This morning President Bush signed landmark product safety reform legislation into law. Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, teamed up with a broad coalition of consumer, public interest and scientific groups to help push the critical new law through Congress and, after over a year of fighting, convinced President Bush to sign the strongest legislation possible.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 marks the most significant overhaul of the Consumer Product Safety Commission since that agency was established in the 1970s.
The groundbreaking new law will make consumer products safer by requiring that toys and infant products be tested before they are sold and by banning lead and phthalates in toys. The bill will also require the CPSC to create a publicly accessible consumer product safety complaint database, give the CPSC the resources it needs to better protect the public, significantly increase the limit on civil penalties that CPSC can assess against violators of safety laws, and protect whistleblowers who report product safety defects.
“This long-overdue law gives the CPSC the shot in the arm that it desperately needs,” says Ami Gadhia, Policy Counsel with Consumers Union. “It is now up to the CPSC to use the tools given to it by this law, and restore the confidence of consumers in the products on store shelves.”
Among the the specific changes called for in the new law:
- Lead will be essentially eliminated from all children’s products.
- Toys and other children’s products will be required to be tested for safety before they are sold.
- Toxic phthalates will be banned from children's products.
- CPSC will receive substantial increases in its resources including its budget, staffing levels, computer resources and its various authorities to conduct recalls and take other actions.
- CPSC will have the authority to levy more significant civil penalties against violators of its safety regulations, which will help deter wrongdoing.
- The CPSC will be restored to five commissioners but quorum will be immediately restored with the two current commissioners in power.
- State Attorneys General will have the necessary authority to enforce product safety laws.
- Consumers will have access to a public database to report and learn about hazards posed by unsafe products.
- Whistleblowers will be granted important protections.
“This Act is the legacy of the countless children, including Danny Keysar, whose parents founded Kids In Danger, who have been killed or injured by unsafe children's products and toys,” says Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger. “It is to honor their memories that we must now undertake the implementation of this landmark measure.”
A key portion of the legislation, dealing with the safety of juvenile products such as cribs, high chairs and strollers, is named in Danny Keysar’s honor. Ten years ago, Danny was strangled to death at his licensed daycare facility when a portable crib collapsed, trapping his neck in the V of the folded rails. He was 16 months old.
Other groups involved in the broad coalition that was instrumental in pushing through the legislation include the Consumer Federation of America, Public Citizen's Congress Watch, U.S. PIRG's Consumer Program, the National Research Center for Women and Families, and the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Although the legislation was the subject of long and intense debates in Congress, the final version was passed overwhelmingly by the House on July 30, 2008 by a vote of 424-1 and by the Senate on July 31, 2008 by a vote of 89-3.