The (Ridiculously High) Price of “Safety”

In several previous blog posts I’ve mentioned a new law which will go into effect on February 10th.  Called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), this legislation will require testing of all children’s clothing for toxic chemicals before sale, effectively putting children’s consignment shops and small-scale clothing manufacturers out of business and seriously harming charities such as the Goodwill, as well as their low income customers.

Fortunately, the children’s products industry is now catching on to the situation, and is appropriately up in arms.  Rick Woldenberg, Chairman of Learning Resources, discussed legislators’ misunderstanding of the nature of safety on his blog:

This abstract, spiritual use of the word “safe” is deeply distressing to me. If people believe safety is something abstract, as though it were a kind of window onto the soul and a measure of some sort of morality, then industrial efforts to produce safety will become completely diffuse and unfocused…If we scatter our resources over all sorts of imaginary, paranoid illusions of potential risks, there will little energy left for the real problems. We cannot afford this frivolous exercise.

More amusing protests have come from Etsy.com, an online market for handmade and vintage items.  “CPSIA specials” have shown up all over the place; this knitted cap, for example, is listed for no less than $2940.00 when the price of CPSIA testing is factored in.  A toy lunch set would go for $10,080.00, and a pair of CPSIA-compliant booties are a steep $3,992.00.  Ah well, at least all that spending will stimulate the economy!

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