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
Learning Resources, Inc.

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Kathleen Fasanella

Kathleen started production patternmaking in 1981. Starting in 1993, she began providing consulting and engineering services to manufacturers, small companies, and startups with an emphasis on developing owner-operator domestic cut-and-sew operations. In 2015 she opened a 5,000 sqft. fully equipped sewing factory: The Sewing Factory School. Kathleen is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing, the most highly rated book of any topic in the garment industry. She's been mentioned numerous times in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, National Public Radio, Boston Globe, LA Times, Vogue, French Vogue and has at least 15 Project Runway alums at last count. Kathleen writes nearly all of the articles on Fashion-Incubator.com and hosts its forum, the largest private online community for apparel manufacturers on the web.

8 thoughts on “CPSIA vs Science Round 3; Congress wins by a KO!”

  1. There is an exception to the CPSIA for children’s educational products- why doesnt this (or some of the other things you’ve listed here) fall into that?

  2. I’m with Andy: the CPSC faq at http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/faq/101faq.html#chemistrysets seems to imply that the light bulb mentioned above would be exempt. If you’re reading this, Richard, who is the unnamed manufacturer? I worry that many companies are not taking the time to find out the details of this legislation and that false information is being unintentionally spread…

    I’m concerned about the burden the CPSIA places on small manufacturers, but I think knowing more about which products are exempt from testing is just as important as pointing out the flaws of the legislation. We need to be careful about how we talk about the CPSIA and not spread unnecessary panic.

  3. Actually there are lots of lead-free light bulbs available. They are required by law in Europe. Here in the U.S. all Sylvania bulbs use lead-free solder.

  4. Actually I am an electrical engineer,at least that’s what the diplomas say. 🙂

    I respectfully disagree about RoHS. It has been quite successful in reducing hazardous substances in electronics on a nearly worldwide basis since 2006.

    Today it is difficult to purchase a consumer electronics product that isn’t compliant. Apple, Dell, Sony, Motorola, HP, Cannon, Epson, Sharp and numerous others have been making millions of RoHS products for years now without reliability issues.

    Tin whiskers is a well known, researched issue that has largely been mitigated by new solder alloys like tin-silver-copper. To date there are no significant known documented failures of RoHS compliant products.

    Here’s a great link:


    Luckily CRTs are obsolete with the advent of LCD technology, so I don’t see this as an issue long term.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, hopefully I can help clear up some common misconceptions.

  5. Actually there are lots of lead-free light bulbs available. They are required by law in Europe.

    The resident electrical engineer is out of town and unable to respond but it’s generally accepted that the elimination of lead via RoHS has been an unmitigated disaster resulting in much shorter product life, meaning a lot less value. Here’s an excerpt from here:

    Perhaps you’re asking yourself why lead needs to be in anything at all. That was addressed best by Christopher Cleet from the Information Technology Industry Council in the panel discussion (he was a good speaker). He said (paraphrased) “it’s not that we have truck loads of lead and are looking for a place to put it, it’s that it’s needed and useful”. Take your typical TV; that screen glass is full of lead (so don’t let your kids lick it). It has to be, otherwise viewers would be exposed to radiation. Mr. Fashion-Incubator concurs saying lead solder is best. In the EU, they’ve gravitated to tin solder (RoHS). The problem with tin solder is that it’s a friendly and sociable metal and likes to hook up with tin solder nearby forming tin whiskers. This will short out the unit causing failures in everything from pacemakers to video games. He adds that this will happen after your warranty is expired leaving you stuck with a lousy product.

  6. Regarding lead-free solder– sure, it works. But it is much harder to use if you are hand soldering, and much harder to tell by visual inspection that you have a good solder joint– lead-free solder doesn’t look the same when used to make a joint.

    So why does this matter? It makes it harder for kids to learn to solder and make electronic things, further destroying our nation’s ability to actually be a source of innovative ideas going forward! My cousin spent his childhood soldering together electronic kits (final project was a television set) and he grew up to be a very good electrical engineer. Kids today are going to have a harder time doing that.

    You can probably tell that I personally dislike lead-free solder. One of my hobbies involves hand-soldering 2mm surface-mount LEDs to silver beads, and it is harder to do at the higher soldering temperatures needed for lead-free solder without overheating the LEDs.

    As for reliability of lead-free solder, I understand the jury is still out at NASA and the DoD.

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