With Congress’ August recess looming, consumer groups are urging lawmakers to complete reforming of the nation’s product safety system.
Despite industry promises last year to solve problems that made 2007 the “year of the recall,” recalls of toys and children’s products are up 22% over the first part of last year, according to an analysis of Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data by the nation’s leading consumer groups.
Following the massive recall of 45 million toys and children’s products in 2007, the House and Senate have reached agreement on a number of key issues, including the ban on lead in children’s toys and products and the establishment of a public database on product hazards.
Product safety legislation will revamp the agency with much needed funding and staff members and would also include the most significant improvements in nearly two decades.
After a record number of product recalls in 2007 and even more so far in 2008, consumers are concerned about the toys they are buying for their small children.
The consumer groups are asking Congress to resolve some of the following outstanding key issues:
Banning certain types of Phthalates from children’s and toy products. The Senate bill includes a condition to eliminate phthalates in children’s products, which will help to limit children’s exposure to potentially dangerous reproductive system toxins. The House bill does not include this provision.
Adopting a mandatory Toy Safety Standards. Current voluntary standards for toy safety must be made mandatory (upon upgrading the CPSC) and toys should be certified to meet those standards before they enter the marketplace. The Senate bill includes this provision, but the House bill does not.
Rejecting attempts to rewrite Third Party Testing Preemption. The industry seeks, at the eleventh hour, to add new provisions (not in either the House or Senate-passed bills) to prevent states from addressing new toy and product testing problems that may arise. The groups are strongly opposed to this effort.
Protecting those employees (also known as whistleblowers) who sound alarms about unsafe consumer products. The Senate bill provides whistleblower protections; while the House bill does not. Congress has a strong history of enacting laws that protect whistleblowers that work for publicly traded corporations.
The groups studied the most recent CPSC data available for the recently released report titled “Total Recall.” There have been 108 children’s products recalled during the first half of 2008 - 45 were for excessive levels of lead and 10 for hazardous magnets. Fifty-three have been recalled so far this year, in excess of 6.2 million units.
By June of 2007, there had only been 84 children’s product recalls, which include 31 toy recalls.
Conferees met in June and approved 21 non-controversial items. Last week, conferees approved nine more, which included the establishment of a product safety database. There are other remaining items that are expected to be resolved favorably to consumers.
The Product Safety Database Explained
Within 2 years the CPSC will establish a searchable database that will include reports of injuries illness, death or risk associated with consumer products submitted by consumers and other agencies. Upon receiving the complaint, the CPSC will have five days to submit the complaint to the manufacturer, giving them10 days to respond.
The consumer complaint and manufacturer’s response, if available, will then be posted to the database. If a complaint is found to be inaccurate, the CPCS would hold the authority to remove the complaint.
We can’t wait for more evidence of a broken product safety system, more recalls or more potentially harmful products endangering our small children. Congress must protect our tiniest and most vulnerable consumers now. The time to finish is now, before Congress goes home for August recess, said Rachel Weintraub, the Director of Product Safety and Senior Counsel for the Consumer Federation of America.
For more information on the non-profit, non-partisan consumer and public health organizations that released the report, please visit their websites: Consumer Federation of America; Consumers Union; Kids In Danger; National Research Center For Women & Families; Public Citizen; U.S. PIRG.