Warning: Federal Government Deems Fidget Spinners An “Emerging Hazard”

Don’t eat your fidget spinner.

I guess that’s what the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is trying to tell us now.

We may have a new candidate for most bizarre government decree since the Environmental Protection Agency’s replacement of normal gas cans with those new leaky ones that require three hands to operate.

Everyone, meet the new “Fidget Spinner Business Guidance” from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. An accompanying statement intones,

“As the agency investigates some reported incidents associated with this popular product, fidget spinner users or potential buyers should take some precautions; keep them from small children; the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard; and older children should not put fidget spinners in their mouths.”

Do you remember the legislative fight and the law Congress passed this year requiring federal regulation of fidget spinners?

And Donald Trump’s campaign promises to crack down on the horrors of shabby fidget spinners that fall apart?

Yeah, I don’t either.

We even have an official government definition of a fidget spinner.

“Fidget spinners generally consist of two main pieces, a center piece containing a small ball-bearing component, and an outer piece. The outer piece generally has multiple lobes weighted with items such as small ball-bearing components, solid weights, or balls. Fidget spinners can be made of a variety of materials, including plastic, brass, stainless steel, titanium, and copper. The user holds the center piece between the forefinger and thumb, and rotates the outer piece to cause it to “spin.” The lobes of the fidget spinners are equally weighted to allow the user to balance the product.”

I’ve got a better definition than CPSC. The fidget spinner is basically just a weighted wheel.

If government, even Trump’s deregulatory one, can’t leave a wheel alone, what can it leave alone?

Unelected federal agencies issue lots of directives without Congress having instructed them to, and without going through ordinary humane notice-and-comment requirements. But here we have almost a caricature of the off-the-books regulatory dark matter phenomenon.

CPSC appears to be reacting to choking incidents (no deaths, thankfully) involving spinners that came apart, as well as a couple vague reports of battery fires or melting involving lighted/powered ones. There were over 5,000 choking deaths in 2015. None from fidget spinners then, none now.

If you’re a merchant selling fidget spinners as a general use product, the CPSC wants you to make sure the powered versions don’t explode (because, surely, explosion was what you had in mind) and “recommends” that you comply with U.S. Toy Standard, ASTM F963-16, Section 4.25 Battery-Operated Toys.

And “if your fidget spinner is a children’s product,” it’s subject to  limitations on lead content and lead in paint, limits on phthalates, U.S. Toy Standard, ASTM F963-16, must feature permanent tracking information, and be certified.

Okay don’t eat lead and digest unknown chemicals, but is this appropriate nannyism? I get the concern, I’m a dad of five. But c’mon. Us parents went to government schools, so we’re pretty smart.

On the other hand, I remember as a kid liking the lead sinkers when fishing for bream and crappie in South Carolina because I could easily bite them down onto the line without having to use a pair of pliers. CPSC would have a fit; both lead saturation and choking made simple.

What is the triggering criterion for this and future “business guidance”? That an object is made of components? Everything is. And in the case of the spinner, only a couple. And what sense does this hand-wringing make when a kid can look in any home junk drawer and find paper clips and push pins. Do my kids’ piggy banks need to go?  The get sand in their eyes at the beach, too. And shoot lead-pellet guns, and sometimes pick up lead car-tire weights that have fallen off in parking lots.

The CPSC is trying to act serious, but this is purely bureaucrats with nothing to do, doing anyway. Even the CPSC alluded to the absurdity of what was about to come in a “poetic” July tweet that concluded, “Once found, live your truth. Just don’t put fidget spinners in your mouth.”

Consumer Product Safety Commission, @USCSPC

CPSC warns, “Don’t put spinners in your mouth.”

Shouldn’t that kid be warned about the shades, too?

At least we know the Nanny State remains alive and well in the Trump administration. By all means, we need to continue monitor the fidget spinner crisis closely, according to this warning from the chair:

“I encourage consumers to visit our Fidget Spinner Safety Education Center with additional safety tips and to report safety incidents with fidget spinners to CPSC at www.SaferProducts.gov to help our agency stay on top of this emerging hazard.”

After cutting myself again shaving this morning, I noticed a lead weight at the base of my shower curtain. That tears it; I’m heading straight over to SaferProducts.gov with a two-fer.