Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats Fighting to Protect the Safety of America’s Children

This week, Senate Democrats highlighted their measure to bring accountability and oversight to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).However, it has been reported that the head of the Bush Administration’s CPSC opposed Congressional attempts to boost the agency’s ability to inspect products, stop the sale of recalled products and fine retailers. Senate Democrats have taken the lead to ensure parents feel confident the products they buy for their children receive the highest possible scrutiny before hitting the shelves.

Both Senators Mark Pryor and Dick Durbin have lead the charge for greater accountability in consumer product safety. “Katrina taught us that when the head of a public safety agency ignores reality, refuses to act and is unwilling to heed the advice of professionals, ordinary families pay the price.” Senator Pryor added, “We’re one step closer to answering the call of moms and dads around the country who want the CPSC to stop dangerous toys and products from ending up in their homes. I can appreciate the industry’s gut reaction to act in their interest, but Congress and the President need to act in the public interest. Moreover, the acting Chair of the CPSC should be leading the way, not dragging her feet. Our kids’ safety is at stake.”

Bush Administration refused assistance from Democrats to strengthen the consumer products safety commission:

The Chairwoman of the Consumer Products Safety Commission Refused Enhanced Oversight and Funds for Her Agency. Nancy Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff. Nord was critical of a number of provisions in the Senate bill, including one that bans lead from all toys. She also opposed the proposal to raise the civil penalty to $100 million and criticized a provision that would give state prosecutors the authority to enforce the federal consumer safety laws. [Washington Post, 10/29/07]

The Head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission Curiously Claimed Senate Efforts Expand the Agency’s Authority Would “Put The American People at Greater Risk.” The chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission said the Senate bill, which would more than double the agency’s budget and expand its authority, would be too difficult for the agency to implement and “put the American people at greater risk.” “It is my and the CPSC staff’s assessment that many of our existing public safety activities would have to be severely curtailed or would cease entirely in order to attempt to fulfill all of the bill’s proposed statutory directives,” acting chairwoman Nancy Nord wrote in a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI). [Washington Post, 10/26/07]

> In the Last Four Months, More Than Toys From China Have Been Recalled Worldwide Due to Dangerous Levels of Lead. More than 20 million toys made in China have been recalled worldwide over the past four months due to potentially dangerous levels of lead and hazards posed by small magnets that can be swallowed. [Reuters, 10/29/07]

> On Halloween, CPSC Recalled Halloween Fake Teeth. “About 43,000 Chinese-made fake teeth sold as Halloween party favors have been recalled because they contain unsafe levels of lead paint, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Wednesday.” [Reuters, 11/1/07]

Highlights of Senate Democratic efforts to strengthen the consumer products safety commission:

Senate Democrats Have Drafted a Bill to Give the Consumer Produce Safety Commission Greater Authority to Inspect and Recall Products. Senators Pryor, along with other Senate Democrats have drafted a bill to that will enhance the Commission’s authority to conduct oversight of consumer products and gives the Commission the tools to do so.  

Below are Highlights of the CPSC Reform Act of 2007:

> The bill would increase funding for the CPSC on a progressive basis, starting at $80 million in FY09 and rising to $141.725 million in FY2015. The bill would also authorize $20 million in increased funding for the CPSC lab and would direct the CPSC to increase its staff level to 500 full-time employees by 2013, a staffing increase of 20 percent.

> The bill would give teeth to criminal penalties issued by the CPSC, increasing to five years in jail the penalty for those who knowingly and willingly violate product safety laws.

> The bill dramatically raises the cap on civil fines from $1.25 million $100 million, providing a serious incentive to ensure products are safe.

> The bill requires manufacturers of children’s products to have all of their products tested and certified by third party laboratories before being released on the U.S. market. The bill would also direct CPSC to establish criteria and protocols for credentialing third party laboratories.

> The bill would ban the use of lead in all children’s products – from lunch boxes to jewelry to toys — above absolutely minimal levels. It would also ban lead above .009% in all types of surface paints.

> Allows state Attorneys General to bring civil action on behalf of its residents to enforce product safety laws and obtain damages and restitution;

> Provides whistleblower protections for manufacturers’ and importers’ employees to shed light on any problems along the supply chain;

> The bill would make it illegal to knowingly sell a recalled product and would establish civil penalties for retailers that violate this law.

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