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Attempts to Defund, Deregulate Consumer Product Safety Commission Ignore Past Tragedies

Feb. 17, 2011  

Attempts to Defund, Deregulate Consumer Product Safety Commission Ignore Past Tragedies

Congress Should Leave Critical Agency and Its Funding Alone

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing, which was designed to undo recent protections laid out in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and to slash funding for the critical Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), is a step in the wrong direction, Public Citizen said.

 A hearing such as this should reinforce the public’s need for safe toys and children’s products but instead was a stage for rhetoric designed to undercut these much-needed protections.

“Today’s hearing was merely an opportunity for industry to argue before Congress for the undoing of the massive improvements to consumer product safety that took place over the past three years,” said Christine Hines, Public Citizen’s consumer and civil justice counsel.

In 2008, Congress passed the bipartisan CPSIA in response to the tens of millions of unsafe products on the market and the resulting record number of product recalls. The agency had lacked the resources to fulfill its mission, and industry had neglected to police itself.

Since its inception, the CPSIA has moved the nation toward safer products by requiring toys and infant products to be tested before they are sold and by banning lead and phthalates in children’s products. It also authorizes necessary funding for the previously beleaguered CPSC and increases the level of civil penalties the agency can assess against violators of the law.

The law increases transparency by building a publicly accessible database of consumer complaints about unsafe products. The database, which will be launched in less than a month, has been a recent target of industry attacks.

“Pulling the plug on the database would be a huge mistake. If manufacturers are producing safe products, they have nothing to fear from this critical safety tool,” Hines said.

Public demand for these protections remains very strong. A recent Consumer Reports poll found that 95 percent of respondents agreed that the federal government should require testing by manufacturers of children’s products to ensure that they do not contain any harmful substances, and 93 percent of respondents agreed that the federal government should make consumer complaints about safety hazards with products available to the public.

“This hearing is yet another attempt by the new House majority to roll back public protections and defund the agencies responsible for protecting our country’s health and well-being,” said Alex Chasick, regulations policy counsel for Public Citizen. “Agencies like the CPSC and the Food and Drug Administration exist to give Americans confidence that the products and food they buy will not sicken, injure, or kill them or their children. The recent bipartisan health and safety laws are Congress’ promise to voters that they will work with agencies to protect Americans from unsafe products. We urge them not to break this promise.”

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit public interest organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.