After shopping at a local Home Depot recently, I discovered something very troubling. I went to purchase a replacement for a common tool of my trade. Being a frequent shopper at a local Home Depot I new where to find what I was looking for. I acquired the tool I needed and headed for the contractors service desk to check out. As usual said hello to the familiar faces working at that station, paid for my purchase and went on to complete the work for which I had purchase the tool. All in all a very typical shopping experience. No indications from any personnel that there was anything about my purchase that was unusual or of concern to anyone.
I returned home that evening satisfied with the performance of my newly acquired tool. This is relevant because I had made the decision to purchase a brand I new to be of a lesser quality than the what I would typically buy for tools of my trade. My tools are important to me as I use them often. Any tradesman will attest to the value of a quality tool. With economic times being as they are on top of the fact that I was performing charity work on behalf of a customer in need, I went for the cheaper brand. It was difficult to justify the almost $30 price difference when you're not making money from the investment; or so that's what I told myself. What I discovered as I began to relax that evening terrified me!
As any frugal shopper would, I saved the packaging and receipt just in case the tool did not hold up to my expectations. Being happy with it I decided to read the information on the packaging to learn more about the brand; you know it's a guy thing, why bother reading the instructions, I can figure it out for myself! Well that was a big mistake. In reading the packaging I came to a particular statement that I read over and over again, several times trying to rationalize what I was reading. This can't be right, I thought out loud; it has to be a misprint! Surely someone checks these things, and surely our consumer protection agency would never allow this kind of risk; right? The instruction on the packaging gave a clear warning on the risk of chemical poisoning while using this tool. It read exactly this; "This product contains one or more chemicals known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling." It's exactly the kind of thing we as Americans expect our government agencies to protect us from.My shock quickly turned to fear. Did my son handle the tool, had I rubbed my eyes, wiped my mouth or face, had I handled any food? I was terrified by the thought of what I may have been exposed to and may exposed others to. This is the kind of thing you hear about happening in other country's but would never expect in the richest county in the world. How could this be possible?!
What came to mind was the saying "following the money will expose the source".
For me step one was to go to the manufacturer. In this case the Brass Craft tool is manufactured by Cobra Inc, out of New Jersey. Being familiar with OSHA safety regulations I new that if it had risk of chemical contamination there had to be a Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) provided by the manufacturer. Having been in my trade for over thirty years I am accustomed to working with dangerous chemicals; and I know how to protect myself. Having this risk from a common hand tool is something I am very unaccustomed to. After a little research and couple calls to Brass Craft I was able to contact Cobra directly. Initially, my inquiry for documentation was tossed from one department to another, finally settling in customer service. The manager in CS told me she would check on availability of the documentation I had requested and get back to me via email as long as I submitted a written request to her, claiming proprietary manufacturing information as a motive to withhold the information because I may be a spy for a competition of theirs. Now there's a red flag if I've ever heard one! She immediately began a defensive pitch about having done extensive testing for lead content of the powder coating finish on the tool. sighting California's prop 65 required as the cause for the labeling even though they claimed no contamination risk. Does anyone else find something wrong with this picture?
As of this posting I have not received the documentation I have requested from Cobra/Brass Craft. I will update this story as soon as I have more to disclose; until then "Buyer Beware"!
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