Testing Rules Drive Toymakers to Groveling, Rage, Despair

Remember the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act? The law was passed in response to several toy recalls in 2007 for lead and other chemicals, and it requires third-party testing of nearly every object intended for a child's use. Six of those recalls were on toys made by Mattel, which quickly won an exception to the testing requirements, leaving small-scale makers of books, toys, and jewelry for kids to contend with expensive testing and labeling requirements largely irrelevant to the kind of products they produce. Years of delays in implementation and clarification have followed, and by now the affected toymakers have split into two camps.

This first email, which landed in my inbox earlier this week, exemplifies the conciliatory approach. The sad formal missive is a response by the Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association (FJATA) to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) staff report on cadmium in children's metal jewelry:

"We are pleased that the CPSC has reaffirmed its commitment to work with the FJATA and other stakeholders to finalize the ASTM children's jewelry safety standard in an expedited fashion.  The ASTM children's jewelry standard will address, among other things, cadmium and we look forward to reviewing the data shared with us today. The CPSC has spent many months gathering data on cadmium and the FJATA will need time to review the agency's information....

As we have stated in the past, we have technical concerns regarding the validity and practicality of lengthy test times.  We welcome the chance to continue our productive dialogue with CPSC to expeditiously finalize a national, science-based, peer reviewed, standard for children’s jewelry that reflects our collective interest in ensuring the safety of our products."

This is pathetic, groveling accommodation to the new way of doing business—paired with the hope sufficient patience and niceness will eventually lead government bureaucrats to take pity and offer relief for their narrow cadmium-based plight. This strategy is actually the most reasonable approach, and it is much more likely to be effective than option two: Rage and despair, paired with empty threats:

Dear Friends, As you know, I have devoted considerable time, effort and money to opposing the terrible Consumer Product Safety "Improvement" Act of 2008 (CPSIA) for the past three years. Despite the massive accumulation of data documenting the failings of this law and its poisonous implementation, the CPSC and Congress refuse to listen or act to grant relief. Among other things, they persist in ignoring the deadly effects of this law on Small Business. I have concluded that this Congress will never help us - we need to FORCE change politically.

This second mail, from the folks at Amend the CPSIA, opts for a strategy of desperate refuge in the ballot box, hoping against hope that changing the composition of Congress will drive the repeal of a regulation that neither party has shown much interest in fixing. It sends readers to www.PollakForCongress.com, the campaign site of a man who would probably try (and fail) to fix these regulations if elected. This is not a good strategy, and the mail's author, Rick Woldenberg of the educational toy company Learning Resources, knows it. He notes that the new regulations "will jack up Learning Resources' annual compliance costs to $15 million, FAR in excess of our profits. We have no Plan B—so we are trying to get a new government."

Bad regulations like the CPSIA tend to make a splash in the media and then fade. But those headlines are just beginning for people who have to figure out how to live with bad new rules, likely in perpetuity.

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  • Max||

    The best regulation of toy producers is letting a few kids die. It's definitely bad for business, so the toy makers either pull up their socks and stop killing kids or get a taste of market discipline.

  • ||

    Hey asswipe. Maybe your reading comprehension fail missed the part where Mattel was granted an exemption yet were major violators that led to the legislation. Fuckwad troll.

  • Gigantic Toy Company||

    We are on record favoring more government oversight of our industry.

  • Max||

    Right, you stupid fuck. From the libertoid perspective, regulations just aren't effective enough. Hard to think with your head up your ass, isn't it?

  • ||

    Unenforced regulations just aren't effective enough are like having no regulation at all

    FIFY dumbass

  • Max||

    ARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARF!!!!!!!!!!

  • ron b||

    you know I don't speak spanish

  • ||

    With infinitesimally few exceptions, even the worst-designed toys do not "let kids die."

    The nasty little secret about toy-related deaths is that they're overwhelmingly caused by (1) inadequate parental supervision, (2) giving kids toys that are inappropriate for their age and developmental levels, and (3) abject freakin' child stupidity.

    Read some of the descriptions on the CPSC website for why toys are recalled. Like this one:

    In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Playskool, of Pawtucket, R.I., is voluntarily recalling about 255,000 Team Talkin' Tool Bench toys following the deaths of two young children.

    Playskool received reports that a 19-month-old boy from Martinsburg, W.V., and a 2-year-old boy from League City, Texas, suffocated when oversized, plastic toy nails sold with the tool bench toys became forcefully lodged in their throats. Though the toy nails are not considered a small-part, and the toys are intended for children age 3 and older, Playskool is voluntarily conducting a recall as a precaution to prevent additional incidents.

    You will never, ever, ever, ever find a toy, or any other consumer product for that matter, that is 100% risk-free. Even a pillow can suffocate someone if you've got a malevolent or careless person on the business end of it.

    Katherine Mangu-Ward may find the despairing wail from "Amend the CPSIA" to be unprofessional and ultimately fruitless, but I look at that text, and I'd probably say exactly the same thing. I can't blame those people one bit for their exasperation at the heavy-handed stupidity and Panzer-tank-sized loopholes in this act.

  • rctl||

    Or they could have made their junk with cadmium or lead to begin with, and avoided regulation, saved money from enforcement, and last but not least, saved teh children:-)

    Ok bitches, my site has a new post

  • CatoTheElder||

    But, but ... it's for the children.

    Obviously, Katherine Mangu-Ward hates children.

  • Virginia||

    The criticism and companies-put-out-of-business sections at wikipedia are getting longer.

  • Gepetto||

    Now I can't make my custom toys! Over a grand in cash to get my one time only toy to be certified to sell? Looks like I'll never make Pinocchio. He only wants to be a real boy, too.

    The best regulation of toy producers is letting a few kids die.

    Just like the best regulation of drugs is letting a few adults die. Vioxx anyone? Let's just ignore the fact that these companies will get sued to the hilt for killing the children with toxic toys.

    Good thing these regulations don't limit the liability of such careless acts. Oh, guess not.

  • Pinocchio||

    My father meant "these regulations" as in, in general.

  • Paul||

    Liar.

  • x,y||

    But those headlines are just beginning for people who have to figure out how to live with bad new rules, likely in perpetuitythe unemployment line.

  • chrispy||

    But since paying people unemployment benefits is the best possible use of government money, and in fact generates more money than it costs, this is a good thing for everyone right?

  • Cali Cannabi Delicti||

    Next, they set their sights on small-scale Cannabis Growers -- searching for trace chemicals and pesticide residues -- trust me, they'll find something, even in the organic shit. Call for Philip Morris.

  • ||

    Not to worry.
    Very soon all the small toymakers will go out of business and there will be nobody left to oppose this stupid law.

    Like so manhy other industries destroyed by regulation.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    First they came for the toymakers, and I said nothing, for I am not a toymaker.

  • Paul||

    This election is about jobs, jobs, jobs.

  • Irwin Mainway||

  • The Gobbler||

    Great Sketch. Thanks.

  • Rachel Maddow||

    Hey, I had one of those Barbies!

  • Mr Obama||

    So did I!

  • ||

    "...a strategy of desperate refuge in the ballot box..."

    Quite desperate. The legislation passed 407-0 in the House, and 79-13 in the Senate.

    Snowball in Hell.. meet Repeal CPSIA.

  • ||

    One of the bizarre side effects of the law concerns old kid's books. Right now every used bookstore and thrift shop that sells them is in violation of federal law.

  • ||

    More on that here.

  • ||

    JFC what a head explosion. It's OK, kids. You'll still have Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and Gossip Girl.

  • ||

    Indeed. So what if some old books have ink with some lead in it? The exposure from even rubbing wet hands on a page has to be trivial, and kids rarely eat books.

  • ||

    Exactly what I've been saying all along:

    It is not that you kid is retarded because he eats books. IT IS THAT HE EATS BOOKS BECAUSE HE IS RETARDED!

  • ||

    +1

  • MJ||

    "Six of those recalls were on toys made by Mattel, which quickly won an exception..."

    Here is the source of political/corporate corruption. If a regulation has excpetions tacked onto it by legislative or executive action, you can be sure the law's purpose was no effective regulation of the targeted industry.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    This is pathetic, groveling accommodation to the new way of doing business—paired with the hope sufficient patience and niceness will eventually lead government bureaucrats to take pity and offer relief for their narrow cadmium-based plight.

    Kneel and lick the emperor's boot in the vain hope that he will be merciful.

  • ||

    The heavy metal toxicity limits are beyond absurd. They assume that the child weighs only ten pounds, swallows the entire object, has a stomach filled with metal-dissolving acids, absorbs every ion of lead or cadmium, avoids peeing for a week or has pre-existing kidney failure, and delivers every molecule of lead to neurons and every molecule of cadmium to kidney cells.

    The reality is that a child who swallowed metal jewelry containing cadmium and/or lead would have no measurable amounts of either metal in blood or body tissues. Its the metal salts that are toxic, not the base metals.

    -- A Clinical Pathologist

  • osakum||

    Dear government,

    It has come to my attention that there are millions of unregluated rocks and sticks lying around much of the USA. Many of these are of a size that children could swallow.

    Please pass a bill outlawing all of these non-compliant objects and punishing the one responsible for their distribution.

  • Rebecca Menes||

    This is bad legislation - maximum increase in costs per unit of increase in safety. Last week I formed a new company with my sister, to make kids clothes. This week I think we will be closing - without selling a single unit. There is no way out start-up can swallow the regulatory costs up front. We could manage with component testing. I would LIKE to be able to buy from certified sources. Nothing we are planning to source is likely to have any lead in it. But our initial runs would not have been anywhere big enough to support the costs of testing product. This regulation is not designed to protect consumers, it is designed to protect large manufacturers from competition.

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