Tulsa Craft Mafia

CPSIA letter from Tom Coburn by Brigid
January 12, 2009, 6:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

In December, I wrote a letter to all my representatives urging them to take action regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which is set to take effect next month. In a nutshell, the law will require costly lead testing of the final products produced by large companies, small businesses, and independent crafters. The law makes no exceptions for home industries — even those who make items that couldn’t possibly contain lead, such as wooden toys and cotton clothing, or those whose parts have already been tested for lead by the manufacturers — which will likely put many people out of business. To date, I have only received a response from Sen. Tom Coburn. This is what he wrote:

“Thank you for your email regarding H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and its potential negative effects on certain toymakers. It is good to hear from you.

As you may know, H.R. 4040 was signed into law in August. I voted against it because I believed it would only increase our already massive federal debt while doing little to improve consumer product safety. Though some upgrades may be necessary, this bill doubled the size of the Consumer Product Safety Commission without making the necessary reforms to make it a more effective and responsive agency. Like most political solutions, the government’s answer is to throw money at the situation in hopes it will simply disappear. Time and again, the government has proven itself ineffective in handling matters of safety such as relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina and repair for the devastating bridge collapse in Minnesota.

H.R. 4040 is a perfect example of politicians rushing to legislate and demagogue on a problem, in this case child safety, in order to satisfy their political ambitions. The truth is the paranoia and hysteria currently with consumer product safety is not proportional to the reality of the situation. Nancy Ord, Chairmen of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, stated in January, “Last year was marked by intense media scrutiny of the agency and of toy recalls in particular . . . the coverage reached near-hysteria level. And then, of course, some politicians, sensing a possible political issue, jumped on the bandwagon.” As it stands, companies across the industry such as Wal-Mart, Mattel and the Toy Industry Association already require thorough safety measures on toys. In fact, the recent recalls signal that the current oversight and self-policing in the toy industry are effective.

I also pointed out that this legislation created many unintended consequences. Among other things, this bill is a gift to trial lawyers as it will expose companies to frivolous class action lawsuits. In addition, it will create a consumer product safety database providing overzealous trial lawyers a way to cherry pick potentially expensive and adversarial lawsuits, as well as a tool to tarnish the reputation of companies without substantiating the claims. Finally, it will leave small businesses bankrupt by drastically increasing fines for minor violations that they may accidentally make. The Consumer Product Safety Bill will put America’s small companies at a disadvantage by increasing the cost of doing business and further exacerbate and already unstable economy. Small American toy manufacturers should be lauded for their efforts, not run out of business.

Unfortunately, only new legislation introduced and passed into law by this upcoming Congress can address these deficiencies and the one you mentioned in your letter. I can assure you that I will continue to support policies that help American businesses thrive in the global marketplace.

Thank you again for writing. I look forward to hearing from you again.”

While I’m glad to have received a response, I was disappointed that he claims not to be able to do anything about it at this time. I know changes are still being made to the legislation, as last week’s announcement regarding second-hand stores makes evident. (Read it here.) I just hope our representatives will listen when there are things they can do to help us tiny businesses.

To learn more about CPSIA and the movement to add amendments, visit the Handmade Toy Alliance site.


2 Comments so far
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Keep up the good work! The more noise we make, the greater the chance that changes will be made. Last week some tentative exceptions were voted on which opens up a 30 day commenting period. The exceptions are 1.) for natural materials 2.) for products with lead parts that are inaccessible to young children and 3.) for electronics which are impossible to make without lead. The last two seem a little crazy to me, they should at least have to be tested and labeled so parents can make informed decisions. Here is the website where you can sign up for updates http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsialist.aspx

Comment by environome

Interesting, I have not heard about this…

Comment by Kattie Yelverton

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