August 4, 2008
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Washington, DC – The National Consumers League commended the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for passing “truly historic reforms in the way we deal with consumer products” – reforms the League’s Executive Director, Sally Greenberg, said were “mere pipe dreams only a few years ago.” First and foremost, “the bill will provide badly needed improvements that will help enormously in keeping kids safe,” Greenberg said. The bill, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, awaits the President’s signature.
Greenberg noted that the presence of excessive levels of lead discovered in toys only a few years ago was a “wakeup call to consumers and Congress,” and opened the door to broad and badly needed reforms of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, its budget, and its underlying statute.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission was “withering on the vine” Greenberg said, despite being the only federal agency charged with keeping over 15,000 consumer products – many of them children’s products safe. Traditionally underfunded and under the radar screen, the CPSC was operating with half the employees it began with in the mid-1970s and a fraction of its original budget, while the number of consumer products has increased exponentially.
“To the credit of consumer advocates, they rolled up their sleeves and worked closely with Congress, notably Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), Chairman Mark Pryor (D-AR), Senator John Sununu (R-NH), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Ultimately they came up with historic reforms aimed at a system in deep need of repair. Greenberg noted the bi-partisan support for the bill, and the positive comments of the head of the Toy Industry of America, who called the bill’s passage “the right thing to do.”
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 will:
- Effectively ban lead from children’s toys, a position NCL has long endorsed. Lead is a proven toxin for children’s development and can do lifelong damage. No object intended for use by children should contain anything but the most minute amounts of lead.
- Require toymakers to have independent labs to test products before they are sold; many consumers assumed this was happening already, but instead, too many toys and products intended for use by children were introduced into the marketplace without proper testing and analysis. Consumers may eventually see labels certifying toys have been tested before being sold, and consumers buying online or through a catalog will be able to see the same warning label that appears on packaging to warn parents of small parts or other potential hazards.
- Allow the CPSC to post information about products that consumers have reported to the agency as being dangerous or defective; other federal agencies allow consumers to go to their Web sites to check on products before they purchase them. A provision of CPSC’s law prevented it from posting this information until the agency checked in with the manufacturer. That will change under the new law.
- Increase fines against companies who fail to report to the CPSC– as required by the statute - evidence that a product may be present a substantial product hazard.
- Allow state attorneys general to help enforce federal product safety laws and take manufacturers to court to keep dangerous products off the market. This is important. Attorneys general play a critical health and safety role for their own citizens. These state officials have often incubated consumer cases and protections that would take the federal government far longer to adopt.
- Give this beleaguered agency the funding it needs to carry out its many and growing responsibilities. The CPSC budget will nearly double to $136 million, from $80 million for this fiscal year; the agency has already hired additional inspectors for the nation's largest ports, where dangerous imports can enter the country currently unnoticed because of weak enforcement.
Finally, the bill contains a provision that Greenberg said consumer advocates and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) had been working on for years. Named after a little boy who died when a recalled portable crib collapsed, choking him, the Danny Keysar Product Safety Notification Act, which is contained within the new bill, would require mandatory standards and testing for specific infant and toddler products, ban the sale, lease or use in commercial settings of cribs that do not meet current safety standards, and would require manufacturers to include product registration cards with new products to facilitate notice of recalled products.
About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.