Inez Tenenbaum Archives - Shopfloor

The CPSIA, Preventing Action on More Serious Risks

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The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial and General Government on Thursday held a budget hearing on the Consumer Product Safety Commission, with testimony from CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Commissioner Anne Northup.

Commissioner Northup’s statement highlights all the problems that can occur when regulatory agencies abandon risk-based analysis, forced in this case by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Very good statement:

In both 2009 and 2010, the CPSC focused its time and resources principally on implementing the CPSIA. Although the Commission is a relatively small agency (FY 2010 funding of $118.2 million), its budget has grown by nearly 48 percent since the law’s passage in 2008, with both old and new resources shifted away from risk-based priorities to implement the arbitrary, non risk-based mandates of the CPSIA, including the lead content and phthalates bans, the Public Database, and the third-party testing, certification and labeling requirements. Over the past two and one-half years, the Commission has issued an estimated 3,500 pages of regulations and guidance documents as a result of the CPSIA—a large portion of which must be read and understood by every affected company in order for them to grasp the law’s complex requirements.

The diversion of the Commission’s resources to CPSIA implementation reduces our focus on genuine safety hazards. Our agency is charged with “protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death” from consumer products—but we cannot fulfill this mission if our time is spent primarily enforcing the CPSIA, including its non-risk-based lead content and testing requirements.

CPSIA Update: How to Fix the CPSC Erratabase

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Testifying at a House hearing Thursday, Vice President Wayne Morris of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) did an able job reporting the concerns of manufacturers about a new product safety complaint database being launched by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Morris was a witness at the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing and Trade’s hearing, “A Review of CPSIA and CPSC Resources.” (His prepared statement is here.) As AHAM’s news release summarizes:

AHAM’s testimony supports the creation of a public database and supports the funding necessary to properly execute this undertaking. However, it also AHAM’s viewpoint that the current design and operation of the web site decreases the quality and accuracy of information that will keep consumers safe, places unreasonable burdens on manufacturers, and does not require timely resolution of good faith material inaccuracy claims.

Manufacturers have proposed many ways to fix the database, Saferproducts.gov, as Morris made specific recommendations:

• Information should not be added to the public database while there is a pending claim of material inaccuracy.
• Eligible reporters to the database should be limited to those with first-hand information about the harm or with a relationship to the consumer – which, AHAM pointed out, was Congress’s intent.
• Registration of model or other descriptor information should be required where available. AHAM acknowledged that such information would be difficult to determine for some consumer products (such as rubber balls).

In her prepared statement, CPSC Commissioner Anne Northup called for Congress to enact two major changes to the way the commission does business, including modifications to improve the value of the product safety database. She testified that Congress, through the appropriations process, could immediately: Read More

CPSIA Update: House Hearing to Examine CPSC, Including Erratabase

By | Briefly Legal, Regulations | 2 Comments

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade has an excellent line-up of witnesses scheduled for its hearing Thursday on the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

The first panel includes two CPSC commissioners, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Anne Northup. The second panel:

  • Ms. Jolie Fay, founder of Skipping Hippos and secretary for the Handmade Toy Alliance.
  • Mr. Wayne Morris, vice president for division services, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers
  • Mr. Rick Woldenberg, chairman of Learning Resources, Inc., an educational games and resources company
  • Ms. Nancy A. Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger

The Handmade Toys Alliance has emerged as the most effective grassroots organization in explaining how the CPSIA has done so much damage to small business operators who make hand-crafted products at home or in small shops. Many have been driven out of business by the CPSIA’s regulatory inflexibility and costs.

Wayne Morris represents manufacturers and will offer views of the threat posed by the new product safety database, which the CPSC has designed in such a way to invite inaccurate or even false complaints that could do damage to a company’s reputation with no effective recourse. Most troubling is the CPSC’s decision to expand the definition of those who can make complaints via the database, potentially allowing trial lawyers or activists to submit inflammatory comments for pecuniary or political reasons.

Rick Woldenberg is the tireless advocate for regulations that recognize the real world of business — the real world, period. His advocacy at the blog, CPSIA – Comments & Observations, has really moved the debate.

Strangely, on the eve of the hearing, Chairman Tenenbaum has chosen to publish a blog post about the complaint database cosigned by U.S. PIRG’s public health advocate, Liz Hitchcock. The post urges U.S. PIRG members to use the public safety database, but Congress never approved making such “consumer activist” groups acceptable reporters under the CPSIA. The definition of who qualifies to lodge a complaint was expanded far beyond the statute by a majority vote of the CPSC, led by Chairman Tenenbaum, and it’s that expansion that debases the database. Tenenbaum’s co-blogging at the site of a leading left-leaning activist group immediately before the hearing almost looks like a conscious poke in the eye to committee members.

UPDATE (9:20 a.m. Thursday): Rick Woldenberg covers the news leading up to today’s committee hearing.

CPSIA Update: CPSC Extends Deadline for Lead Testing, Certification

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 1, voted 4-1 to extend the deadline to Dec. 31 for third-party product testing and certification for lead content under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Only Commissioner Robert Adler voted against the extension.

The CPSC’s news release is here, and the draft statement for the Federal Register is here.

Commissioner Nancy Nord said:

This extension will … give the agency more time to complete the component testing proposed rule and the testing and certification proposed rule. Both these rules need to be in place before the stay of enforcement is lifted. While I would have preferred to specifically tie the lifting of the stay to the issuance of these rules, the December date gives everyone—the agency and manufacturers–a bit more time to prepare.

The stay of enforcement does not relieve anyone from complying with the underlying lead regulations. Therefore, consumer safety is not impacted by the agency’s action. Instead we have pushed off for a bit longer this burdensome third-party testing requirement. However, unless Congress changes the law, the testing requirement will go into effect at the end of December.

The National Association of Manufacturers and members of the NAM’s CPSC Coalition had sought the extension. We appreciate the CPSC’s decision that reflects the real obstacles businesses had encountered in trying to meet the unworkable requirements, and certainly agree with Commissioner Nord that Congress needs to fix the fundamentally flawed Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

More …

  • Statement of Chairman Inez M. Tenenbaum on the Commission Approval of a Final Extension of the Lead Content Testing and Certification Stay of Enforcement, February 2, 2011 (pdf)
  • Statement of Commissioner Robert S. Adler Regarding the Extension of CPSC Stay of Enforcement of Testing and Certification Requirements on Lead Content in Children’s Products, February 1, 2011 (pdf)
  • Statement of Commissioner Anne M. Northup on the Extension of the Stay of Enforcement on the Testing and Certification of Certain Children’s Products for Total Lead Content, February 2, 2011 (pdf)

Moving Toward Federal Regulation of Nanotechnology

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Nanotechnology will be on the table when the House Science Committee holds a hearing Wednesday, “The Future of Manufacturing: What is the Role of the Federal Government in Supporting Innovation by U.S. Manufacturers?” Among those testifying is Mark Tuominen, Ph.D., director of the National Manufacturing Network.

The multiagency federal National Nanotechnology Initiative last month released its 2011 budget proposal. In his introductory letter, Presidential Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren, wrote, “Nanotechnology R&D constitutes a core building block of innovation that will ultimately accelerate job creation and transform many sectors of our economy through commercialization.” Can regulation be far behind?

Federal oversight of nanotechnology-containing consumer products was a topic of discussion at the March 4 hearing on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s budget before the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.

In her prepared statement, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum noted the CPSC’s FY 2011 budget request called for $2 million to support the federal National Nanotechnology Initiative. She said:

In the last few years, there has been increasing public concern about potential health impacts associated with this technology. Although nanomaterials may have the same chemical composition as non-nanomaterials, at the nanonscale they may demonstrate different physical and chemical properties – and behave diferently in the environment and the human body.

The $2 million proposed will alow the Commission to conduct exposure and risk assessments of nanomaterials, allow for database updates to properly flag reports of nanotechnology incidents with consumer products, and conduct consumer outreach efforts such as public meetings. Perhaps even more importantly, it will allow the Commission to take a very proactive approach to this emerging issue, rather than merely reacting to incident reports after they are received.

In her statement, Commissioner Nancy Nord said, “This is an area where I have an especially strong interest and am pleased to see the agency take a strong role as nanomaterials transition from the research laboratory to the consumer market.”

The technology’s move — already well under way — to the marketplace is certainly welcome. One hopes regulators show restraint as they react so as to not endanger this “core building block of innovation.”

CPSIA Update: Commissioner Nord Says ‘Fix’ Falls Short

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Commissioner Nancy Nord of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) writes at her blog, Conversations with Consumers about draft legislation to fix the excesses of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. From the post, “Does the Fix Need a Fix?”:

On February 5, I wrote here that the Congress was considering making changes to the CPSIA. That’s moved to the next step: the five CPSC Commissioners have now been asked to comment on draft legislation to address the unintended consequences of the CPSIA.  Because it has not yet been introduced, it is not officially available but you can read the draft bill analyzed in several blogs including Learning Resources and Shopfloor.

For almost two years we have been talking about the problems with this well-intended but flawed legislation.  I am so pleased that Congress is now willing to begin the process of fixing some of the problems with this law.  While some proposed language is helpful,  my reading overall is the fixes do not meet the mark with respect to focusing on the real safety risk.

For more on the draft legislation being circulated by Chairman Waxman’s staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, see our post Monday, “CPSIA Update: House Energy and Commerce Offers Fix.”

Nord raised the many problems with the CPSIA in her prepared testimony at the CPSC’s budget hearing March 4 before the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. In offering a solid list of recommendations to improve the law, Nord reported:

Small businesses have been especially hurt by the sweep of this law. The agency has not done a full economic impact on the effects of CPSIA on small businesses; however anecdotal information puts the impact in the billions of dollars range. We know that many small businesses have been put out of business or have left the children’s products market.

CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum was the chief witness at the appropriations hearing, and in her statement restricted her comments on the CPSIA to the costs of implementing the law. Some might argue that an appropriations hearing is not the correct venue to raise policy disputes, but then, Congress has been awfully reluctant to address the manifest excesses and economic harm of the law. Best engage the issue when you can. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act became law on Aug. 14, 2008.

We see that Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Rep. Heath Schuler (D-NC) this month introduced H.R.4767 to exempt ordinary books and paper-based printed material from the CPSIA’s lead limit.

That’s a laudable goal, but the problems are too many and too severe for piecemeal solutions. Best that Congress fix the problems through a solid, far-reaching piece of legislation, which we can call the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act Improvement Act. Or, if clarity helps, the Fixing the Mistakes We Made in 2008 in Passing the CPSIA Act.

Accountability, Studies and Chinese Drywall

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Along with implementing the overreaching Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s other priority this year has been addressing public complaints about contaminated Chinese drywall. The housing boom and post-Katrina reconstruction led to a shortage of domestic drywall, with imports of the Chinese product filling the gap. But the Chinese drywall has reportedly caused health problems in the people who live or work in the buildings — especially across southern states where the product is more prevalent.

On Thursday, the CPSC and other federal agencies released the initial results of a round of tests on domestic and imported drywall. The key findings:

The study found that sulfur gases were either not present or were present in only limited or occasional concentrations inside the homes, and only when outdoor levels of sulfur compounds in the air were elevated.

The indoor air study did lead to a preliminary finding of detectable concentrations of two known irritant compounds, called acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. These irritant compounds were detected in homes both with and without Chinese drywall, and at concentrations that could worsen conditions such as asthma in sensitive populations, when air conditioners were not working or turned off. The levels of formaldehyde were not unusual for new homes and were higher in homes where air conditioners were not working or turned off.

Although formaldehyde was found, when the air conditioning was turned on, it was not at levels that have been found to cause health symptoms.

The CPSC is quick to emphasize that these are only initial findings, reports continue to come in, and there is much more work to do. The commission has developed a good website with resources, the Drywall Information Center.

For now, we’ll say Chairman Inez Tenenbaum delivered good remarks in Beijing on Monday at the U.S.-China Consumer Product Safety Summit:

The seriousness of this issue can not be underestimated. I appeal to companies in the Chinese drywall supply chain to examine carefully their responsibilities to U.S. consumers who are suffering from problems in their homes and to do what is fair and just in each case, if their products are involved and I want to underscore if their products are involved.

That’s right. Foreign manufacturers need to accept responsibility for their products.

News coverage…

CPSIA Update: It’s Time for a Senate Hearing

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When Inez Tenenbaum went before the Senate Commerce Committee on June 16 for her confirmation hearing to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission, she eschewed substantive commentary on the controversial Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), saying she hoped to practice “common sense.” The disastrous CPSIA has provoked outrage among many business owners, but nominees often avoid hot-button topics and Tenenbaum’s reticence was accepted.

Still, Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), chairing the session, did suggest she get up to speed and come back for a hearing he would call on the CPSIA, perhaps 60 days after her confirmation.

Well, the full Senate confirmed now-Chairman Tenenbaum on June 19, more than four months ago. She’s had time to travel to China, meet with many, many constituency groups and vote on CPSIA-related rules.

So it’s past time for the Senate and Tenenbaum to engage publicly on the business-destroying CPSIA. Today, 41 trade associations including the National Association of Manufacturers wrote Senator Pryor calling for a committee hearing on the new law. (Copy of the letter here.) The gist:

Consumer product safety is very important to the U.S. manufacturers and the retail community. To that end, the business community has made enormous and often costly efforts to comply with this important safety law. However, the CPSIA’s unintended consequences are causing confusion for consumers and economic damage to our members across the country, especially small businesses. Safe products are being pulled from store shelves because of fear, confusion, and a lack of guidance from the regulatory authorities.

As you know, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection held an oversight hearing on the CPSIA on September 10. Chairman Tenenbaum was the only witness at this hearing.

At the Senate hearing, we hope that Chairman Tenenbaum will further detail how the agency will approach the unresolved implementation issues, and we urge you to allow other witnesses to testify at the hearing from the business community so that the Committee obtains a full picture of the outstanding issues related to the law. The manufacturing community appreciated the opportunity to testify before your subcommittee during the development of the CPSIA. As frontline stakeholders in the legislation, we believe the committee would similarly benefit from our perspective on the implementation of the CPSIA.

The various stays of enforcement issued by CPSC to temporarily resolve CPSIA implementation problems will soon expire, and a permanent resolution is needed. We believe that the Senate’s oversight role is extremely important in helping the agency implement common sense solutions to resolve these issues, and we strongly urge you to set a date for a CPSIA oversight hearing.

The list of the groups that joined the letter is in the extended entry below.

Read More

CPSIA Update: Safe from Commerce, Safe from Common Sense

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Walter Olson of the Manhattan Institute summarizes the many deleterious affects of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in the prime editorial spot, the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages. The news peg is last Thursday’s hearing by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce committee, where only Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, was invited to testify.

From “A Destructive Toy Story Made in Washington“:

This law has saddled businesses with billions of dollars in losses on T-shirts, bath toys and other items that were lawful to sell one day and unlawful the next. It has induced thrift and secondhand stores to trash mountains of outgrown blue jeans, bicycles and board games for fear there might be trivial, harmless—but suddenly illegal—quantities of lead in their zippers and valves or phthalates in their plastic spinners. (Phthalates are substances that add flexibility to plastic.) Even classic children’s books are at risk: Because lead was not definitively removed from printing inks until 1985, the CPSC has advised that only kids’ books printed after that date should be considered safe to resell.

Olson also follows up on the underreported angle of the law’s depredations, the product label requirements.

(The) law’s latest shock hit businesses on Aug. 14. That’s when the law’s tracking-label mandate went into effect, requiring that makers of childrens’ goods “place permanent, distinguishing marks on the product and its packaging, to the extent practicable.” The idea is to facilitate recalls and make it easier to trace safety problems. The result will be to capsize yet more small businesses.

In an opening statement at the committee hearing, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) could only bring himself to say that implementation of the CPSIA had been “uneven”:

Now that we are a year away from the recalls, and the most dramatic stories have left the front pages, some suggest that we didn’t really need to enact such a strong law. But the fact remains that the system we had in place was a failure. This law was necessary to protect kids and families across the country.

To retreat now from the proven consumer protections achieved under this law would be a huge mistake.

Is there any wonder that the public is suspicious of other major “reforms” a la health care? In the case of the CPSIA, we have members of Congress and their allies among the “consumer activists” who are so ideologically attached to the legislation that they refuse to countenance any changes to fix the law’s overrreach or to save businesses.

CPSIA Update: A Hearing This Morning on the CPSC

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From the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

Consumer Product Safety Commission Oversight: Current Issues and a Vision for the Future
Friday, 04 September 2009 12:52

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing titled, “Consumer Product Safety Commission Oversight: Current Issues and a Vision for the Future” on Thursday, September 10, 2009, in 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.


* The Honorable Inez Moore Tenenbaum, Chairman, Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act became law on August 14, 2008, and this is the first hearing on the law from a committee of jurisdiction.

Many of the individuals, groups and industries who have been severely harmed by the CPSIA are furious at the hearing being limited to just one witness, Chairman Tenenbaum, believing the lack of business and especially small business testimony will frustrate an open discussion of the law’s excesses.

Here’s the American Motorcyclist Association: “Congressional hearing set for Thursday to get information on the law that bans the sale of dirtbikes and ATVs for kids”

And a letter from the Handmade Toy Alliance.

The Washington Times editorialized today, chiding Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), who has repeatedly rejected an open debate of the law’s deleterious impact on manufacturers and consumers. From “Waxman stifles dissent.”

On Sept. 8, the two congressmen wrote to the chairman again: “We are concerned, however, that a hearing presenting only the opinions of Chairman Tenenbaum, without a second panel of witnesses representing family-owned retailers, tribal stores, toymakers and other affected parties, is very unlikely to cover the surprising and distressing practical problems that have arisen in connection with the implementation of the new law.”

Mr. Waxman never responded to that letter. “The Energy and Commerce Committee is aware of the letter and is taking the request under consideration,” a committee spokesman e-mailed The Washington Times yesterday.

Somehow, we doubt an invitation to outside parties will be issued by the meeting’s 10 a.m. start. A follow-up hearing is warranted. As the old expression goes, the committee ought to “get the lead out” by holding that hearing soon.

We’re a bit more optimistic about there being a worthwhile discussion of the issues today, but if Congress is going to pass laws that cause such harmful unintended consequences, it should hear from the people.

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): More than 100 small businesses sent letters to the committee, an effort organized by Rick Woldenberg and the Alliance for Children’s Product Safety. From the news release:

Whether or not the Subcommittee wants to hear about it, the evidence to date demonstrates that the CPSIA has created chaos and losses for businesses, limiting choices for consumers and creating bureaucratic nightmare for companies trying to comply with the law – all without improving product safety. It’s time for Congress to fix this law.