March 20, 2009
Pointing fingers
By James Wilson

MEDIA NOTICE: Jim Babka will appear on the Jerry Hughes show today. Check our blog for details on how you can listen in.

Quotes of the Day: "No doubt we all could have been Rhodes scholars if only we hadn't sucked on our pens, drawn hearts on our hands, and read our pre-1985 books. It is a miracle we survived thus far." - blogger Deputy Headmistress

"When kid's dirtbikes are outlawed because of lead content, only outlaw kids will ride dirtbikes, er something like that." - Tom Pearson

Subject: Pointing Fingers

If your preteen child aspires to be a dirt bike racer, safety concerns may race through your head. That's understandable.

But would lead poisoning be one of them?

Incredibly, youth ATV's and motorcycles have been banned by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) because of lead content. The Motorcycle Industry Council says this could mean losses of $1 billion in 2009 alone.

That's because "some parts, that youth would not ingest, unavoidably contain small quantities of lead in excess of the CPSIA limits, such as the valve stems on the tires, aluminum in some brake components, and the terminals on the batteries."

Also, as we anticipated, thrift stores are pulling children's coats and clothes from their shelves all across America. Libraries are combing through their stacks to pull children's books published before 1985. And businesses are closing.

Even ballpoint pens decorated with cartoon characters could be banned.

The CPSIA is a disaster. It's forcing poor families to pay more for clothes. It's creating more unemployment in a weak economy. It's even making dirt bikes less safe because replacement parts are unavailable.

What is Congress doing about it?

Canceling hearings.

And pointing fingers.

Senators such as Amy Klobuchar, Jay Rockefeller, and Mark Pryor claim that the CPSIA allows the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to make "common-sense exceptions."

Except, it doesn't. As Joe Martyak of the CPSC says, "The language of the law does not allow us to focus on the significance or extent of the risk and that's the issue. The exclusion clause is written very, very, very narrowly. If you can touch any part -- any, A-N-Y -- that can lead to lead absorption, leaving us hard-pressed to find an exclusion."

These Senators want the CPSC to selectively enforce the law, but the bureaucrats' hands are tied: if they enforce the law too rigidly they'll get blamed for hurting the economy; but if they're too lax, and some freak incident of lead ingestion occurs, they'll be blamed for incompetence.

Meanwhile, businesses all over America are having to assume that the law will be enforced, causing them to withdraw products from their shelves at a huge cost. This could lead to bankruptcy for many small firms.

Several industries are looking for exemptions from the CPSC, or lobbying Congress to amend the CPSIA. Sen. Jim DeMint has proposed legislation to delay the law's implementation and provide relief to second-hand sellers. Rep. John Dingell has written the CPSC to see how the CPSIA might be improved.  But the nation can't afford incremental fix-its. That will take too much time. Jobs will be lost, and no child will be "safer" than before.

We must instead tell Congress to repeal the CPSIA and start over. Tell them . . .

  • the problem is the CPSIA law, not the CPSC
  • products used by pre-teens don't need the same safety standards as products for infants -- pre-teens don't stick things in their mouths
  • American manufacturers shouldn't be forced to pay for the mistakes made by the foreign factories that caused this lead scare
  • if they do try to write a new, improved CPSIA they should actually read it this time, before voting on it.

You can send your message using our quick and easy Educate the Powerful System.

We're currently experiencing some technical difficulties. While we work to fix the problem the best thing to do is log-in using the log-in button in the upper right hand corner of our home page  and then go to the lead-scare campaign to send your message.

If you have a problem please reply to this message explaining the problem to so we can help you.

And speaking of reading the bills, we've added seven new members to the Read the Bills Act Coalition:

If you would like to join the Coalition, click here.

And a hat tip to Walter Olson's Overlawyered blog for his steady reporting on CPSIA.

Thank you for being a DC Downsizer

James Wilson
Assistant to the President


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