CPSIA vs Science Round 3; Congress wins by a KO!

The easy winner in round three of Congress versus science, Congress wins by a knock out! Yeah Congress! Boo Science!

To: judith.bailey@mail.house.gov, Christian.Fjeld@mail.house.gov, brian.mccullough@mail.house.gov, shannon.weinberg@mail.house.gov, william.carty@mail.house.gov, nnord@cpsc.gov, jmartyak@cpsc.gov, MToro@cpsc.gov, tmoore@cpsc.gov, Cathy.hurwit@mail.house.gov

Judy and Christian,

I thought you would be interested to know that I was informed today that one of the leading U.S. suppliers of science educational materials has suspended sales of all light bulbs (principally microscope light bulbs) owing to the little dot of solder found on the bottom. Apparently this little dot of solder makes those bulbs just too dangerous to sell into schools, despite the fact that no microscope bulb has ever harmed anyone from exposure to its little dot of solder. To my knowledge, there is no available substitute on the market for this ten cent item. This is EXACTLY what I predicted in my CPSC presentation on November 6. As my email from Friday indicated, it is no longer economic to sell telescopes either. Can someone explain to me what Congress had in mind with this law? Has Congress decided to delegate scientific pursuits to the Germans, Japanese or Chinese so Americans can be “safer”? Or is Congress hoping we will all move back into caves to adopt a “safer” lifestyle?

I still have kids in school. Your law makes illegal or uneconomic those implements they need for an adequate education. I can’t escape the reach of the CPSIA by sending my children to private school – the ridiculous strictures of the CPSIA follows them everywhere in this country. Will I have to send them to boarding school in another country so they can look through a microscope or a telescope? What’s Congress’ master plan?

Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.

Astronomy is boring anyway, who needs it?

Now we can thank Congress for eliminating the drudgery of astronomy curriculum. Yeah! No More Telescopes!

To: Judith.bailey@mail.house.gov, Christian.fjeld@mail.house.gov
Cc: nnord@cpsc.gov, jmartyak@cpsc.gov, tmoore@cpsc.gov, jmullan@cpsc.gov, Brian_hendricks@hutchison.senate.gov, david@commerce.senate.gov, Shannon.weinberg@mail.house.gov, Brian.mccullough@mail.house.gov, Cathy.hurwit@mail.house.gov, “Larry Lynn” <LLynn>, MToro@cpsc.gov, william.carty@mail.house.gov, patrick.magnuson@mail.house.gov

Subject: No More Telescopes – Congress Wants You To Squint Instead

I am writing to follow up on the below email on the cost of testing under the CPSIA. The attached document is a quote we received to test ONE telescope product under the CPSIA. The cost of the testing is a mere $24,050 for this single item. The average annual sales of this item are approximately $32,000 over the past two years. Needless to say, we cannot afford to spend $24,050 to test this (or any) item. I presume that Congress intended this result and wants us to stop selling telescopes to keep everyone safe. I guess kids can see the planets by squinting from now on. Thanks, Congress!

This absurd result is increasingly common under the destructive and poorly-conceived CPSIA. It is not surprising to me that a law born out of anger and written in a spirit of retribution has created market chaos and many unintended consequences. In my prior correspondence, I have set out many dangerous and unacceptable effects that are wreaking havoc among law-abiding companies. Good corporate citizenship is no help when facing a law which markets itself as “pro-safety” but cripples companies with unbearable financial burdens and pointlessly complex compliance requirements that redirect safety investments into bureaucracy. The CPSIA is simply an invitation by the Federal Government for all children’s products companies to find something else to do.

My letters to you are of public record. We are posting them on the Internet for all to see and read. These letters have put you on notice of many problems the CPSIA is creating. When the damage takes place, there will be no way for legislators to disclaim responsibility. I don’t want to see the destruction happen, which is why I keep writing you. It is unnecessary and will have lasting effects if not arrested now. I call on you and on Congress to act promptly to convene hearings on the effects of the CPSIA on commerce and markets, and to take immediate steps to partner with industry and the CPSC to rebuild a truly effective CPSIA to address real (not imaginary) children’s products safety issues. A stripped down, but focused, CPSIA could add a great deal of safety value without weakening companies, markets and the economy. A vindictive CPSIA salted with bitter distrust and enmity toward industry will simply gut markets and weaken the regulators’ ability to patrol markets for real safety issues. The choice is obvious – I urge Congress to choose the right path for our country.

Sincerely,

Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.

CPSIA is saving our schools, one kindergardner at a time

From: Rick Woldenberg
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 12:34 PM
To: Mary Toro (MToro@cpsc.gov); Nancy Nord (nnord@cpsc.gov); Joe Martyak (jmartyak@cpsc.gov); ‘tmoore@cpsc.gov’; ‘jmullan@cpsc.gov’; ‘Judith.bailey@mail.house.gov’; ‘Cathy.hurwit@mail.house.gov’; ‘Christian.fjeld@mail.house.gov’; ‘Brian.mccullough@mail.house.gov’; ‘Shannon.weinberg@mail.house.gov’; ‘Brian_hendricks@hutchison.senate.gov’; ‘david@commerce.senate.gov’

Subject: Cost of Testing

Mary,

I want to continue our dialogue over the issues presented by the CPSIA. I realize you are swamped with inquiries from many sectors, so I thought I would send this comment in via email.

I have previously raised the serious issue of the high cost of testing under the CPSIA. To be clear, the issue is not about the testing per se, rather it is the cost of the testing to prove compliance with the CPSIA. It is our legal obligation to produce products that comply with the law, of course. Financing proof of that compliance is the problem that confronts industry right now.

The attached lab test is a great example of the dilemma caused by the CPSIA testing requirements. The item in question is a new item called Let’s Tackle Kindergarten. This item is similar to other items in our product line and is quite uncontroversial from a safety standpoint. Because of our experience testing virtually identical items, we know this item is in compliance with the CPSIA on phthalates, lead and its other requirements. Nevertheless, to prove compliance, we will apparently have spend $6,144.06 on myriad tests. The product will be no more or less safe after this expenditure. No child will be safer or better protected. Our company will simply be much poorer.

High testing costs will have a significant effect on our business and businesses like ours. First, the cost of testing has increased about 5x – 20x under the new law. We do not believe these costs can be recovered because under current economic conditions, raising prices is not an option. Thus, the breathtaking increase in cost becomes part of our overhead.

The testing costs cannot be absorbed by small and medium-sized businesses. At typical net profit levels prevailing in the children’s products industry, the $6,144 cost of testing probably exceeds the anticipated total net profit derived from three or more years’ sales of the item. This does NOT take into account the cost of development, the cash expense of buying the inventory or the cost of owning inventory (usually estimated at 2.5% per month). Given that children’s products have finite commercial lives (three years is a good life for a consumer product), the CPSIA test costs might exceed the present value of creating a new item for many, if not most, businesses. So, will this product ever come to market? Not under the CPSIA. The only products left for sale will be mass market items where the scale of their production runs can support this wasteful expense. I believe this “mass market world” is not in the national interest as specialty companies like Learning Resources are an important means by which consumers obtain the products and services they need in our economy.

Notably, the gross cash expense required to finance these tests right now is literally unbearable. The law requires that all of this testing must be completed on all products in our line all at once. Several years of “catch-up” testing must be financed in just a matter of a couple months, bunching up the vast expense into one or two financial statements. Together with other excessive costs suddenly imposed by the CPSIA (for instance, lot traceability infrastructure), the economics of producing children’s items are being distorted into an unrecognizable form. If children’s products companies cannot produce a fair profit, they won’t be able to attract financing or risk capital, and the jobs (and products) will disappear. This problem needs a solution fast, and if we can’t come up with one, no one in Congress or the CPSC should be surprised to see bankruptcies rise inexorably as a result. The price will be paid.

I would appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with you on these rules and other negative incentives under the CPSIA. I am confident that through a partnership with industry, the CPSC can develop a common sense approach to safety rules and enforcement that will reward those companies committed to compliance while discouraging the bad actors who give the children’s products industry a bad name. The time to act is now. My associates in the business community are under intense pressure to pay these exorbitant testing bills – and once the money is shipped to the Chinese testing companies, there will be no getting it back.

Thank you for considering my views on this important topic.

Sincerely,
Richard Woldenberg
Chairman
Learning Resources, Inc.

Watch the CPSC FAQs

From Mike Lee owner of Sarah’s Silks. Item #3 is particularly important for kindred.

I just spoke with Mary Toro, of the CPSC. She gave me quite a bit of specific information regarding our own products and compliance, but also some general information that I think would be useful for other manufacturers.

  1. suggested I check CPSC web site FAQ’s on CPSIA on a daily basis at this time as she expects a lot decisions to be posted this week. These are very specific answers to questions such as are shoes and socks subject to Phthalate regulations.
  2. discussion on exemption for textiles from phthalate standards. She definitely does not see CPSC granting an exemption for textiles due to the problem of those little plastic footsie things on baby and toddler pajamas which have used phthalates. So perhaps a case could be made for pushing for uncoated textiles.
  3. she is expecting a ruling or at least a posting on FAQ on the issue of component testing vs whole product testing in the next few days.

Activists Meet Up!

In the interests of promoting greater unity in the CPSIA fight and given that Fashion-Incubator has had the most active participation with solid information (no mythinformation or rumors), the CPSIA section of the forum has been opened to the public. At last count there are 40 different threads, nearly 700 posts and thousands upon thousands of views. Anyone can read, post, create stickies, announcements etc in this section (all other sections of the forum are closed to the public unless you join).

In participating, act as you would sitting in someone’s living room. Please don’t post “is my [child related] product exempt” because it isn’t. It just isn’t. Likewise, any posts containing rumors, unsubstantiated claims or mythinformation will be removed. I realize it will be difficult and time consuming to read through some of the multi page threads but please make use of the search feature because it is likely your question has been answered. As most of them have been; we’re focusing on activism at this point.

Speaking of activism, there is now an automated method of emailing all of your legislators from one simple window. Scroll down, fill out the form (don’t forget to include your state of residence) and all of your senators and congressmen will receive your message.

Congressional hearing canceled!

The Rush hearing (chaired by Bobby Rush, D-IL) we’d been pinning our hopes on to make our case before Congress next Wednesday, has been canceled. Rick Woldenberg (the guy in the YouTube videos) says:

I admire the work you are doing, and hope you will stick to it. I was due to testify at the Rush hearings next Wednesday but they were canceled which is an opportunity missed. I think our message is being heard, but there is no conviction to do anything about it -yet. I have some thoughts on further correspondence to move the ball down field, but frankly, time is working against us now. So this is a great time to step up the pressure. Your contacts should keep the pressure on Congress, especially members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I will send you many emails with lots of relevant info. I will also add you to my mailing list, so you can see what I am up to.

The wiki entry for the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce lists all the members of the committee and subcommittees with links to their respective pages. The less useful official US government site is here. Feel free to contact members of the committee, more so if they represent your district.

How everyone can get a CPSIA exemption

Understandably, many people have been asking on Fashion-Incubator and on various forums whether their product is exempt. Some post claims they are not (using unsubstantiated sources) which is a disservice feeding false hopes. Among them, I’ve yet to see a child related product that really is exempt. The climate was no different at the meeting I attended in Washington this week. It’s easy to understand why. We’re all drowning men, clutching at any driftwood that’ll save us. But as one person suggested, this is the wrong strategy.

Everybody is scrambling to find wiggle room using narrow definitions in an attempt to exclude themselves from the law, desperate to save their own skins. It’s understandable, survival and all. But strategically, that is the wrong thing to do. All of us are better served by coming together to define the rules BROADLY to encompass everyone for two reasons.

  1. The CPSC doesn’t have the infrastructure to process and rule on the flood of exemption requests. They don’t have the man power to deal with it so if any manage to squeak through, these businesses will be unfairly advantaged over others who may have similar legitimate claims.
  2. More of us lose through splintering because assuming the CPSC can come up with a bunch of narrow definitions; it’s not likely to solve but one of a few of our problems; most people will still be hanging out to dry. More stand to lose with narrow definitions than broad ones.

Rather, we are better served by centralizing focus on broad exemptions, not narrow ones. Every man for himself is the wrong strategy to employ when everyone is affected. At this rate, we’re our own worst enemies (divided we fall) because splitting into narrow definitions splinters the whole cause. Let’s say you’re lucky enough to get your exemption that magically covers the gamut of your product line (as if), does that save your colleagues? How much pleasure can you take in surviving when you’re the only one left standing? On Fashion-Incubator, probably less than 30% of the designers make kids stuff but as far as I can tell, they’re all pulling together for their colleagues who are affected.

In summary, I do not want to read any more comments asking if one’s products made from 100% organic fabric (woven by leprechauns) and made via fair-trade (sewn by well paid fairies) using carbon neutral sustainable power (unicorns pulling a water wheel) and are certified to be the singular example of 100% purity by G-d, The Trinity, Mohammad, and Gaia combined [-and you are a nice good person and a widow, single mom, single dad, working family, reformed attorney or recovering engineer (pick one)] are exempt because if you have to ask, they most likely are not. The strategy should be broad enough to cover your neighbor and even the plant down the street, not just yourself. It’s time to pull together. As Rick Woldenberg says, it’s time to ply the pressure on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Here I have posted a tremendous amount of material Rick Woldenberg has sent me with lots of juicy .gov email addresses to harvest!

By the way, this site is really ugly, can anybody lend a hand with design?