We’ve reported many times on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, a vital new law that helps ensure the safety of children’s products and revitalizes the beleaguered Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Act was signed into law last August by then-President George W. Bush after receiving overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. It was created in response to the millions of toys, cribs, and other children’s products recalled for dangerous design flaws or dangerous levels of lead that injured and even killed children. But this week, more than seven months after the bill’s signing, some members of the business community staged a rally to ask that the CPSIA be amended.
Many who participated in Wednesday’s rally in Washington D.C. were industry lobbyists and representatives of large companies and of trade organizations that protested the effect of the bill on their businesses. Some who spoke at today’s rally, including Toy Industry Association President Carter Keithley, claimed that there are no health impacts from lead in toys. Others who spoke suggested that adult clothing was covered by the law, which is not the case. The lead testing restrictions apply only to children’s products. Further, some of the members of Congress who criticized the CPSIA voted in favor of the bill last summer.
The takeaway: The implementation of this law, which changes the way companies do business and makes a broad category of children’s products safer, has not been handled well. Congress expressly provided the CPSC, the agency charged with making the law work, the authority to address legitimate questions about its application. Unfortunately, the CPSC has been slow, if not downright reluctant, to provide timely exemptions or give clear guidance about the law’s actual requirements.
Folks with legitimate questions about the new law can and should certainly speak their minds, but it’s not okay when industry challenges the effects of lead on children’s health. It is absurd and flies in the face of good science. The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly said there is no safe level of lead. That lead-tainted products crept their way back into the marketplace—even though lead paint was banned 30 years ago—is a clear indication that former laws and the agency that enforces them weren’t strong enough. It’s also disappointing that organizations such as TIA and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which formerly embraced the new law, are now calling for widespread changes.
One point of agreement did surface today. Apparently, NAM agrees with consumer groups that the current leadership at the CPSC is responsible for the problems regarding the failure to issue timely guidelines or appropriate exemptions based on sound science. This is a major problem. Nancy Nord has held the position of Acting Chair since June 2006, after the resignation of Hal Stratton. The agency desperately needs new, more effective leadership at the helm—someone who will put consumer safety first, while also guiding the industry in its compliance efforts.