It has been a long time coming—and desperately needed—but late Sunday night House and Senate conferees reached agreement on the broadest-sweeping product safety legislation since the inception of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the late 1970’s. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 will now go to the floors of the House and the Senate for ratification, and then to President Bush for signature.
The legislation was introduced last November following a record number of toy recalls due to lead paint, hazardous magnets or toxic chemicals. The House passed the bill on December 19, 2007. The Senate followed suit with its own version of the bill, which passed that chamber on March 6. The complexity of the bill and its numerous provisions made reconciling the differences between the House and Senate version a daunting task.
“We are extremely pleased that Congress has resolved the issues that have mired this legislation. The CPSC will now get the shot in the arm that has long been needed," said Ellen Bloom, Consumers Union’s Director of Federal Policy. "We fully expect that they will use the tools given to them by this legislation to prevent unsafe products from finding their way to our store shelves and into our homes.” Consumers Union worked closely with other consumer groups including the Consumer Federation of America, Kids in Danger, the National Research Center for Women and Families, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, to make sure this legislation would give the CPSC the resources and authority it needs to protect consumers, especially children, from unsafe products.
Here are some of the key provisions in the bill:
- Lead will be essentially eliminated from all children’s products, and not just the paint. Lead limits for paint will also be reduced to a minute amount.
- The toy safety standard, for which compliance has been voluntary, will become mandatory, thus protecting children from hazards not currently covered in federal regulation.
- Toys and other children’s products will be required to be tested for safety by independent laboratories before they are sold.
- The CPSC will establish tough safety standards for 12 categories of juvenile products including cribs, and will require them to include product registration cards so that consumers can more easily be reached in the event of a recall.
- The CPSC will receive substantial increases in resources, including a significantly higher budget, more staff, a new laboratory, and computer systems so they can more effectively protect consumers from unsafe goods.
- The CPSC will establish a publicly-accessible database to help consumers report and learn about hazards posed by unsafe products.
- The limit on civil penalties that the CPSC can levy on wrongdoers has been significantly increased, which will serve as a more effective deterrent for companies who consider disregarding their rules.
- State Attorneys General will have the necessary authority to enforce products safety laws.
- All-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety standards will now become mandatory.