We saw this on the wire and wanted to share, since many news outlets overlooked it yesterday:
WASHINGTON, D.C. October 15, 2009
Rep. Henry Waxman Calls for Regulation of Weather Balloons to Protect Children
Citing today's episode in Fort Collins, Colorado, in which 6-year-old Falcon Heene was briefly thought to have perished in a homemade balloon, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) is calling for tighter regulation of weather balloons.
"As chair of the House commerce committee, I have been a tireless advocate for children's safety," Waxman said at a late afternoon press conference. "Poor Falcon narrowly escaped certain death today due to his exposure to an untested weather balloon in his own backyard. My committee will see to it that no child will suffer this fate again."
Waxman said he is concerned that the American public generally considers weather balloons to be tested and certified by the federal government. "The American public already believes such regulation is currently in place. Today's incident proves that the public has been mislead and their trust has been violated."
Noting that the media frenzy surrounding Falcon's adventure was eerily similar to the frenzy during the 2007 toy recall crisis, Waxman said "this is exactly like Thomas the Tank Engine all over again. The same sense of shock, the same types of probing questions from the media--even the number of children maimed and killed was statistically similar! Only this time, it's not poison toys, it's weather balloons."
Waxman's newly introduced bill, the Help Our Tots Avoid Injury from aiRships Act, or HOT AIR, will require all weather balloons to be tested in a third party lab approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ensure that they do not contain any children. The CPSC will also be empowered to conduct searches at the ports and in citizen's garages to ensure that no weather balloon contains an excessive amount of child.
Consumer groups are cheering Waxman's proposal. "We hope this gets fast-tracked through Congress ahead of health care or climate change legislation," said a spokesperson from U.S. PIRG. "This issue is too big to ignore. We'll surely be able to increase our canvassing receipts with this one--everyone wants to protect children."
Waxman stressed that his bill contains no loopholes that might cause further harm to children. "Just as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 allows no amount of lead in any children's product under any circumstances, HOT AIR will not allow even a negligible amount of child in any weather balloon," Waxman said.
Baltel, the largest weather balloon manufacture, and Bal-Mart, the world's largest retailer of weather balloons, have already endorsed Waxman's bill. "It's obvious to us that the public demands accountability," a Bal-Mart representative said. "This bill will help us restore trust and squash those upstart handmade balloon operations that have been eroding our profits."
"We also appreciate Waxman's willingness to allow us to conduct our own testing--that will save us a lot of money," said a spokesperson for Baltel.
Meanwhile, as young Falcon Heene was tucked into bed this evening, Waxman sent his best wishes via a Hallmark e-card with the message "Sleep well, Falcon. By this time next week your parent's balloons will be illegal and you won't have to hide in a box ever again." Surely, young Falcon will sleep better knowing that Henry Waxman is on his side.
Hand-felted Waxman puppet by mullishmuse, available on Etsy.