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CU testimony on toy safety in the Senate

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

CPSC Starved for Resources;
Consumers Union Calls for More Funding and Tools to ensure the safety of toys and other products

Washington, DC— The recent avalanche of toy recalls, involving Chinese-made toys made with excessive lead levels of paint, has exposed millions of children to a highly toxic substance and created a crisis of confidence among consumers, according to Consumers Union’s testimony presented before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.
Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is calling for an infusion of funding and new tools to strengthen the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s ability to address the alarming problem of unsafe and tainted products entering the country.
“The CPSC, the watchdog agency that is charged with ensuring the safety of over 15,000 types of products bought and sold in the United States, has no bark and no bite,” said Sally Greenberg, Senior Product Safety Counsel. According to Greenberg, “The CPSC needs more inspectors and investigators to ensure safety and restore consumer confidence.”
CPSC began operating in 1974 with a staff of nearly 800 and a budget of $34.7 million—the equivalent of $125 million in today’s dollars. Over the past 30 years, the CPSC’s staff has fallen to around 400 employees with a budget of $63.25 million –roughly half of the level of funding thirty years ago when taking into account inflation.
“Today consumers are worried that they can’t trust the toy industry or the government to keep their children safe,” added Greenberg. This summer CPSC recalled millions of Chinese-made toys for having highly toxic levels of lead in their paint. CPSC Acting Commissioner Nancy Nord recently claimed that the Commission is doing more to protect consumers than any other time in history.
“We disagree. We believe the agency hasn’t used its full regulatory authority to aggressively move against companies that violate its rules, and has refused to request more funding and resources even while admitting it cannot carry out core functions,” added Greenberg. “Never before has the CPSC been so challenged as an agency. We hope the agency will embrace proposed budget increases and enhanced powers as put forth by several members of Congress, including Senators Durbin, Nelson, and Klobuchar,” noted Greenberg.
The testimony details the Commission’s need of strong leadership, an increase in the amounts the agency can fine a noncompliant company, and greater public disclosure about unsafe products.
Jennifer Fuson, 202-462-6262
For a copy of the testimony, click here.