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Attack on New Product Safety Law Fails; Lawmakers Should Block Future Attempts to Weaken Measure

Feb. 10, 2009 

Attack on New Product Safety Law Fails; Lawmakers Should Block Future Attempts to Weaken Measure

Statement of David Arkush, Director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s attempt to undermine the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act by amending the economic stimulus package fortunately never came to fruition. Lawmakers should block any more attempts to change the product safety law.

DeMint’s proposal, never voted on, would have unnecessarily exempted some businesses from the new safety regulations and would have allowed retailers to keep selling products that contain dangerous levels of lead. Empirical evidence links lead to permanent brain damage in children.

Rolling back protections, as Sen. DeMint proposed, would have meant disregarding the plights of the many children who have been hurt, become sick or even died from unsafe products – and would have put more children at risk by allowing millions of dangerous products to be placed on the market. The flood of hazardous toys and children’s products onto our shelves is what prompted overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress to pass the product safety act in August.

Sen. DeMint’s amendment was prompted by an outcry from small manufacturers and secondhand sellers who fear the new law will force them out of business. But changing the law – and putting children at risk – is not necessary to address the concerns that small businesses have raised. The Consumer Product Safety Commission can resolve these concerns with some simple, commonsense rules. It already has begun to do so.

However, at present the commission sorely lacks the leadership it needs to implement this law effectively for consumers or small businesses. Its current chair, Nancy Nord, is a holdover from the past administration, which was often too eager to protect manufacturers at the expense of public health and safety. It’s time for Nord to go, and that – rather than modifying the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act – is where public officials should focus their energy. The country deserves a product safety leader who is committed to carrying out Congress’ mandate and protecting the public.