Obama Names New CPSC Commissioner

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) will soon have a new leader. President Obama has named Inez Moore Tenenbaum to chair the commission. She will replace the agency’s controversial acting-chair, Nancy Nord.

In addition to naming a new chair, the Obama administration says it plans to add two more members to the CPSC’s three-member board, and increase the commission’s budget by $107 million.

Earlier this year, Nord had said she planned to stay on at the CPSC until her term ended in 2012. But both she and the CPSC have come in for 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 have 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. For months now, homeowners across the country have complained that the material emits sulfur fumes that fill homes with a “rotten eggs” odor. The fumes from the drywall 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 Tuesday, 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.”

Tenenbaum is a former South Carolina Education Superintendent who ran for the Senate in 2004. She was also co-chair of Obama’s South Carolina campaign steering committee. According to a 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.

In addition to Tenenbaum, Obama has also named Robert S. Adler as a CPSC commissioner. Adler, a law professor at the University of North Carolina and once an attorney-adviser to two commissioners at the CPSC, was elected six times to the board of directors of Consumers Union, UPI said.

While she is being stripped of her chairmanship, i Nord has not been asked by the Obama administration to give up her seat as a CPSC commissioner.

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