New CPSC Head Confirmed

Inez Tenenbaum, a former South Caroline Education Superintendent, won the U.S. Senate confirmation to head the Consumer P Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Tenenbaum ran for the Senate in 2004 and was co-chair of President Barack Obama’s South Carolina campaign steering committee.

According to a prior UPI report, at the end of her tenure as Education Superintendent, the journal Education Week ranked South Carolina first in the country for the quality of its academic standards, assessment, and accountability systems. The CPSC has been routinely criticized for its inability to protect the American public during the two-term Bush administration, reported Reuters.

In May, President Obama nominated Tenenbaum to chair the Commission and replace the agency’s controversial acting-chair, Nancy Nord. The Obama administration also said it planned to add two more members to the CPSC’s three-member board, and increase the commission’s budget by $107 million. The increase represents a “71 percent jump from fiscal year 2007,” said Reuters. Nord opposed additional funding during her tenure, said Reuters.

Earlier this year, Nord said she planned to stay on at the CPSC until her term ended in 2012; however, both Nord and the CPSC have come under intense criticism during her term. Critics, including members of both parties in Congress, have faulted the CPSC for failing to strictly enforce <"">product safety laws, especially those relating to lead content in children’s toys. Over the past couple of years, lax enforcement of such laws has been highlighted by scandals involving lead tainted toys and other defective imports from China. Some have criticized Nord and her board for being too close to the companies they regulate.

Recently, Nord and the CPSC have been taken to task for the agency’s slow response to the growing Chinese drywall problem. Homeowners across the country have long complained that the material emits sulfur fumes that fill homes with a “rotten eggs” odor. The fumes have also been linked to corroding metals in many of the homes, and people living with the material have reported sinus and respiratory problems. Many residents have had to leave their homes because the Chinese drywall has made them unlivable, and some builders are scrambling to gut homes and replace the drywall.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson, whose state has been hardest hit by the Chinese drywall problem, has repeatedly called for Nord to step down because of the agency’s slow response to the drywall issue. In a statement issued in May, Nelson said he was pleased with the decision to replace Nord: “For too long consumers have been ignored by a board that’s been too cozy with industry.”
While she was being stripped of her chairmanship, Nord was not been asked by the Obama administration to give up her seat as a CPSC commissioner.

Earlier this year, and in response to the controversy regarding the recently enacted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, four key Congressional members wrote to President Obama requesting he ask Nord to immediately step down over what they described as Nord’s mishandling of the law’s implementation, reported USA Today, previously. Nord was a Bush appointee.

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