Kid safety?

            The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has enacted regulations, effective Feb. 10, requiring that all products to be used by children 12 and younger must be tested for lead and phthalates (USA Today, Jan 9). Good idea, right? We want our kids to be safe, right?


            The testing will cost from about $400 for a small item to thousands of dollars for larger ones. Every item, in every store, with a child use, would have to be tested. Every item. Every store. Even second-hand stores. Products not tested would be deemed “hazardous” even if they contain no lead or phthalates. Even if they are made of wood.


            Excuse me, but this is insane. Yes, we want our kids to be safe. But what does “safe” mean? Reducing the possibility of harm to zero? Can’t be done; life isn’t like that. What we should want is to protect against big, widespread threats. For example, the current hysteria, based on bogus science, that immunizations might cause autism, is a really big threat to children’s safety if it leads to fewer immunizations.


            There have been a few cases in which potentially harmful substances like lead have been found in kid products. And, yes, small kids do put things in their mouths. But is there any evidence that any significant numbers of children have actually been harmed in this way? No, there is not.


            But one thing is certain: these regulations will harm our economy, big-time. Most retailers cannot afford to comply with such onerous and costly regulations. It’s completely impractical. At a time when our economy is in such trouble, with so many retailers struggling to survive, with so many jobs at risk, for the government to impose such costs on businesses is insane, in the literal sense of the word.


            It would be better to have a requirement that government regulatory bureaucrats be tested for lead in their brains.


            We are told that the era of deregulation is over, and government regulation is making a big comeback. Here we see what that means. Oy vey.


4 Responses to “Kid safety?”

  1. Scott Perlman Says:

    As you discuss in your book, Life, Liberty, and Happiness: An Optimist Manifesto, if we had infinite resources we could test for lead and phthalates in anything kids under 12 touch (and just a small point but since when do we really have to worry about kids over, say, the age of 4 putting things in their mouths. If a ten year old is doing it well…).

    As you also discuss in your book and in addition to the points you make above, the opportunity cost of testing for these substances is ignored. What else could we do with the same amount of money? How many more lives could be saved with the same level of investment? I bet we could find about 100 ideas for the use of the money that will save more lives than this initiative.

    This also reminds me of one of my most favorite toys as a child. It was a lead soldier kit. Yes, we melted lead bars, poured the molten stuff into molds, and made lead soldiers. And on top of all the risk associated with the molten lead, we then actually played with the toxic warriors. To think that we first risked our lives working with melted lead and then encouraged violent behavior playing army. It is a wonder I am alive and have not turned into a homicidal maniac.

  2. K Says:

    This is false and gross distortion. From the CSPC site at (January 8, 2008) it says: Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards. The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold.

    Sellers still are responsible for complying with these safety regulations, but, er, what is the point of having safety standards if they are not?

  3. rationaloptimist Says:

    FSR comment: I got the information from the USA Today article, which did indicate that according to current interpretation, second hand stores would be required to certify compliance, and it quoted several representatives of this industry that had great concerns that they would effectively be put out of business. The article did indicate that the regulations were under ongoing review.

  4. Gregory Kipp Says:

    This isn’t just about cost — it’s also about consumer perceptions. If the consumer feels there is a significant risk that the products they buy are dangerous, they will reduce or stop buying. As in all things, the solution to this problem, like most in our world, is a matter of balance. Balancing risk against cost; public safety vs minimal industrial regulation; etc. etc. It’s not clear to me whether these particular regulations will be effective considering the cost that will be incurred. Perhaps there is a better way. It seems logical to place the onus on the manufacturer to show his products are safe. The retail store or consumer is probably not the best place to determine if a problem exists — it’s kind of late in the game once we get to these people. These problems are best caught before the wholesale transaction is completed. If I were a retailer, I would forcing my suppliers to show their products meet safety standards before buying.

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