Um, you forgot to mention speakers like me. I do not represent any organization or industry, I paid my own way to the rally and gave up a day of work to attend and speak at it, and what's more, I was even arguing contrary to my self-interest. I write and illustrate new children's books, the ordinary kind currently enjoying a stay of enforcement - it would be to my advantage to have libraries and schools throw out their old books and have to buy new ones like mine to replace them. I was there to argue for what I believe is best for children, particularly for the most disadvantaged in our society who suffer disproportionately from lead poisoning. This law gets it wrong on so many fronts.
I have my doctorate in clinical child psychology from the
and graduated magna cum laude from Yale with distinction in psychology. I am not an idiot and I am well aware of the potential hazards of lead poisoning for children, especially for the youngest ones. I also know that the research on lead is more complex than is commonly acknowledged by consumer organizations like yours. The truth is that lower SES kids are at greater risk of lead poisoning, and this discrepancy has persisted even as efforts by the CDC and other agencies to reduce sources of environmental lead (in lower income areas as well as others) have been enormously successful. Part of the reason that lower SES kids are at greater risk is because they still live disproportionately in older homes with lead-containing dilapidated paint and to play in areas with lead in the soil (the CPSIA does nothing to help with those on-going issues). But there are many other variables that also put low SES kids at greater risk -- and I can assure you that higher rates of exposure to books, high quality handmade toys, bicycles and ATVs, ballpoint pens, organic clothing, and one of kind artwork are NOT among them - and yet these blameless items are disproportionately being affected by CPSIA, which also means they won't be around in 5 years to be passed along through thrift stores and give-away programs to kids who could really use them. Instead the law does NOTHING to address the very real measures we could take to reduce the absorption of and harm by lead in the young children from lower SES populations, including improving their nutrition (low calcium and iron levels lead to higher absorption rates), providing support to improve parenting practices (neglected and abused kids suffer higher rates of lead poisoning even when controlling for SES; and kids whose parents have poor housekeeping practices have higher rates, again controlling for SES), and improving the mentally stimulating quality of the child's environment through providing high quality child care, book distribution programs coupled with instruction on sharing books with children, and programs to distribute toys that promote physical exercise (like bicycles) and encourage brain development (a mentally stimulating environment both prevents and treats the harmful effects of lead at low to moderate blood lead levels). The CPSIA not only doesn't help with these proven effective measures, it actually hinders them, putting an end to bike distribution programs, closing down the children's sections in affordable thrift stores, and raising the prices of all consumer goods for children, so that low income parents have less money to spend on high quality food, toys and books. By banning the sale of inexpensive older used books, removing them from libraries, schools and daycares, and raising the costs of the new ones purchased by literacy programs, the CPSIA snatches books and the chances for better school achievement from the hands of low income kids as surely as the Grinch plucked the books and toys from the Whos down in Whoville. Universityof Virginia
Way to go, Grinch.
P.S. You are correct that the law only addresses children's products. But if this law were in fact necessary, then you'd have to ban lead in adults' products as well. Children are actually at the greatest risk of lead poisoning prenatally, when it's Mom's exposure that matters, and they further come into contact with items intended for adults or the whole family every day. When you decide that minimal lead exposure is important enough to take away American's automobiles (aka lead machines - with lead in everything from the batteries to the steel to the brakes to the weights used to balance the wheels) then I'll start to think you at least believe in what you are saying.
I'd also like to see you recommend that all American families discard all their current children's products and household goods unless they get them tested - obviously necessary if you believe that retroactive application of the law is so essential that even during a severe recession thrift stores can't sell a pair of jeans to a 10 year old.
Friday, April 03, 2009
CPSIA and Vintage Books: My Comment to Consumer's Union
Drawing by Jessie Willcox Smith from The Little Mother Goose, with thanks to Project Gutenberg
Consumer's Union blog has a very inaccurate account of the rally (really quite bizarre at times - don't know what rally they attended, but it wasn't the same one I did). You can read it here.
There are lots of great comments from people who were really there, but I had to add my two cents too (especially since so far they haven't seen fit to post my comments, though in fairness they've posted plenty of others that are critical):