Groups push Senate to pass a strong product safety bill

Campaigns

*Consumers Union * Consumer Federation of America *
 * Kids in Danger *Union of Concerned Scientists *
* U.S. Public Interest Research Group* Public Citizen *

 

February 13, 2008

Dear Senator:

Our organizations are writing to urge you to pass a strong product safety bill in the next few weeks.  S. 2045, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Reform Act, was introduced by Senator Mark Pryor in September 2007.  The bill was voted out of the Senate Commerce Committee on October 30, 2007.

The record number of recalls in 2007 – 473 in the fiscal year – laid bare the enormous flaws in our product safety system.  S. 2045, as voted out of the Commerce Committee, would fix many of those flaws.  Consumers have waited long enough for a system that protects them from unnecessary injury and death due to products on our shelves – Congress should not delay the solution any longer.

Our organizations believe that real product safety reform should contain the following elements:

  • Publicly Available Product Hazard Information:  Consumers are desperate for information about which products are hazardous and feel at a loss to protect themselves.  Consumers can already obtain information about auto dangers on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) website.  Product hazard information should not be kept secret.  Creating a publicly available incident database would go a long way in providing consumers with important information about product hazards.
  • Greater Resources for the CPSC:  S. 2045 provides the CPSC with budget increases for 7 years, rising to $155 million.  This increase, which is higher than the House-passed bill, is critical for an agency that is currently starving for resources.
  • Mandatory, not voluntary, toy safety standards:  S. 2045 turns voluntary toy safety standards into mandatory ones and therefore, subjects all toys to comprehensive testing for hazards, including such shocking dangers as magnets that fall out of toys. If a child ingests more than one magnet, they can rip through a child’s stomach lining.
  • Meaningful civil penalties that will deter wrongdoing: The current limit on civil penalties for product safety violations is $1.83 million.  This is grossly inadequate and does not serve as a real deterrent to manufacturers and importers.  S. 2045 would increase the cap to $100 million and raise the per-violation cap from $5,000 to $250,000 to help deter safety violations.
  • State Attorneys General Authority:  There is no reason to limit the number of entities looking out for the safety of consumers.  State Attorneys General need robust powers to enforce CPSC regulations.
  • Lower lead levels, without loopholes and unnecessary exceptions: There is no legitimate reason for lead to be used in children’s products.  Children in particular must be protected from the serious, long-term harm caused by repeated exposure to lead.  A strong Senate bill would significantly lower the level of lead in children’s products, without creating loopholes and unnecessary exceptions.
  • Protection against dangerous products for children:  The Senate bill creates independent testing of many children’s products.  Pre-market testing by independent laboratories, and proper certification of the testing facilities, is critical to restoring consumer confidence in product safety.
  • Protections for CPSC employees who blow the whistle on wrongdoing:  S.2045 includes “best practices” whistleblower protection language that would protect public and private-sector employees who warn about unsafe products from reprisals from their employers.

Congress must pass and the President must sign strong product safety legislation as soon as possible; otherwise more unsafe and dangerous products, including children’s toys, will continue to wind up on store shelves and in our homes. We understand that the details of certain provisions of S. 2045 are currently being discussed by the Democratic and Republican leadership of the Commerce Committee. We fervently hope that these negotiations wrap up expeditiously and result in the preservation of a strong, comprehensive product safety bill that the full Senate can vote on soon.

Sincerely,

Rachel Weintraub                                        
Director of Product Safety and Senior Counsel
Consumer Federation of America

Ami Gadhia
Policy Counsel
Consumers Union

Celia Wexler
Washington Representative
Scientific Integrity Program
Union of Concerned Scientists

Ellen Bloom
Director, Federal Policy
Consumers Union

Ed Mierzwinski
Federal Consumer Program Director
U.S. PIRG

Nancy A. Cowles
Executive Director
Kids in Danger

David Arkush
Director, Congress Watch
Public Citizen