The Consumer Product Safety Commission, a Federal agency charged with making sure products you buy are safe, came out with an important ruling today. They have decided not to ban the use of arsenic in the manufacture of pressure treated lumber. They claim this decision is based on the fact that few manufacturers use arsenic anymore.
Pressure treated lumber is used in many outdoor applications. That’s because it is resistant to rot and insect damage. But one of the major uses for treated lumber is children’s playground equipment: it’s softer than plastic or metal, and doesn’t get as hot or cold either. Even the CPSC admits that arsenic treated lumber poses a hazard to children when used in playground equipment, citing “an increased risk of lung or bladder cancer for people who played on such playground equipment as children.” Furthermore, the stuff has become an ongoing headache for communities both as they try to determine how much contaminated playground equipment they have, and as they attempt to dispose of arsenic tainted wood.
So lets make sure we understand the CPSC’s position: arsenic treated lumber is dangerous, but it’s okay to continue making it because almost nobody makes it anymore.
Granted, the EPA has already said it cannot be made after the end of the year, but sellers are allowed to deplete their stock, and frankly I fail to see where the EPA has outlawed importing the stuff. What possible reason could the CPSA have for not keeping in line with the EPA decision? For pity sake, the EPA decided it was bad, and this is the same EPA that decided it was alright to relax sewage treatment rules and approves thousands of untested chemicals for household use.
This isn’t the only government agency that has said we need not change the rules because nobody uses them. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Department of Justice is playing the same semantic game with respect to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Section 215 is the portion which (among other things) allows the FBI to check your library records, with reduced warrant requirements, and without anybody being allowed to tell you.
Ashcroft claims there is no need to fix this egregious breech of 4th Amendment rights because after all, Section 215 has never been used. Most of America replies “Good! Then you won’t miss it if we take it away!” Ashcroft counters “But I might need it someday.”
Right, just like those roller blades you bought 5 years ago thinking you would get in shape, but all they do is gather dust in a closet. Get rid of them now: just like Ashcroft’s pet legislation, you will only get hurt if you use them. Just ask Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, and Valerie Plame about the importance of privacy.