In the grand tradition of most of Chimpy’s crony appointments, former Director of Federal Affairs for the Eastman Kodak Company and present commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Nancy Nord, does not recall. Well, in Nancy’s case, she doesn’t recall toys on a timely basis.
Spacey the Lead Elf explains it in this video from the Sierra Club.
Original album cover.
From the Denver Post:
As do all 1-year-olds, Cyanna Schutz tends to put every toy in her mouth.
As far as her mom, Kaliea, is concerned – given the current avalanche of toy recalls in the United States – that is not good for Cyanna.
“There seems to be a recall every day,” said Schutz, 34, of Denver. “I’m very concerned. I make sure every toy is OK.”
In October there were 29 recalls of products that had excessive levels of lead paint in them. Most of them were toys made in China.
Then, on Wednesday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled a very popular craft set, Aqua Dots, composed of beads coated with a chemical that converts into a “date rape” drug when swallowed.
Two children – including a 20-month-old boy who swallowed about a dozen beads – slipped into comas after ingesting the dots.
The [Consumer Product Safety] commission has been criticized by various federal legislators, including Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat.
Earlier this week, Nancy Nord, acting head of the commission, appeared before a subcommittee on which DeGette sits. At the hearing, Nord was grilled for taking industry-paid trips to trade shows.
“Nord didn’t seem to recognize that it had the appearance of impropriety,” DeGette said Thursday. “She is old enough to know better.”
From The New York Times:
HONG KONG, Thursday, Nov. 8 — The story started with a 2-year-old boy who was taken to a suburban Sydney hospital on Oct. 5 in a shallow coma and suffering from seizurelike spasms. It ended with the latest recall of a Chinese-made toy, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered the recall of 4.2 million Aqua Dots in the United States on Wednesday evening.
Connecting the two events were four weeks of medical sleuthing by Dr. Kevin Carpenter, a biochemical geneticist in Sydney. Dr. Carpenter discovered that the boy in Sydney had eaten Bindeez beads, celebrated as Australia’s “Toy of the Year.”
Once ingested, the beads released a chemical related to GHB, the banned date rape drug. The beads are marketed in North America as Aqua Dots.
Doctors at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, outside Sydney, first believed that the 2-year-old boy, whose name has not been released, had an inherited metabolic disorder. But when Dr. Carpenter checked urine samples the next day for the chemical markers of the disorder, he found GHB, which can render victims unconscious and even cause death through respiratory failure.
Dr. Carpenter obtained more of the boy’s beads and tested them in a mass spectrometer, a device that helps identify chemical compounds. “I saw a large peak of a substance I didn’t recognize,” he said.
The “peak” was an obscure industrial chemical used to prevent water-soluble glues from becoming sticky before they are needed. But when ingested, the chemical quickly breaks down to become GHB. The United States tightly restricts the chemical’s sale and places GHB in the same category as heroin.
Dr. Carpenter bought a small quantity of the industrial chemical, a purchase that required considerable paperwork to assure the vendor that it would not be used illegally.
He contacted the toy’s worldwide distributor, Moose Enterprise of Australia, who referred him to the Hong Kong office of the manufacturer. The manufacturer provided a list of the beads’ ingredients. The list did not include the dangerous industrial chemical. Dr. Carpenter said the manufacturer was reluctant to provide details of how the beads were made.
He alerted the Ministry of Fair Trading of New South Wales, the state where Sydney is located. The hospital’s poison control center then sent out a warning about the beads last Friday to poison centers around Australia.
The next day, a mother living near Dr. Carpenter’s hospital found her 10-year-old daughter motionless. Then, the girl began vomiting beads. At the hospital’s poison control center, doctors recognized the symptoms immediately.
On Tuesday, Moose, the toy’s distributor, ordered a recall in Australia of Bindeez beads.
On Wednesday, Dr. Carpenter said safety regulators should look beyond Bindeez to conduct laboratory tests on all similar craft toys. These toys, sold under brand names including Aqua Dots and Aqua Beads, contain packets of brightly colored beads that children arrange into mosaics, then sprinkle with water; the beads then stick together in as little as 10 minutes to form durable artworks.
The same day, Peter Mahon, a Moose spokesman, said the company had ordered safety tests on Bindeez beads sold in more than 40 other countries, but that it was awaiting results before deciding whether to expand its recall beyond Australia.
Later on Wednesday, the Toronto-based company that markets Aqua Dots, Spin Master, asked retailers across North America to remove the product from their shelves, “out of an abundance of caution.”
But late on Wednesday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission ordered a recall, saying that two children had fallen seriously ill in the last several days after eating Aqua Dots.
From the Seattle Post Intelligencer:
WASHINGTON– It’s a national embarrassment.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission is ordinarily not a controversial agency — it is so small it operates largely in obscurity. But it has suddenly become a public outrage, a symbol of the Bush administration’s cavalier attitude toward the public good when it conflicts with big business interests.
We have always known this is President Bush’s basic notion of how to govern, but up to now we had seldom been hit smack in the face with it. The acting chairman of the CPSC, Nancy Nord, testified recently on Capitol Hill that the commission opposed congressional efforts to expand the agency’s budget and powers in order to get a handle on tainted toys and other products flooding the U.S. from China.
The decline of the CPSC is a shame. Congress proposed the agency at the peak of the consumer movement in the late 1960s, when the country was rebelling against the traditional concept of caveat emptor — let the buyer beware. The public was tired of business getting away with shoddy practices and shoddy goods.
Meanwhile, the CPSC continues its drastic fall. Nord and her predecessor, Hal Stratton, have made several trips around the world on junkets financed by the industries they are supposed to be regulating.
Nord rejected the congressional offer of more money and authority. She warned that the bill “would harm product safety and put the American people at greater risk.”
Nord’s logic seems a little nutty.
The bill would increase the agency’s budget from $63 million to $142 million by 2015 and increase its staff by 20 percent. It would raise the cap on penalties for safety violations from $1.8 million to $100 million, ban lead in kids’ products and make it illegal to sell recalled goods. It would add whistleblower protections.
But she is used to viewing the world from the one-sided viewpoint of business.
The CPSC has been without a chair for more than a year. In March, Bush nominated Michael Baroody, a manufacturing industry lobbyist, to become chairman. He withdrew his name two months later rather than reveal his severance agreement with the National Association of Manufacturers.
Democrats are now calling for Nord to resign. She is certainly in an inappropriate job. But Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., warned that if she leaves, Bush might just forget to replace her and leave the commission rudderless and helpless. That seems to have been Bush’s goal all along. To get real consumer protection, we will have to wait for a Democratic president.
I suggest you read the entire editorial. (But don’t worry, kids, there won’t be a quiz! 😉 )