Thursday, August 06, 2009

CPSIA's New Guidance, Part 1: Overview

Today CPSC released new guidance regarding exemptions to third party testing under CPSIA. It's a 94-page document, so I thought I'd go through it bit by bit and summarize it, but not necessarily in the order in which the items appear.

First, an overview: in this document, CPSC expands their list of materials that are pre-emptively declared free from the need for third party testing. CPSIA does grant them this authority, and they had used it before to declare a much more limited range of materials to be lead-free: precious metals and gemstones, and unaltered natural materials and textiles. The new document expands that list by quite a lot. All textiles are now included, for example. I've already written a post for What Is The CPSIA? detailing precisely which new materials have gotten a Get Out Of Lab Free card; I'll link it as soon as it's up. [UPDATE: Here it is.]

The document takes a definite turn in the direction of component testing. Because it focuses exclusively on exemptions for materials rather than categories of goods, I'd say there's about an 80% probability that CPSC will be issuing a future rule allowing component testing. The document also shows trust in manufacturers: it mentions several times that the exemptions are conditioned on the manufacturing process not introducing any lead, but never does it imply that this determination is to be made by anyone at the agency or indeed anyone other than the manufacturers themselves. This is a good thing; it means that CPSC under Tenenbaum's leadership is not going to view manufacturers as its adversaries. This was something I worried about when Tenenbaum was appointed; if she'd gone in the direction of the slimy little toady Commissioner Moore, we'd all have been ultra-screwed.

CPSC also takes a step that has been very much needed: letting us know that guidance on certain topics is forthcoming. The document mentions that we can anticipate statements on children's books published before 1985 and on component testing. Now if only we could get them to give us at least a ballpark idea when the guidance will be released.

They also declined to make a decision at this time on several materials, pending the submission of scientific analysis by those seeking an exemption. These are the materials:
  • Composite wood products (e.g. particle board)
  • Art supplies
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Ceramic ware and glazes
The moral of this story is, come to the CPSC armed with data. Textiles and printing inks got off scot-free because the apparel industry and the printing industry came to the meetings armed with hard data, not sob stories. While there's no way in hell that I'd ever be able to afford to generate the kind of data they need to grant exemptions, I appreciate very much that CPSC is at least persuadable by scientific data, unlike some OTHER people I know who shall go unnamed even though they are in Congress.

Finally, CPSC tipped their hand to a new strategy: to declare stuff "inaccessible." Because inaccessible things are exempt from all of CPSIA's draconian testing regimes, it becomes a "see no evil" situation. I was truly surprised at their determination that adhesives are "inaccessible," because I don't know anyone whose skill at hand-gluing is such that they never, ever get so much as an edge of glue sticking out from under stuff. But they seem determined not to consider that as an option, so don't you mention it to them either. It just seems odd, especially in juxtaposition to their finding that bicycle tire valve stems are accessible. Surely the exposed edge of a glue bead is as accessible as a tire valve stem.