THE BLOG
08/01/2011 07:00 pm ET | Updated Oct 01, 2011

Five Big Wins for Consumers, A Loss for Advocates of Delay and Distortion

Five great steps forward in consumer safety have been taken by your United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the past month:

  • On July 1, the CPSC voted unanimously to approve a new federal safety rule prohibiting drawstrings in children's upper outerwear.
  • On July 15, the CPSC ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support a conclusion that manufacturers of children's products sold in the United States could not meet a total lead content limit of 100 parts per million (ppm), allowing consumers to rest assured that lead should be virtually nonexistent in toys and other children's products.
  • On July 20, the CPSC voted to put in place procedures that will require meaningful, independent third-party toy safety testing.
  • Last week, we voted to put in place procedures that will require meaningful, independent third-party safety testing to ensure that companies meet strict federal limits on the use of chemicals known as phthalates in children's toys and child care articles. Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics more flexible, but six of them are banned in toys and child care products, if they exceed the federal limit of 0.1 percent.

In the course of just one month, we have taken concrete steps to reduce the risk of child strangulations on drawstrings in outerwear; mandate independent testing for children's toys and child care articles in 2012; and put makers of toys and children's products on notice that on Aug. 14, 2011, the total lead limit in the United States will drop to one of the lowest levels in the world (.01 percent). This is in addition to the major victory for parents and caregivers in June when the toughest crib safety standards in the world went into effect.

Taken together, these five actions will prevent numerous needless injuries and deaths of infants and children.

We are not -- as some have asserted -- advancing an "agenda" that my office manufactured on its own. To the contrary, the Commission's work is focused on meaningful implementation of a child safety law that was passed almost unanimously by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2008. The law, called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), made CPSC stronger and more capable of preventing a repeat of the leaded toy and defective crib crises of 2007 and 2008.

Since I took over as Chairman of CPSC in July 2009, we have made great strides in doing the hard work of putting the law into effect and strengthening the nation's product safety net. Much of the credit goes to the tireless work of the CPSC staff -- a staff made up of parents and grandparents who are also consumers.

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The U.S. Consumer Safety Commission has five commissioners -- two Democrats, two Republicans, and the Chairman traditionally represents the same party as the President. Under the current Administration, the three Democrats are the majority party and the two Republicans are the minority party. We have made great progress at CPSC, and at times, our achievements have come with support from the two Commissioners in the minority party. Though, consumers should know that vigorous resistance is the rule, rather than the exception, with these two Commissioners. Through a coordinated campaign, these Commissioners have sought to delay and distort our actions in an attempt to circumvent the will of American families and Congress. Their tactics have been unsuccessful, as demonstrated by the strength of the new safety measures we have established. In the CPSIA, Congress directed CPSC to create a publicly searchable online database of safety-related incident reports. Last November, the minority party Commissioners sought to delay its creation, limit is usefulness, and distort how it would be used by the public. They lost that battle to hide these reports from the public, and our database went live this March. As I expected, our new SaferProducts.gov database has become a model of openness and transparency and a valuable resource for consumers. It has more than 1,600 searchable reports, with almost all of them submitted by consumers who want to inform the government and other consumers about safety risks. Yet, even today, the minority party Commissioners are supporting calls from a few members of Congress to defund the database -- a database with hundreds of thousands of visitors and page views each month. We faced another example of this obstructionism in our effort to make sure cribs are safe. From November 2007 to April 2010, there were 36 deaths associated with crib structural defects. To address this critical issue, the Commission voted unanimously last December to establish new crib safety rules. Sadly, two of my colleagues in the minority party then attempted to delay the rules from going into effect last month. They were for it, and then they were against it, all in an effort to put the interests of a few retailers over the interests of hundreds of thousands of parents and very young children. Through the CPSIA, Congress required CPSC to put stronger product safety measures in place, particularly for children. This action reflected the belief that the marketplace had failed to address certain known hazards and that the nation's product safety laws required an overhaul. Indeed, Congress felt so strongly that it mandated very short deadlines for the agency to implement these much needed improvements to children's safety and also enabled CPSC to put certain child safety rules in place without requiring a time consuming, exhaustive cost-benefit analysis. The recognition of the importance of our new safety rules is being expressed by parents, doctors, safety advocates, and, yes, many businesses. It is ironic that the minority party Commissioners and certain cynical special interests continue to gesture wildly, alleging a failure to take the concerns of businesses into account, while many safety-conscious companies have been manufacturing, testing, and selling children's products for nearly three years that meet and exceed the requirements set by Congress. The minority party's approach does not solve problems and does not serve the public interest. The Consumer Product Safety Commission under my stewardship will not succumb to efforts to undermine this law. Like justice, safety delayed is safety denied. With the first new crib standard in 30 years now in effect; the consumer empowering SaferProducts.gov public database up and running; and lead, other toxic metals, and harmful chemicals being kept out of children's products, CPSC is celebrating a series of tremendous wins for product safety. This is government in action and government that serves the interests of consumers.