Brass Attacks; Consumer 'Safety' Law Strikes Bad Notes

Article excerpt


Seventy-six trombones left the big charade. A thousand and 10 store debts are close at hand. There are zippers, keys - so many amenities - all outlawed because Congress is blind. With apologies to Meredith Willson's 1957 Broadway show The Music Man, such could be the latest fallout from the draconian Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Congress passed the misnamed CPSIA in 2008 to protect consumers, especially children, from all manner of supposed dangers in ordinary products. The CPSIA's most stringently targeted danger is lead, which clearly can be a health hazard. The problem is that the CPSIA leaves all reason behind, setting allowable lead limits so low, with so little room for common-sense exceptions, that it effectively bans huge numbers of harmless products used in everyday life.

A veritable smorgasbord of business groups and grass-roots activists have arisen to fight the CPSIA - among them an outfit called the Alliance for Children's Product Safety. Its Web site, Amend the CPSIA, used the 76 Trombones motif to complain about the Consumer Product Safety Commission's latest ruling concerning the CPSIA, which effectively outlaws all brass used in children's products. (One component of brass is lead.) By a 3-2 vote on Nov. 4, the commission decided that Congress had left no leeway for common-sense exceptions to the brass ban.

Result? To quote at some length from the alliance's Web site, "In addition to brass zippers, grommets and other apparel and footwear components, victims of this decision include brass instruments, musical bells and certain strings used in a string instrument. By in effect outlawing brass in children's products as defined by CPSIA, ..

the CPSC's actions call into question the future of school bands Will young musicians in their school band's brass section now have to hum along with their peers, or switch to the recorder or a (plastic) kazoo? …