Walter Olson explains the problems of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in today's WSJ:
This law has saddled businesses with billions of dollars in losses on T-shirts, bath toys and other items that were lawful to sell one day and unlawful the next. It has induced thrift and secondhand stores to trash mountains of outgrown blue jeans, bicycles and board games for fear there might be trivial, harmless—but suddenly illegal—quantities of lead in their zippers and valves or phthalates in their plastic spinners. (Phthalates are substances that add flexibility to plastic.) Even classic children's books are at risk: Because lead was not definitively removed from printing inks until 1985, the CPSC has advised that only kids' books printed after that date should be considered safe to resell.
Yielding to a business outcry, the agency postponed until next February the law's highly onerous product-testing requirements, which many small manufacturers have said will impose costs exceeding their annual profit or even revenue. It also has postponed enforcement of the law's effective ban on kids' bikes and power vehicles, which unavoidably contain leaded brass or similar alloys in certain components.
Nevertheless, the law's latest shock hit businesses on Aug. 14. That's when the law's tracking-label mandate went into effect, requiring that makers of childrens' goods "place permanent, distinguishing marks on the product and its packaging, to the extent practicable." The idea is to facilitate recalls and make it easier to trace safety problems. The result will be to capsize yet more small businesses.