By David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division
The confusion and misunderstanding circulating among small businesses regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) recently culminated in an attempt by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint to undermine this critical product safety law with an amendment to the economic stimulus bill. Fortunately, his effort was unsuccessful. Further attempts to change the law – bills have been filed in both the House and Senate – should also be defeated.
Weakening the law would mean putting children at risk from dangerous products. We should always be cautious about that type of proposal, but it’s a particularly bad idea here because it’s not even necessary to address the concerns that small businesses have raised. The Consumer Product Safety Commission can resolve those concerns with some simple, commonsense rules. It already has begun to do so. For example, the agency’s Web site includes guidelines on lead and phthalates, and information for secondhand and consignment stores.
Overwhelming bipartisan majorities passed the product safety bill in response to a flood of hazardous toys and other children’s products pouring onto our shelves. Rolling back these protections would mean disregarding the harms done to children who have been hurt, become sick or even died from unsafe products – and would mean placing more children at risk by allowing millions of dangerous products to be placed on the market.
To be sure, the implementation of the new law has been frustrating for consumer advocates and small businesses alike. The principal problem is the lack of leadership at the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Its current chair, Nancy Nord, is a holdover from the past administration, which was often too eager to protect large manufacturers at the expense of public health and safety.
Nancy Nord must go. The country deserves a product safety leader who is committed to carrying out Congress’ mandate and protecting the public. Finding a proper leader for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, rather than modifying the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, is where public officials should focus their energy right now.