Bill Would Give CPSC $20 Million Funding Increase

In recent months, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been harshly criticized for not acting quickly enough to eliminate <"">hazardous products from store shelves and for being influenced by the companies it regulates.  Now, the CPSC would receive a $20 million funding increase next year for oversight of domestic and imported goods under a bill that moved this week in the House of Representatives.  The proposed legislation would increase CPSC funding to $100 million in fiscal year 2009—effective October 1—from the current $80 million funding level.  Although President George W. Bush was not seeking an increase, there has been a push by lawmakers who have long condemned the CPSC for lax enforcement.

Last year, millions of toys were recalled in 61 such recalls, up over 20 from the prior year.  Of those, over six million toys were recalled due to lead; the highest number ever due to product defects.  Also, other potentially dangerous toys remained in stores and were sold without warning labels of possible choking hazards several times last year.  Congress took notice following dozens of recalls by Mattel Inc., RC2 Corporation, and other toy companies over excessive lead content in products, many imported from China.

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz—Florida-Democrat—said the funding increase would provide $6 million for pool and spa safety enforcement, noting that drowning represented the number one cause of injury and death in children under four years of age.  Congress passed legislation last year to toughen standards on pool and spa drains because the drains worked with a powerful suction that resulted in the injury and death of children.

The bill, which was approved by a House Appropriations subcommittee, still has several more steps to clear in the House and Senate.  Meanwhile, earlier this year, the House and Senate passed bills to boost CPSC’s budget over the long term and increase its enforcement of safety standards on 15,000 different consumer products.

Meanwhile, seven rules the CPSC has been working on since 2004–two since 1994–cover hazards the CPSC blames for over 900 deaths and $460 million in property damage annually.  A Public Citizen report revealed the CPSC has worked on each rule for nearly a decade.  Whether due to lack of resources or just plain negligence, the CPSC has consistently failed to overcome the obstacles imposed on it.  Even though a cigarette lighter association asked the CPSC to create a rule to prevent unsafe lighters from making it to market, the CPSC failed to complete a rule six years later.  CPSC staff pledged to present for commission approval a final rule to combat flammability of bed sheets and blankets by early 2006.  It never did.  In 2003, the CPSC proposed a rule on baby bath seats implicated in infant drownings.  In its 2005 annual report, the CPSC pledged to prepare recommendations for a final rule in 2007.  It hasn’t.  Regarding the cigarette lighter rulemaking, the agency wrote in its 2007 annual report that its goal for the year had been to “take action as directed by the Commission,” only to note that in 2007 “no activities were directed by the Commission.”

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