February 10, 2011
Office of the Secretary
Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East-West Highway,
Bethesda, Maryland, 20814
Re: 100 PPM—Technological Feasibility Public Hearing
Dear Mr. Stevenson:
On behalf of the Handmade Toy Alliance, an alliance now numbering 620 toy stores, toymakers and children's product manufacturers from across the country who want to preserve unique handmade toys, clothes, and children's goods in the USA, we respectfully submit the following comments for consideration during the Commission's hearing on the feasibility of imposing a 100ppm lead content limit on children's products.
To begin with, we would like to refer the Commission to our earlier letter on the subject, dated September 27, 2010. We would like to reiterate that letter's conclusion, which stated:
As small manufacturers, we lack the wherewithal to demand consistent compliance to such a low standard from our component suppliers, many of whom do not specifically manufacture for children's products. We lack the resources to test repeatedly to ensure that any given test's results are actually within a 100ppm limit given the tests' margins of error. And, in an environment where the Commission blurs bright lines, we lack the patience for such a low limit that has no impact on human health but could well jeopardize our family businesses.
After reading the other responses to the Commission's initial requests for comments on the feasibility of a 100ppm standard, we were struck by the near unanimity among manufacturers and trade groups representing manufacturers. Almost all these respondents agreed with us that a 100ppm would be difficult to achieve consistently, would be difficult to measure, would add unnecessary and untenable compliance costs, and would not directly correspond with any health risks associated with lead content in different materials.
Now, we are being asked to clarify our position regarding how the feasibility of a 100ppm standard would vary according to the type of material and the extent to which 100ppm-compliant components are “commercially available”.
Unfortunately, none of our members are chemists or materials scientists. Nor do we posses the resources to engage a scientific study of the vast myriad of products our members produce in order to fully answer these questions. The best we can do is describe our businesses and the difficulties we would encounter if we were required to meet a 100ppm lead standard.
For this hearing, the Commission asked, “What factors or considerations should we evaluate in deciding whether a product complying with the limit is 'commercially available?'” Unlike mass market manufacturers, we do not always begin our production with raw materials. We frequently purchase component goods like zippers and buttons from Jo-Ann Fabrics, beads and polyfill from Michael's, and screws and hinges from Home Depot.
These components have not been tested by a CPSC-accredited third party lab and do not indicate their lead content. Nor do the manufacturers of these components make any claim or guarantee regarding the consistency of materials used that would suggest that a hinge or button purchased in June would have the same lead content as the same item purchased in August. Indeed, many of these component parts are sold by distributors such as Dritz Notions or Stanley Hardware and bear no indication of the company which actually manufactured the part in the first place.
So, before the CPSC decides the extent to which 100ppm-compliant components are “commercially available”, we ask that the Commission should first conduct a thorough survey of the lead content of the component parts on sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michaels, and Home Depot (or other comparable retailers). We urge the Commission to test a few dozen screws, buttons, zippers, and hinges—and then do the same test again in a month. This would be the best and only way determine the commercial availability of 100ppm-compliant parts for our members.
Unfortunately, we were not able to initiate such a study in the 15 days from when the Commission posted notice of this hearing and the date our comments were due. Nonetheless, the difficulty and expense of conducting such a survey is the exact same difficulty and expense small batch manufacturers will be facing if they would be required to comply with a 100ppm lead content standard.
While we recognize that it would be problematic for larger companies as well, we believe that small batch manufacturers, who have little or no negotiating power with their component suppliers, would be most adversely affected by a 100ppm standard. Much as we'd like to see the development of marketplace of pre-tested component parts, the truth is that, in most cases, this marketplace has so far failed to materialize. The burden of compliance, therefore, remains almost exclusively with the end-product manufacturer. A 100ppm standard would vastly aggravate this burden.
We believe the Commission can and should consider the economic feasibility of a 100ppm standard. And, we believe that any such consideration of the economic impact would logically lead to the conclusion that a 100ppm standard is not, in fact, feasible.
Finally, as discussed in our previous letter, we believe that a 100ppm total lead limit which does not take bioavailability into account is an inappropriate standard for measuring the health risk of a children's product. We have read the comments by consumer groups which reiterate the facts that lead accumulates in a child's body over time and that there is no safe amount of lead exposure. And, while we agree with these assertions, we can not find any logic which would justify a blanket 100ppm limit for all types of materials in all children's products.
It simply does not make sense to us that the lead content in brass, steel, plastic, vinyl, or glass should all be subject to the same limit, since each material behaves differently when exposed to human skin or saliva. Nor does it make sense to us that a baby rattle, puzzle, football, or bicycle should pose the same risks of lead ingestion or that these various products should all be subject to the same 100ppm standard.
We therefore urge the Commission to conclude, as we have, that a 100ppm lead standard is not technologically feasible; that 100ppm compliant component parts are not commercially available, especially for small batch manufacturers; and that a 100ppm standard would not relate to the risk of lead exposure as it varies from one material to another and from one type of product to another.
Our members are personally dedicated to making safe, quality products. We represent centuries of American craftsmanship which has nourished generations of American children.
Please consider the impact of 100ppm on our member businesses. Please do not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
Thank you again for taking the time to read and consider our comments.
The Handmade Toy Alliance
A listing of all 620 business members of the Handmade Toy Alliance is available at http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org/AllianceInfo/OurMembers.aspx .