Today, Senate Democrats will introduce legislation to substantially increase the budget and enforcement capacity of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, given the alarming rise in recalled children’s toys. Last year alone, over 20 million toys were recalled because of the hazard they posed to children. Unfortunately, the Commission, which during the Bush administration only hired one full-time toy tester, opposes the Senate’s efforts to increase its capacity, claiming they would be unnecessary and too difficult to implement. Given the risk posed by the Bush Administration’s dismal record overseeing imported toys and products, numerous consumer groups have joined Senate Democrats in an effort to pass this measure.
Senate Democrats aim to reform and strengthen the consumer products safety commision:
Highlights of the CPSC Reform Act:
- The Senate bill authorizes funding levels for 7 years starting at $88.5 million in 2009 and increasing at a rate of 10 percent per year through 2015. For 2009 and 2010, an additional $40 million would be authorized to upgrade CPSC’s laboratories.
- The Senate bill bans the direct use of lead in all children’s products, from lunch boxes to toys, and requires third party safety certification on children’s products that enters the United States.
- The Senate bill provides whistleblower protection for employees of manufacturers and importers to shed light on any problems along the supply chain.
- The Senate bill makes it unlawful for retailers to sell a recalled product.
- The Senate bill increases criminal penalties to five years in jail for those who knowingly and willingly violate product safety laws. It also increases the civil fine penalty cap up to $20 million from the current level of $1.8 million.
- The Senate bill allows state Attorneys General to obtain injunctive relief on behalf of their residents to enforce product safety laws.
Leading consumer adovovacy groups have opposed Senator DeMint’s efforts to undermine the Senate bill:
Consumer Groups Support Passage of the Bill, Called Attacks on the Measure False. Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Kids in Danger, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Citizen released a statement rebutting charges made against the Senate Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act. The groups “condemned false charges from the office of Sen. Jim DeMint, released through the Republican Steering Committee, against a Senate bill that would overhaul the ailing Consumer Product Safety Commission.” [Consumers Union, 2/29/08]
The Bush Administration has undermined consumer product safety, leaving the industry unchecked:
The Head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Curiously Claimed Senate Efforts To Expand The Agency’s Authority Would “Put The American People at Greater Risk.” The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s chairwoman said Senate efforts to 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. [Washington Post, 10/26/07]
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission Estimated That Products Under Its Jurisdiction Are Related to over 28,000 Deaths and 33 million Injuries Annually. In recent years, there was an annual average of about 28,200 deaths and 33.6 million injuries related to, but not necessarily caused by, consumer products under the Commission’s jurisdiction, according to a 2007 report. [Consumer Product Safety Commission: 2007 Performance and Accountability Report]
Top Officials at the Consumer Product Safety Commission Took Several Trips Paid for By Industry Representatives and Lobbyists, Raising Serious Ethical Questions. According to one published report last year, top officials at the Consumer Product Safety Commission repeatedly took costly trips at industry expense which were questioned by ethics experts. In one instance, the agency’s own ethics official traveled with the commission chairman as a guest of a regulated industry. Internal reviews also showed nine out of nearly 30 industry-financed trips were sponsored by industries with issues before the commission. [Washington Post, 11/6/07]