CPSC's Sole Toy Tester Retires, Nation Chokes On Tears

Tragedy struck last week in Washington as the nation’s sole full-time toy tester, Robert L. Hundemer, retired from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Hundemer unwittingly became the symbol of the CPSC’s inability to ensure the safety of the nation’s toys when, during Congressional testimony, CPSC Chair Nancy Nord repeatedly referred to him as “Bob, our small parts guy.”

Bob, our small parts guy, came to the CPSC after he was fired from a chain saw manufacturing company for reporting a safety defect. He became the nation’s full time toy tester shortly after writing the regulations that prevent accidental chain saw decapitations.

“I can’t have knowledge something is unsafe and not say anything,” he said.

What he liked most about working in government was that he could speak his mind.

“When I saw something I didn’t like, I could say something,” he said. “I could do that without fear of getting my head chopped off.”

He also liked being in the business of helping to save lives. He’s worked on voluntary standards and regulations that have helped prevent children from getting killed or hurt using baby walkers, cribs and trampolines. He spent his last few weeks at the CPSC investigating the death of an infant in a crib. Almost all the deaths he has investigated over the years stay with him. He can recall in vivid detail autopsy photos he saw 20 years ago.

Preventing deaths and injuries is what kept him and his colleagues going through years of budget cuts.

“We didn’t say, ‘We don’t have any money. We don’t give a damn.’ We said, ‘We don’t have any money, how do we do it anyway?’ ” he said.

Bob is a shining example for all civil servants. He will be sorely missed.

Looks%20Very%20Dangerous.jpgNancy Nord has announced that Bob’s responsibilities will be assumed by other Commission staffers, but we think the world’s wealthiest nation can afford at least one full-time toy tester. We here at The Consumerist know that Nancy considers the safety of America’s children to be her foremost concern, which is why we heartily nominate our own Senior Editor, Meghann Marco (pictured right, inspecting toys,) to fill Bob’s lead-detecting shoes. She always takes gravity seriously, even before a toy is dropped. Her sharp eye is eager to protect us from the most dangerous playthings American toy designers can order from China. Watch for her application, Chairwoman Nord.

Goodbye to Bob [Washington Post]
(Photo: Annys Shin/Washington Post)

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  1. Myotheralt says:

    “I could do that without fear of getting my head chopped off.”
    Because he actualy wrote the book on how to prevent accidental chain
    saw decapitations.

  2. erica.blog says:

    It’s never happy when one of the rare good guys is lost. Thank you for years of making my kids safer, Bob!

  3. ShadowFalls says:

    I guess he didn’t want to take the blame for everything which is what government organizations like to do. They like to put the blame onto someone else, that way you overlook the real problem.

  4. TMurphy says:

    If congress gives up this year’s COLA pay raise, we could afford to make a couple of (very well paid) positions to make up for his retirement… Think of the children.

    But seriously, I hope congress does something more than tell a few people to add more to their workload.

  5. ImmaterialGirl says:

    The idea of being a toy tester sounded fun until I got to the words “autopsy photos.”

    In all seriousness, I hope the government finds a replacement for him and soon.

  6. FessLove says:

    I SSSSOOOO want that job. Toy Tester. Its like working at Toys R Us, but no little kids running around. Amazing

  7. newtonite says:

    Was the Consumer Products toy testing division fully staffed before Bush?

  8. Buran says:

    I don’t see how he thinks quitting will solve the problem. Now it means we have NO toy testers. Isn’t that a lot worse?

  9. mopar_man says:

    I see China taking this opportunity to pump as much lead into their products as possible.

  10. PICKLES_IN_MY_TUNA says:

    Losing someone like Bob SUCKS! Not being able to replace Bob sucks even more. Our priorities in this country are so ass backwards most of the time.

    @mopar_man: I have seriously made all efforts possible to not buy anything made in China. My distrust and disgust for China rages on and will continue into the foreseeable future…maybe forever. I also will not support those companies that continue to do business as usual (recalled toys still being sold!?). I WILL NOT give my money to a company or country that thinks it’s OK to poison my children or pets. Screw that.

  11. Rachacha says:

    @newtonite: To answer your question…NO. CPSC has been in a “Flat budget” (No additional funds were appropriated, but no funds were taken away) for many years. While this may not seem bad, when you have legally mandated pay raises for all employees and no additional funds to pay for those mandated raises, you need to cut staff. Most government agencies (or private corporations) can survive for a year or two on a flat budget, but not for 10+ years with only an occasional 1-2% increase in budget. Over the last 20 years they have lost almost 50% of their staff.
    To others:
    If you read the article, Bob was primarily responsible for testing small parts on toys, not lead, and there are other individuals involved in testing toys at CPSC, but because of the cuts, not enough.

  12. Trai_Dep says:

    I can totally see the Republican types getting all apoplectic over the thought of a conscientious civil servant, unmotivated by modest salary and ever-shrinking budgets, in the bowels of “their” government, saving innocent children from being maimed or killed.

    I can see them in a circle, celebrating, champaign glasses in hand, toasting, “To ruined childrens’ lives,” returned with a cheering chorus of “Hear, hear!” And they chuckle then return to their offices where they can charge off another half-trillion dollars on strangers’ children who will be forced to pay off the debt.

  13. banmojo says:

    @trai_dep: I’m overall conservative, but do not claim a party due to my belief that every issue needs to be looked at and decided on by itself, not as a part of a sweeping platform (which you appear to follow, my dear sheepson). While I do believe that people who work should not have to take care of people who could work, but do not, I also support education, public libraries, and protected forests (which sometimes meaning burning part of them down, actually and ironically). You, dear sheepson, need to rethink your party’s platform and realize that your shit also stinks.

  14. econobiker says:

    Maybe he has a lobbiest job lined up, like as a representative for the Chinese toy industry to help tell the US government why we should not test imported toys….

  15. anon23 says:

    I feel so sorry for that man his sole must have been killed a long time ago, and for the children who risk death every thime they play with a toy.