CU comments on priorities of the CPSC for 2012

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Presented by Ami Gadhia

On behalf of Consumers Union, Kids In Danger and Consumer Federation of America

August 11, 2010

Introduction

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on CPSC’s agenda and priorities.  My name is Ami Gadhia, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports.  I offer my comments today on behalf of Consumers Union, Kids In Danger and Consumer Federation of America.

I would like to make the following comments regarding CPSC’s agenda and priorities:

Sleep environment safety

We support CPSC’s efforts to reduce injuries to children caused by nursery products such as cribs, play yards, and bassinets. The rulemakings implemented by the Commission represent a much-needed step in the right direction. In addition, as the new rules go into effect, CPSC must play a key role in market oversight to ensure that older unsafe products, including cribs with drop-sides, are removed from the second-hand market and child care facilities.  We strongly urge the CPSC to continue addressing emerging hazards associated with children’s products.

We would urge CPSC to extend their safe sleep efforts to include other sleep environment products such as crib tents, sleep positioners, and infant comforters and pillows.  We are aware of deaths associated with each of these products, some of which have been recalled due to the hazard they pose to infants.  In addition, we ask CPSC to reconsider their endorsement of the use of bumper pads in cribs, as evidenced by their depiction in the CPSC video, Safe Sleep. According to a 2007 study in the Journal of Pediatrics[1], at least 27 deaths were attributed to bumpers from 1985 to 2005 and more recent deaths involving other products, such as the Nap Nanny, involved the use of bumper pads.

Recall Effectiveness

With new standards in place, new teams at the ports, and a new determination at CPSC to improve product safety, CPSC will now have the ability to focus more directly on the effectiveness of the recalls it does announce.  According to CPSC’s own records, the return rate of recalled products is abysmal.  CPSC must make it a priority not only to recall dangerous products, but to actually get them out of consumers’ homes.

CPSC has made a good start in promoting the new product registration card program for infant and toddler durable products.  CPSC should also work with all manufacturers and retailers to implement similar programs, even without them being mandatory, to increase the likelihood that consumers will learn when a product they own is recalled.

We are also pleased that the CPSC has joined the National School Safety Coalition developed by Consumers Union to disseminate recall and safety alert information to parents of school age children.  This coalition comprised of government agencies, parent-teacher groups, and school administration organizations has the potential to reach 50 million families each week, and is certain to enhance recall effectiveness.

We urge CPSC to consider a team approach in addressing the recall effectiveness problem.  Similar to the sleep environment team that has successfully brought quick response to emerging hazards in baby sleep environments, CPSC should have a team dedicated to recall effectiveness that includes staff from all divisions and works directly with consumer groups, retailers, manufacturers and the media to improve recall effectiveness.


Cadmium

We are aware that CPSC is currently in the process of developing a new standard for cadmium, and we strongly support that effort. However, we remain concerned that products containing dangerously high levels of cadmium are still being sold in stores nationwide. Even when clearly informed that their merchandise contained unacceptable levels of cadmium, some retailers have delayed removing those products from shelves for months at a time. CPSC must develop strong enforcement procedures for such hazardous products, so that they can be promptly removed from the marketplace.

Consumer product database

We strongly support CPSC’s initiative to launch a new public database in March 2011. As the project moves forward, however, it is likely that the database will encounter some unforeseen problems. We would urge CPSC to remain open to feedback on how to resolve those potential issues that may arise, and to generally err on the side of transparency.

We are concerned, however, by CPSC’s decision not to include their current database of consumer complaints in the public database – meaning that consumer reports of life-threatening flaws submitted between now and March will not be available to the public.  A priority for the database team should be to address current complaints and move quickly to include them in the database. For example, complaints in FY 2011 (starting in October) should be included.

Component part testing standard

We support CPSC’s rulemaking regarding testing standards for component parts of consumer products. We believe that such standards and requirement are helpful in addressing the concerns of small toy manufacturers. This rulemaking represents an acceptable compromise, and one that is unlikely to negatively affect consumer safety.

Furniture safety

We continue to be extremely concerned about deaths and injuries suffered by young children as a result of furniture tip-overs. We support the CPSC’s work in addressing this hazard. We also urge the Commission to focus on injuries resulting from breaking glass tables. At least 20,000 injuries are suffered each year due to glass furniture, and most injuries could potentially be prevented through the use of safety glass. The CPSC currently has regulations for the safety of glass used in shower and storm doors, but no standards exist for glass furniture.

Nanomaterials

We continue to express concern with the rapid proliferation of products containing nanomaterials due to a lack of sufficient understanding regarding their possible health effects. We support the CPSC’s study of nanomaterials and hope this information will lead to a better understanding of potential risks associated with nanotechnology.

Window Coverings

According to CPSC, there have been 120 reported fatalities and 113 injuries caused by corded window coverings since 1999. Other studies have shown, however, that many incidents go unreported and in reality, a child dies every two weeks after strangling in the cords of window coverings. The injuries from corded window coverings are severe: some suffer permanent and debilitating brain damage.

Previous industry standards and educational campaigns have failed to fully address hazards caused by these products. Corded window coverings remain for sale and in people’s homes. Every day, new blinds with dangerous cords are manufactured and installed in consumers’ homes. Every blind that is produced today will remain in American homes for many years to come, perpetuating the hazard. This underscores the need to immediately develop a standard that applies to every window covering and eliminates the strangulation risk.  The solution to this hazard is the development of a new standard that eliminates strangulation hazards on all window coverings. Window covering should have no cords with an accessible length of more than 7.25 inches in any configuration.

ATVs and ROVs

We are particularly concerned about the hazards associated with use of all-terrain and recreational off-highway vehicles.  Each year some 800 people die in accidents associated with ATVs and another 135,000 are injured, many of which are children. Although the number of incidents with ROV’s is far smaller, the hazards are the same.  We urge the CPSC to continue focusing on ways to reduce the injuries associated with theses vehicles by mandating rigorous safety standards and requiring manufacturers and retailers to provide educational programs to all purchasers.

Drowning Prevention

We encourage the CPSC to continue their work on drowning prevention.  Although we supported the VGB Pool and Spa Safety Act, the number of drownings caused by entrapment is small compared to drownings in inflatable swimming pools.  We encourage the CPSC to take a close look at inflatable swimming pools to determine if their safety can be enhanced.

Ladders

Each year, about 150 deaths and 180,000 injuries are associated with ladders.  We believe that ladder safety standards are too weak and strengthening them is likely to reduce the injury rate.  We encourage the CPSC to make this a priority.

Cooking Fires

The CPSC once identified cooking fire prevention as a high priority.  The staff worked diligently to develop “proof-of-concept” technology that could dramatically reduce hazardous cooking fires.  That work was stopped amid industry opposition.  With at least 125 deaths and 1,165 injuries each year associate with range fires, we think the CPSC should once again tackle


[1] Bradley T. Thach, George W. Rutherford, Kathleen Harris, “Deaths and Injuries Attributed to Infant Crib Bumper Pads,” 28 July 2007, The Journal of Pediatrics, September 2007 (Vol. 151, Issue 3, Pages 271-274.e3).