in paint. There is no basis whatsoever for worrying about substrate lead, in terms of morbidity and mortality. As far as phthalates go, there is NO data anywhere showing any injury to any child ever; yet, phthalates are thrown into the mix, retroactive provisions on inventory and all. Thanks, Congress.

Cold comfort that some of the former true believers in the handmade toy business and the American Library Association are finally beginning to see the light. Will that help us stop this thing?

Soy-based laser printer cartridges--It's about time

Even though soy ink technology has been around for more than 20 years, and is widely accepted for most printing applications, it is only quite recently that soy-based laser cartridges have been available.

Standish, Maine based PRC Technologies has rolled them out in the US, after more than a year of extensive testing. One of PRC's first dealers is LaserMonks, owned by Our Lady of Spring Bank Cistercian Abbey, a small monastic community located in southwestern Wisconsin.

The LaserMonks have a great reputation for fair pricing, excellent customer service, and will plant a tree in the rain forest for each cartridge purchased. what's more, a portion of their profits go to charity.

What a wonderful story! A real green product, sold under the Rule of St. Benedict. Read all about this in my HND piece.

The fallacy of "no safe level"

In the wake of the FEMA trailers and the recalled toys from China, you may have heard some pundit say that "There is no safe level of (fill in the name of your favorite toxic substance)." However, this is errant nonsense, and is probably based on even more errant nonsense—namely the Linear-Nonthreshold Dose-Response Model (LNT).

Even worse is that no toxicologist in the world—except those who work for EPA—believe in this theory.

Actually, most of the EPA toxicologists don't really believe it either, but have to say that they do as a condition of employment.

Read all about it in my HND piece.

CPSIA "reprieve"

Well, the Consumer Product Safety Commission did the only thing it could do. The agency charged with the enforcement of the absurd Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and here, delayed enforcement of most of the provisions for a full year.

This was done to give breathing room to those who must comply, and gives time for Congress to clean up the mess.

However, even with no enforcement, manufacturers and retailers are still responsible for the lead and phthalates provision. Thus, even though they do not have to test and certify, all the products covered still have to meet the new standards. As such, most involved are still in a state of limbo.

This reprieve—admittedly as good a gambit the CPSC could put forth—ends up being little more than a Trojan Horse.