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Hazardous products highlight need for reform

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hazardous Product Incidents Highlight Need for Reform of Product Safety System

Washington, DC– Families harmed by hazardous products join Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) and consumer groups to advocate for passage of The CPSC Reform Act (S. 2045), legislation that would give the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) greater resources and tools to protect consumers from unsafe products.
In December, the U.S. House unanimously passed legislation to improve the CPSC, the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of more than 15,000 types of products.
“For years the CPSC has been operating like a toothless tiger with no bark or bite,” said Donald Mays, Senior Director of Product Safety and Technical Public Policy for Consumers Union. “After a year with a record number of recalls, product safety should be a top priority for Congress and the Administration.”
Recalls hit a record 473 during fiscal year 2007. This includes the 25 million toys recalled because of lead paint, tiny magnets, and other hazards. Small magnets accounted for 11 recalls of approximately 13.5 million units and 175 million pieces of children’s jewelry have been recalled over the past few years because they contained lead. The death rate associated with the products under CPSC’s jurisdiction continues at an alarming rate of more than 27,000 per year. According the agency’s own data, deaths, injuries, and property damage cost the nation more than $700 billion annually.
“The CPSC’s a little agency with a big job,” said Ed Mierzwinski U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director. “Now Congress needs to finish its job and give CPSC the tools and resources it needs to protect all Americans, especially children, from dangerous imports and other hazards.”
“Unsafe children’s products not only affect the health, lives and well being of thousands of children and their families each year, but also have shattered consumer’s faith in our nation’s safety net,” said Rachel Weintraub, Director of Product Safety and Senior Counsel for Consumer Federation of America. “To restore consumers’ faith in the market place, Congress must infuse CPSC with more resources and new statutory authority to ensure our childrens’ products are safe.”
The CPSC Reform Act, introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), and co-sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL), would:

• Require childrens’ products, including toys, to be tested by independent labs and to be certified to meet safety standards

• Remove dangerous levels of lead from children’s products

• Make it illegal to sell recalled products

• Improve CPSC’s ability to disclose safety information to the public

• Significantly raise the cap on the penalties that the agency can levy

• Gives State Attorneys General the ability to enforce CPSC regulations

• Provide greater protections for individuals in companies and safety agencies who blow the whistle on wrongdoing

“Parents expect the toys and products they buy for their children to be safe,” added Nancy Cowles, Executive Director, Kids in Danger. “CPSC needs the tools and funding that this legislation provides to hold manufacturers responsible for safe toys, cribs and other products.”
“CPSC staff must have the freedom to do their jobs and warn about unsafe products without fear of intimidation,” said Dr. Francesca Grifo, Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Scientific Integrity Program. “That’s why we strongly support legislative reforms that will encourage the public disclosure of federally funded safety research, and that will support the work of CPSC scientists and technicians.”
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. Congress has increased the CPSC’s budget for next year, raising it to $80 million, $16.75 million more than President Bush’s initial request. The President has asked for $80 million for FY ‘09 for the CPSC.
“The CPSC has been undermined by years of neglect,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “We hope Congress will reinvigorate the CPSC with new authority and more resources so we never have another ‘Year of the Recall.'”
For the latest information on product recalls, see www.NotInMycart.org, a website from Consumers Union, to help educate the public on unsafe products.


Jennifer Fuson (202) 462-6262
Rachel Weintraub, CFA (202) 387-6121
Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG (202) 546-9707
Celia Wexler, UCS (202) 331-6952