Next up for the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s consideration, a petition from America’s makers and sellers of bangles, baubles, beads and crystals. Trade associations representing broad swaths of business petitioned the CPSC in Februaru, asking that these decorative products be excluded from the lead content limits set by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. (The groups were the Fashion Jewelry Trade Association, Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, National Retail Federation, and United Dance Merchants of America.)
CPSC staff has reviewed the request and a July 16 vote has been set for the commission to act on the petition. As is usual, the professional staff have prepared a thorough and balanced memo examining the issues, finding no reasonable risk from “the crystal and glass beads used in children’s products, including rhinestones and cubic zirconium.” To wit:
Prior to enactment of the CPSIA, the staff’s assessments of lead-containing children’s products, under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA), were based on estimates of lead intake and the subsequent effects of the exposure on blood lead level, considering the toxicology of lead and the demonstrated health effects associated with increasing blood lead levels. Regulation of a consumer product as a “hazardous substance” under the FHSA requires assessment of exposure and risk from reasonably foreseeable use and abuse of the product. In this case, given the assessment provided by the requestors, the staff likely would have concluded that the estimated exposure to lead from children’s use of crystals would have little impact on the blood lead level. Accordingly, based on the staff’s assessment, the staff would have recommended that the Commission not consider the product to be a hazardous substance to be regulated under the FHSA.
However, the CPSIA establishes the standard by which the staff evaluates the materials submitted with a request for exclusions. The law states that an exclusion may be granted if lead in such product or material will neither: (a) result in the absorption of any lead into the human body, taking into account normal and reasonably foreseeable use and abuse of such product by a child, including swallowing, mouthing, breaking, or other children’s activities, and the aging of the product; nor (b) have any other adverse impact on public health or safety.
Because the requestors’ report indicated that children’s use of crystal beads could result in absorption of lead, however small the absorbed amount, the staff’s initial recommendation to the Commission is to not grant the request on the grounds that the statutory standard has not been met.
This was the same reasoning and conclusion reached by the staff and then the Commissioners themselves on petitions from the bicycle industry, ATV industry, and ballpoint pen manufacturers. Again, the thinking can be boiled down to this:
Children’s health is not endangered by these products, at all. Yet the law requires NO possible absorption of lead. Therefore, these products must be banned.
And when your little 10-year-old ballerina cries because her new tutu isn’t as pretty and sparkly as the old one, well, too bad. The law is clear. Wrong, foolish and economically disastrous, but clear.
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