Home Lead Test Kits and Bush Administration Plaming (Huffington Post)

Leo W. Gerard, The Huffington Post, October 23, 2007

Within
24 hours this week, two different consumer watchdog groups gave the
American public completely contradictory information about home lead
test kits.

President
George W. Bush's Consumer Product Safety Commission told us to throw
away those untrustworthy kits, sit on our hands and blindly trust the
government to protect our children from lead-covered toys being
imported from China and other countries.

In
contrast, the independent Consumer Reports announced that it had tested
five kits and found three that worked. In addiction, these kits were
reasonably inexpensive and easy to operate. Here's what CR wrote about
the evaluation gear that costs as little as $8: "lead test kits are a
useful though limited screening tool."

Here's
what Bush's CPSC wrote, "Consumers should not use lead test kits to
evaluate consumer products for potential lead hazards."

The
CPSC's advice is clearly another case of "Plaming," which may be
defined as Bush administration retribution for criticism of the
administration.

For
those unaware of Valerie Plame's ordeal, it went like this: question
the Bush administration's saber-rattling propaganda about WMDs in Iraq;
as her husband did, and you'll find yourself subjected to attack. In
Plame's case, the retribution could have been fatal, as she was an
undercover intelligence operative. Oh well, all's fair in politics and
war mongering!

In
the case of lead screening kits, many, including the United
Steelworkers, have criticized the Bush administration's failure to
manage trade policy in a way that protected North American workers from
permanent job exports and the public from toxic product imports.

Bush's
insistence on pursuing so-called "free trade" instead of fair trade has
resulted in shipping millions of jobs overseas, so that now, fewer U.S.
workers have manufacturing jobs than did in 1950.

And
as we have seen this year, pet food, toothpaste and toys now
manufactured in China and imported into the United States and Canada
may be hazardous. So far, more than 30 million mostly Chinese-made toys
have been recalled because of toxic levels of lead.

Many
labor organizations have demanded that so-called "free trade" be
replaced by fair trade, which would provide protections by enforcing
international environmental standards and labor laws. Doing so would,
among other things, prevent work by children, deforestation and
uncontrolled air pollution accelerating the pace of global warming.

Paper
imported into the United States from China might not be so cheap if the
logs to make it weren't stolen from savaged Indonesian forests, the
Chinese paper workers weren't pressed into service for long hours in
dangerous conditions for less-than-living wages, and the Yangtze River
weren't the recipient of untreated paper mill effluent.

Cheap
paper, cheap toys, cheap pet food — made under questionable
circumstances — all of this is what the Bush administration is
protecting when it uses the CPSC to attack lead testing kits.

Don't
fix the trade problem. Don't even make sure the questionable products
are safe once they get here. Just shut the critics up.

And
this is not the first time. Earlier this year, the Center for
Environmental Health (CEH) tried to stop the sale of vinyl lunchboxes
after finding lead in the vinyl. After testing just 10 lunchboxes, the
CPSC declared them safe and called the CEH Chicken Little.

CEH
thought this was suspicious and demanded to see the CPSC test results.
The agency refused. When the CPSC finally was forced to released the
information, it revealed that the agency had tested only 10 lunchboxes,
had found high levels of lead in three, then changed its testing
methods — apparently in an attempt to artificially minimize the threat
to children.

In
short, the CPSC was willing to endanger children in exchange for the
continued import and sale of vinyl lunchboxes. Now the CPSC is willing
to endanger children by telling parents not even to try using home lead
testing kits to check toys and other imported consumer products. It's
clear what's important to the Bush administration: Commerce. Not
consumers. Not even children.

So,
let's spell it out correctly. Under the Bush administration, the "C" in
CPSC stands for Commerce: The Commerce Protection and Safety Commission.

The
Congress, now controlled by Democrats, must take back this agency,
properly fund it, and make it a Consumer Product Safety Commission once
again, so that the American people can actually trust it when it says
vinyl is safe and testing kits are faulty.

In the meantime, do we ignore the CSPC or ignore our children's health. Not much of a choice, is it?

(Consumer
Reports says Homax Lead Check, Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit and
Lead Inspector detected surface lead in toys, ceramic dishware and
vinyl or plastic. The United Steelworkers "Get the Lead Out — Stop
Toxic Imports campaign has been using the Homax kit.
)

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