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What is the Hold Up with Product Safety?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been "working on" several rules to ensure product safety since at least 2004 (two since 1994!). These rules cover hazards that the agency itself blames for more than 900 deaths and more than $460 million in property damage every year.

These unfinished rules would help protect the public from:

  • Bed rails, crib slats and baby bath seats that can suffocate, strangle or drown infants;
  • Excessively flammable upholstery, bed linens and clothes that are among the leading causes of fire-related death in U.S. homes; and
  • Cigarette lighters that, by the CPSC’s own analysis, fail to meet an industry-created voluntary standard at least 60 percent of the time.

Current law requires the agency to produce a final rule within 14 months of adopting an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), a standard the agency has met only once since President Bush took office in 2001. Since 1990, the CPSC has completed 38 rules; just four of those were during the Bush administration.

Public Citizen’s new report, “Held Back: Incomplete Consumer Product Safety Commission Rules, Class of 2007,” details each of the rules that are in development and the reasons for the delays.

The CPSC is hamstrung by rulemaking procedures that are far more burdensome than those of most federal agencies. The rulemaking procedure established by Congress during the Reagan era requires the agency to provide double the usual amount of notice and opportunity for public comment, to explain repeatedly why it is not deferring to industry’s voluntary proposals, and to prove that any rule imposes as little burden as possible on industry.

Moreover, the agency’s procedures call for it to halt any rulemaking if industry creates a voluntary standard that appears likely to address the problem – even though such voluntary standards are unenforceable. Not surprisingly, industry often derails the CPSC’s efforts by strategically adopting voluntary rules.

These problems point to the need for Congress to reform the CPSC to fulfill its mission of protecting the public from hazardous products.  The Senate is considering a bill now that would give the CPSC some much-needed muscle.  You can write your senators here now.

Learn more and read the report at www.ToyingWithSafety.org.