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Lead Limits In Toys Not Necessary For 8-Year-Olds, Debates House

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Welcome to "The Watchdog," which will keep a close eye on regulatory agencies and how their actions impact the lives of everyday Americans. Though the rules and regulations they write -- from determining how much arsenic is allowable in your drinking water to whether your favorite TV show can drop the F-bomb in primetime -- affect all of us, their deliberations and the way that lobbyists influence their decisions receive very little coverage. To make sense of these debates, follow the implementation of health care and financial reform and decipher the minutia of the Federal Register, "The Watchdog" is on the case. If you have any tips, send them to marcus@huffingtonpost.com.

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HuffPost's Dave Jamieson reports:

WASHINGTON -- With American miners still succumbing to black lung disease, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed a plan to reduce the number of such deaths through the stricter regulation of mining sites. But at a congressional committee meeting last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voiced concern that the new regulations may not be worth the cost to coal companies -- even though pockets of his state have been designated black lung “hot spots” by the federal government.

In a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, Paul also asserted that the number of black lung cases has been on the decline. But according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in recent years such incidences have in fact been on the rise in certain areas of coal country.

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This morning, a House subcommittee is holding a hearing to discuss proposed changes to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). Among the proposals under consideration are adjusting the requirement that all children's products should be lead-free, eliminating independent testing for most children's products and allowing cribs that could be unsafe to remain in child care facilities.

Here is the explanation of Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Chair Mary Bono Mack (R-Ca.) for why lead content limits should be applied only to products made for children age 7 and under -- and not expanded to 12-year-olds:

The draft leaves open the age for defining the term “children’s product.” At our last hearing, my friend and colleague [Michigan Democratic Rep. John] Dingell, the chairman emeritus of the full committee, reminded us that a lot of the problems with CPSIA originated in the Senate, but this is one that did not. The Senate-passed bill applied the lead content limits to products for children age 7 and under. That age would have kept the focus on children who are greater risk when it comes to lead, because very young children, according to the [Consumer Product Safety Commission], are much more likely to put things in their mouth. The House set the top age at 12-years-old, because of the so-called “common toy box” concern. But by pushing the age to 12, we ended up regulating a huge number of products that are never going to be mouthed or even handled by young children. These include not only the well-known examples of ATV’s, bicycles and books but also band instruments, scientific instruments and clothes for older children, among other things.

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• When top Federal Deposit Insurance Commission officials tried to help a politically-connected bank, some bank examiners were outraged, calling it a "travesty of justice," according to emails obtained by The Washington Post. Allegations that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) helped her friend Kevin Cohee, the chairman of California's OneUnited Bank, get his bank a bailout loan are at the heart of a House Ethics Committee probe. A special hearing to hear those charges has been delayed since the fall and quickly was enmeshed in partisan wrangling.

• A private U.S. nuclear safety group disclosed a batch of internal emails from the nation's Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which it said undercuts officials' recent assertions that U.S. nuclear reactors are prepared for a Fukushima-scale disaster.

• Senators re-introduce a bill to protect whistleblowers after a secret hold killed previous effort.

• Coal-state lawmakers are pushing legislation to prevent tough federal rules governing disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants.

• Lobbyists, start your engines! The FDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which has oversight over the safety of our food, is looking to update its assessment of how bad a virulent pathogen found in ready-to-eat foods is for your health.

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