If you don’t know what the CPSIA is, look it up. Briefly, it’s a law designed to protect children from dangerous toys, by imposing a set of testing standards on items to be sold for children.
Unfortunately, it’s so poorly written, very little passes its standards — and the testing and approval protocols are so expensive that even toys that would be declared safe are taken off the market because the manufacturers can’t afford to have them tested.
It’s a new law, and people are just beginning to realize how insane and stupid it is.
Like I said, look it up. Horror stories abound, and let me make it clear: this isn’t stuff that might happen; this is all stuff that has already happened, is happening right now.
Latest horror: Schools are having to cut out hand-ons science education, because…well, see the headline.
Here’s a good intro to the problem:
The impact of the CPSIA on the educational market is getting more and more worrisome. Two recent events shocked me for their implications. First, Michael Warring of American Educational Products reports that a school opted to stop using AmEP’s rocks to teach Earth Science and will instead rely on a POSTER. Not quite the same educational experience . . . . Yes, the school has become convinced that rocks are too dangerous for kids to touch.
For many reasons, science items are particularly exposed. That does not mean they are dangerous – their record for safe use is sterling – but under the rigid and unthinking arbitrary standards of the CPSIA, they are verboten, whether it makes sense or not. Up to now, perhaps you thought this issue was simply a product of my feverish imagination. Then comes along the Potato Clock. This clever product can be purchased from more than one source, and is also a DIY home science project, perfect for Science Fairs. Please note that the homemade Potato Clock utilizes “dangerous” items like nails, clips, wire, batteries, etc. Welcome to science education . . . .
Anyhow, recently a manufacturer of the Potato Clock decided to test its version for compliance with the newfangled CPSIA. In their eager beaver-ness, they shot themselves in the foot, discovering (horrors) that the insulation on the product’s potato wires contain trace amounts of lead over the arbitrary limits of CPSIA. Not that anyone has ever been hurt from wire insulation (at least not from nibbling on it). Unfortunately, safety is the least of anyone’s concerns under the CPSIA.
The actual knowledge of the product’s testing failure precipitated the kind of CPSIA horror story that has been interfering with my sleep for months. First, the company decided that since it now knew of the test failure, it had an immediate reporting obligation under CPSIA Section 15(b). In addition, they concluded they had an obligation to immediately stop sale, since continuing to sell would be another “knowing” violation – yes, kids, that’s a felony with possible penalties of jail time and asset forfeiture (goodbye house and car!).
Presumably, the executives at this company could not imagine going to jail for selling Potato Clocks as they had for years, but heck, Congress writes the rules. The CPSC, apparently, upon receiving this (unwanted) 15(b) report concurred – yep, the wire insulation exceeds the standard, and yep, you have to stop sale.
[T]he WORST part of this story, the most chilling, is the part about the wire insulation. The Potato Clock was recalled for having too much lead in the wire insulation. Why did it have lead in it at all? Wire insulation contains lead because it is recycled vinyl, probably recovered principally from scrap of other wire. Remember, recycling is good for our planet, and responsible companies try to use recycled materials whenever possible. Only virgin vinyl can be certified lead-free. A switchover to virgin vinyl insulation would be very costly and would means that the old vinyl wouldn’t be recycled anymore. That won’t happen.
The real problem comes from the fact that the Potato Clock utilizes “ordinary” wire. Everyone and everything utilizes “ordinary” wire. No specially-coated wire is used in children’s products and even if it were available, it would be too expensive for this kind of application.
Now, tell me again, exactly:
Why do you want these rabid idiots to handle your health care?