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You know how we’re always lamenting how lame science kits have become, as hyperactive safety concerns overwhelm common sense and individual responsibility? It may get worse. See the grade school bio sciences kit above, with little more than table salt, vinegar, potting soil, plastic tools, and binder clips? If a new safety ruling takes affect, it could force anyone selling such kits to test every item in them. The ruling may be so broad as to include not only things like office supplies in classroom kits but items like rugs or lamps with images on them that might appeal to children. Anything falling under this broadening “children’s product” category would be subject to stringent and expensive testing.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been mired for weeks in deliberation as it writes guidelines on what makes a product a “children’s product” — and consequently which products would have to undergo more stringent safety testing as part of a 2008 law. Caught up in the debate are the classroom science kits and some of the items they contain, such as paper clips to show kids how magnets work.

Science kit makers argue that having to safety-test everything, from paper clips to rulers to binder clips, would be too expensive and… um… they’re already common household items. That salt and dirt look pretty dangerous, though. I wouldn’t let my kids near such peril.

Kids’ science kits may take hit from safety ruling

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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