Sensible Principles, Fixes and Action for CPSC

By December 2, 2010General, Regulations

Stephen Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, is testifying this morning before a Senate Commerce Committee’s subcommittee hearing, “Oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Product Safety in the Holiday Season.”

Although speaking on behalf of the apparel and footwear industry, Steve’s prepared remarks are right in line with the points the National Association of Manufacturers has raised since the 2008 passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). We’re glad he reminded the committee members of manufacturers’ diligent efforts to ensure the safety of consumer products, and of industry’s support for additional funding and staffing for the CPSC during the congressional debates.

Still, there can be no doubt the legislation does not comport with the real word. In other words, what an expensive, jobs-killing message. From Lamar:

It goes without saying that industry, consumer advocacy groups, bloggers, the media, and various other stakeholders across the spectrum have become more engaged than ever in product safety.

Regrettably, the legislation also mandated a series of controversial changes to the nation’s product safety rules that have created endless confusion, extensive burdens, huge costs, job losses, and irreparable damage to the business community. In many cases, these adverse consequences have come without improvements in product safety or public health. Among other things, the law mandated very strict lead and phthalate content restrictions. It required certifications of compliance for all consumer products for all safety standards, mandating third party testing for those standards involving children’s products (defined as 12 and under). It created a public database of product safety incidents. It authorized enforcement by state attorneys general and created whistleblower provisions. While many of these provisions reflect good intentions, the language of the CPSIA makes many of them difficult, if not impossible, to implement and enforce. Tight deadlines, rigid definitions, retroactively applied standards, requirements that do not reflect risk, and a “one size fits all approach” are all among the many problems that have made CPSIA implementation
challenging.

His testimony addresses one important issue that would make most people’s eyes glaze over, lead substrate. While “consumer activists” can speak broadly and high-mindedly about risks, threats and safety, manufacturers must tackle practical considerations making consumer products.

Steve closes with eight recommendations on product safety, many of which will require Congressional action in 2011.

  • Ensure that all product safety decisions are based on risk and supported
    by data.
  • Give the CPSC more flexibility to interpret CPSIA
  • Ensure that new regulations do not contradict existing ones.
  • Ensure prospective application of all rules
  • Establish deadlines that permit and encourage compliance.
  • Publicize all pending regulatory developments
  • Avoid “One Size Fits All Approaches”
  • There is more to the CPSC than CPSIA
  • Stephen Lamar’s prepared statement is here, and the hearing is being webcast here.

    Join the discussion 2 Comments

    • Carter Wood says:

      I don’t know. It’s a terrible dilemma. Thank you for your comment. cw

    • bkrul says:

      You know, there is nothing in the CPSIA that allows parents to make anything for Christmas gifts for kids outside their immediate family (such as stepchildren, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.) Maybe you can get away with it if it is your own child, but if I want to make anything for a niece or nephew or grandchild, it is illegal unless I have the product tested, apply appropriate labels, and keep detailed records for eternity. The same applies to any purchased product that needs to be assembled before use. Once your own child has outgrown a product you have made, it cannot be donated or sold unless it also complies with CPSIA regulations. At this point, I can’t even sew anything for my little relatives because the labeling and paperwork issue is just nuts. CPSIA is ruining how parents, families, and caretakers take care of these little ones.

      When you think about it, wouldn’t helping family and friends move items to a new home, assemble items (like toys and kids’ furniture), repair broken items or alter them for better use all be considered illegal under the CPSIA?

      If I am wrong about the above, tell me where the dividing line is.

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