CPSIA Update: Lead in Yarn, Lead in Astro Turf, Lead in Soil

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Scott Wolfson reports yesterday via Twitter, “#CPSC officially now a Commission of 5 – agency welcomed new Commissioners Bob Adler and Anne Northup today.”

Congratulations to all.

Elsewhere, an interesting and optimistic blog post from Sarah Natividad of Tooele, Utah, detecting a CPSC trying to carve out a fair treatment of manufacturers from an unfair law, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  At issue is the CPSC’s final rule (and commissioner statements) on the lead content limits in certain products. Sarah writes at Organic Baby Farm, “Sending a Message“:

[You] might wonder, what is the message CPSC is sending out now, in between the lines? It’s pretty close to “La la la la la, we’re not listening!”– only it’s not addressed at small business, it’s addressed at the law.

CPSC had a choice of interpretations of the law when it came to exempting things like textiles and wood. They could have taken a strict view of the law. This view is represented by the positions of Commissioner Nancy Nord (although I know she takes these positions reluctantly, knowing and caring how much it hurts businesses, in hopes that Congress will see how ridiculous their law is and change its mind). You see, there have been cases where textiles have been shown to have violative amounts of lead, so CPSC could have easily adhered to the letter of the law and not exempted textiles from third party lead testing. Instead, they went with “All textiles/wood/rocks/etc. are lead-free! …except when they’re not.” This, I think, reflects the new leadership of Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. And while that’s a confusing and maddeningly tautological statement, the selection of it as the official position speaks volumes.

Is it really something to applaud, a regulatory agency that finds ways to circumvent the full impact of badly written law? In reality, yes, but then, does it help fix the law? We’re getting lost in the dialectic of the tautology.

In other lead news, we have a release from all-seeing, all-powerful Attorney General Jerry Brown of California, “Brown Creates Nation’s First Enforceable Lead Standards for Artificial Turf.” He has that power, to create a national lead standard? (Update: Upon closer reading, we see it’s the nation’s first standard, not a national standard.) The first paragraph is a classic of the “politician running for higher office” form, that is, populist AND hubristic:

OAKLAND-Fighting to ensure the safety of children’s playgrounds and ball fields, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed off on an agreement requiring Georgia-based AstroTurf, LLC to virtually eliminate lead from its artificial grass, creating the country’s first enforceable lead standards for artificial turf products.

The agreement requires AstroTurf* to reformulate its products so that they contain less than 100 parts per million (ppm), and to further reduce lead levels to 50 ppm by June 2010.

So what’s the lead content of regular old footballs fields made from soil and turf? (For point of reference: The White House’s vegetable garden’s lead content is 93 ppm.)

In any case, now that Jerry Brown has weighed in, we know that it’s safe to make children’s products from reformulated Astro Turf. Granted, those cute little Lederhosen will chafe.

* No criticism of Astro Turf implied, either. The power of an ambitious attorney general is nothing to scoff at.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Thanks for the link! Yeah, I know thanking CPSC for their “guidance” is like being happy to have tasty cheese on your poop sandwich. But we have to look for the good as well as the bad, no? Otherwise we get horribly depressed.

  • Marianne says:

    There have been so many fighting to save small businesses from CPSIA. Thank you for recognizing Sarah Natividad and all she has done! She’s one (of MANY) heroes of ours fighting for small manufacturers and retailers.

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