CPSIA Costs Not Justified If Helping Our Kids Is The Goal

Amend the CPSIA? Stop funding for the database? Hell yes.

Now, that may surprise you given my obvious desire to make this world a little bit safer for our kids. But, I think the  Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) needs quite a bit of fixing. In fact, if I had my choice, I would start over.

See, even though the CPSIA does limit lead, it does so without consideration for exposure or risk. That means that true lead crystals – such as the brilliant sparkling Swarovski crystals – are banned, since they have about 24% lead (or 240,000 ppm lead), well above the CPSIA’s current limit of 300 ppm for children’s product. That means that those true lead crystals are banned on all children’s products – from t-shirts to ice skating uniforms.

And, the CPSIA does a lot more than that, which an editorial in the New York Times seems not to understand. At all. The law isn’t limited to lead in children’s toys. It limits lead in children’s product. That means all children’s products must be certified by a third party that they meet the lead content limit, or the components used must be deemed compliant (okay, so the certification is stayed right now for products except for lead in paint/coatings and metal children’s jewelry but someday all products will require that third party accrediation). It also requires testing and certification for all consumer products under the CPSC’s jurisdiction for which there is a safety standard. So, for example, manufacturers are supposed to be certifying adult apparel as compliant with the flammability requirement, even if the manufacturer is just certifying that the fabric meets the weight exemption. It has tracking label requirements. It has a public database. It has a heck of a lot of requirements – much more than so called safer toys.

But the New York Times editorial says that is okay. The costs of the CPSIA “must be set against the enormous costs incurred by families and a society when a child is poisoned or hurt by a dangerous toy.”

If that is really the justification – the enoromous costs incurred by families and a society when a child is poisoned – than our efforts are better spent addressing the much more significant cause of childhood lead poisoning – older housing and buildings coated with lead paint. Nobody disputes that the number one cause of childhood lead poisoning is lead based paint in our older houses and buildings. Depending on whose numbers are used, between 75% and 85% of all childhood lead poisoning is linked to lead based paint in houses and buildings.

Take, for example, 3 year old Miguel de la Cruz, poisoned by lead dust created by years of opening and closing the windows of the older bungalow in which his family lived.

Or 6 year old Matthew, lead poisoned after mouthing the windowsill in his room.

Understand that 1 in 4 children in the US live in homes that pre-date the ban on the use of lead based paint in homes. And lead is also tracked into our homes from soil since lead was used for years as an additive in gasoline and blown in and tracked in from weathering of buildings and structures that use (and still may use) lead paint.

All the money spent on the CPSIA would be much better spent addressing the lead based paint hazards in our older homes, and providing education and outreach on how to live healthy in an older home.

I don’t dismiss the tragic death of 4 year old Jarnell Brown. He died after swallowing a heart-shaped pendant on a bracelet given away with a pair of Reebok shoes. But the situation of Jarnell Brown isn’t even addressed by the CPSIA specifically because the bracelent was intended for an adult. It wasn’t a children’s product so the CPSIA lead content limits wouldn’t even apply.

If the CPSIA was drafted properly, it would address actual risks and exposures.

Lead used in jewelry items intended for children would be banned because it is likely that children will mouth or swallow such items.

Lead used in PVC products intended for children would be banned because it is likely that children will transfer lead dust to their mouths as the product wears, or that younger children will mouth the PVC items.

Lead in Swarovski crystals? Not really an issue. I don’t think anybody is going to swallow enough lead crystal to make a different.

Lead in component parts of ATVs, bicycles and other such producs? Not really an issue, unless the lead is in a PVC grip on the handle bar.

 It seems to me that the critical goal is to make the world a safer place for our children. We should spend our money and time doing just that. Not banning bling.

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