CPSIA Update: Protocol Offices Need Consumer Product Expertise

By June 29, 2009General, Regulations

From Al Kamen’s Washington Post column, reviewing the State Department’s annual compilation of gifts from foreign visitors to federal officials:

[Ukrainian President Viktor] Yushchenko gave Lynne Cheney “Three Ukrainian cookbooks,” valued at $90, which she kept. And he gave the Cheney daughters and grandkids seven Ukrainian children’s books, six plush stuffed animals, three girls’ blouses, three boys’ shirts, and a “wooden toy cart with horses,” which they kept.

Goodness. That’s a full gift bag of children’s products. Had they been tested for lead or phthalate content? What about the paint or varnish on the wooden toy cart with horses? Were the children’s books published pre-1985, or do the Ukrainians even today still use ink with trace amounts of lead? And surely the gifts had permanent labels attached to them.

These gifts could have started a real foreign policy crisis.

If only it were this kind of a joking matter. The next big snagbar from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act arrives with the August 14th deadline for permanent tracking labels on all children’s products. Walter Olson summarizes at Overlawyered.com the many, crushing problems associated with the latest CPSIA requirement:

  • As noted earlier, the next all-out debacle on the CPSIA front is expected to result from the law’s tracking and labeling regulations, due to take effect August 14, and for which the CPSC has not yet issued guidance, although product makers ordinarily need to resolve crucial issues of manufacturing (as with etching of lot numbers) and packaging at least many months if not longer in advance of sale. Sharon McLoone at CNNMoney had quite a good report a week ago on this latest crisis, which as of this writing has not been followed up much of anywhere else in the press. This continues the pattern in which 1) most key elements of the ongoing CPSIA disaster get good coverage in at least one (sometimes more) major media outlets; 2) the bigger-picture disaster of the law never quite succeeds in breaking out into general coverage as a national story, in large part because 3) the agenda-setting New York Times never consents (even six months into the story!) to give the matter any coverage at all. For more hints on the approaching tracking-label train wreck, see this op-ed by a South Carolina maker of school supplies (”Companies such as ours are now forced to guess about their new legal requirements. … My company may have to change labels hundreds of times a week in our two factories. The investment necessary to handle this new rule alone is crippling.”), or the comments of appliquéd bib maker Laurel Schreiber of Lucy’s Pocket (if the testing doesn’t get her, the tracking labels will), or of New Jersey wooden toy maker John Greco (advised that tracking info would add $3.50 to $5.00 to cost of making $10 handmade toy). And here’s a view from the home furnishings business.
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