Keynote Address Celebrating 20 Years of ICPHSO

Chairman Tenenbaum spoke about building a global system of safety and her philosophy to protect the next generation of consumers during a speech to ICPHSO conference attendees.
February 28, 2013

Good afternoon everyone.

 

Ed, thank you very much for that kind introduction.

 

To the ICPHSO Board of Directors and members, to the CPSC staff and alumni, and to the special guests from around the world, I am so pleased to join you in celebrating the 20-year anniversary of this distinguished organization.

 

So much has changed since I first joined the ICPHSO community in Toronto in October 2009.

 

To attend that conference, I had to fly overnight, over the Pacific Ocean, from a safety summit with AQSIQ in Beijing.

 

I was a little bleary eyed, but determined - determined to tell everyone about CPSC's new direction and determined to show everyone I could pronounce ICPHSO.

 

Fast forward almost four years, and today marks my eighth ICPHSO conference. Thankfully, it is just a short drive over the Potomac River to make it from Bethesda to Crystal City.

 

In the past four years, things have changed for the better!

 

Today, CPSC stands in its rightful place as a global leader in consumer product safety.

 

Today, consumer protection has advanced so that parents can have faith in the institutions of government.

 

Today, industries and markets have evolved and kept pace with changes in product safety rules - and consumers are better off for it.

 

To compare and contrast the past with the present:

 

Out, are the days of lead-laced toys sneaking into children's toy boxes before authorities could put up roadblocks.

 

What's in, is CPSC implementing and enforcing some of the lowest lead limits for children's products in the world.

 

Down, are recalls of toys due to lead violations - down 80 percent since 2008.

 

Up are the numbers of violative toys caught at import, before they make it to store shelves.

 

Out, are traditional drop-side cribs, which entrapped and took the lives of beautiful little children.

 

In, is CPSC implementing and enforcing a crib standard that is a model for the rest of the world.

 

The memories of Bobby, Liam, Tyler, and so many other children live on through the safer, stronger cribs in stores today.

 

Out, are companies thinking that regulators will turn a blind eye to corruption of materials along the supply chain.

 

Children sometimes pay the ultimate price in the race to offer the lowest unit price.

 

What is in, I am proud to say, is independent testing of children's products at CPSC-accredited laboratories. Children's toys, games, and apparel are coming off assembly lines in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Mexico City, but before they are shipped to our homeland, they are being third party tested for conformity with U.S. standards.

 

What is in, are companies building safety into their designs and anticipating foreseeable use and foreseeable misuse of their products.

 

What is in, are Chinese manufacturers using best practices in their factories and the Chinese government holding manufacturers accountable when they do not play by the rules.

 

These are the components of a global system of safety. A system of safety that parents and consumers thought was in place years ago. They spoke out to their elected officials when they realized it was not in place.

 

And now, their expectations for safe products are being met, and they can shop with more confidence.

 

Many of you in this room are key players in making this system of safety work.

 

You set a corporate culture of quality and safety in design specifications.

 

You travel halfway around the world to do QA/QC checks of the factories of your suppliers.

 

You run the testing laboratories that adhere to ILAC and ISO 17025 standards for quality.

 

You protect against undue influence and ensure staff is trained to carry out CPSC's latest testing protocols.

 

You are the innovators. You are the voices that deserve to be heard within your companies.

 

I have seen the next generation of innovations, and the future of safety looks promising.

 

I know that a coin cell button battery can be built - one day - so that it will not cause severe burns to a child's throat, if ingested.

 

I know that affordable, cordless window coverings can be made, and that existing window coverings can be retrofitted to eliminate the strangulation hazard.

 

I know that ATVs and ROVs can be made more stable and less prone to rollovers.

 

We can do this. We can make our culture of safety the best in the world.

 

Advancements in manufacturing are vital to the United States being a leader in product safety.

 

As is information sharing.

 

I believe these past four years have seen great improvements in communication between consumers and all of us - the experts in safety.

 

A guiding belief that I have promoted during my tenure as Chairman is that effective communication and education can be empowering and lifesaving.

 

We have used that approach at CPSC.

 

We have doubled the number of members of the Neighborhood Safety Network during my tenure to 7,500.

 

We launched a minority outreach campaign for underserved communities. We put information about safe sleep, drowning prevention, and poison prevention in the hands of people who had never before heard of CPSC.

 

Consumers can search and report on product incidents via the trusted website, SaferProducts.gov.

 

And they are.

 

There are more than 200,000 visits to the site each month and more than 12,000 reports of harm or potential harm are live on the site.

 

And those who want recall information can download an app for their smartphone, a widget for their website, and tweets from OnSafety.

 

But, we are not alone in the information-sharing and empowerment business.

 

Consumers Union launched the National School Safety Program to put vital information into the hands of PTAs, school systems, and educators.

 

CU was disseminating information from CPSC, FDA, and others to upwards of 90 million people.

 

The Department of Health and Human Services launched "Text 4 Baby," which provides free text messages to tens of thousands of women - during and after their pregnancy. Many of us in this room are supporting members of Text 4 Baby.

 

And the Consumer Federation of America and Kids In Danger joined forces to create an online registry of juvenile product manufacturers who provide product registration cards - as the law requires.

 

The result of all of these efforts is a more informed and empowered consumer class.

 

And a more informed and empowered consumer class means safer homes and safer families.

 

Many of you are key players in companies and organizations that are contributing to the empowerment of consumers.

 

You blog on safety issues, include safety alerts in newsletters, incentivize consumers to respond to recalls, and support foundations working to help the needy.

 

I applaud you for your efforts.

 

Yet, there is more we can do.

 

An empowered consumer class should include consumers from every economic and social stratum.

 

We have to work harder to communicate with those who have not trusted government as the source of information.

 

And, we have to recognize that certain people hear about a product incident but take no remedial action because they believe "that won't happen to my family."

 

CPSC's door is always open to hearing from those who have proven methods or new ideas on how to change consumer behavior and advance the cause of safety.

 

Our cause and our commitment is not confined to the United States only.

 

Information sharing and capacity building with our regulatory partners in other jurisdictions has benefited consumers here at home and abroad.

 

CPSC has forged new partnerships with regulators in the Pacific region, Latin America, and South America.

 

And longstanding agreements with regulators in North America, Europe, and China have been modernized and strengthened through collaborative safety summits.

 

That regulators and safety advocates from more than 30 countries are here today speaks to the power of ICPHSO as a unifying source for the product safety community.

 

I believe that cooperation is key.

 

No one organization, no one country can solve all of the challenges posed by the global economy.

 

I believe that we must move forward together - government and industry, advocates and associations.

 

But, as we work together to expand our path to the future, we should be mindful of our history.

 

History, at times, can guide us. And history, at times, is best not repeated.

 

I believe that history will define these past four years as a time when CPSC moved out of the darkness and into the light - from being reactionary to being proactive, from protecting the status quo to redefining consumer protection.

 

My approach over the past four years, and the approach that will guide CPSC going forward, is based on what I call: the "Next Generation Philosophy."

 

To CPSC, the next generation philosophy means that we will never be satisfied with the status quo, and we will always push to improve the state of consumer safety for the generation to come.

 

This philosophy is rooted in a system of safety built to protect today's children and tomorrow's children - the next generation - and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

 

The system is driving CPSC's work in the direction of injury prevention.

 

The system has established protections for acute and chronic hazards. And, the system reaches from the source of manufacture, to import, to the marketplace.

 

And, it is built to last.

 

Today's children deserve a product safety system built to reduce their vulnerabilities, not expose them.

 

The great poet, Maya Angelou, once said: "Children's talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives."

 

It is our responsibility to establish the advances in product safety, so that a child's talent can endure - endure without harm.

 

Our children deserve a safe and healthy upbringing, with fewer unintentional injuries than the generation before.

 

Now, I am not talking about an environment free of risks. Life is risky, and we are made stronger by our ability to learn how to persevere.

 

But, I reject the notion, as some espouse, that my generation survived just fine riding in cars without child seats, riding bicycles without helmets, and playing on metal playground equipment without safe surfacing.

 

Even with all of the progress we have made, we have more work to do.

 

Unintentional injuries are still the leading cause of death for children over the age of one. And, unintentional injuries are one of the leading causes of injury among children younger than 15, according to a Princeton University researcher.

 

Yet, there are fringe thinkers who want to roll back our progress in injury prevention and recklessly expose children to preventable risks.

 

We have come too far, and safety is advancing too fast, for us to turn back now.

 

My belief in the Next Generation Philosophy stems from my past work in education and has continued during my tenure at CPSC.

  • From preparing young children to be proficient at basic math, to teaching young athletes how to protect their brains on the playing field.
  • From preparing teenagers to be the first in their family to go to college, to making sure a ride on an ATV or a skateboard does not end their dream to walk across a college campus.

 

My life's work has always been about achieving healthy upbringings and bright futures for our children.

 

And the system of safety that CPSC has established is all about healthy upbringings and bright futures.

 

Here are the pillars of our system.

 

Through a combination of federal rules and strong consensus standards, we are doing our part to block children's exposure to lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, and other toxic metals.

 

These are metals that can severely limit the development of children.

 

Our system to prevent children's exposure to toxins is more comprehensive than the system of the past.

 

It has addressed surface coatings and content.

 

It has brought together the power of congressional mandates and scientific research by CPSC.

 

Our system has other protections.

 

Certain phthalates - a chemical of concern to many parents - have been banned in accessible parts of toys and childcare articles.

 

Durable infant products - products that our children sleep in, ride in, are fed in, and carried in - never have been safer.

 

Cribs, bath seats, baby walkers, toddler beds, and portable bed rails are all covered by strong mandatory standards. This is all thanks to a key part of the CPSIA, called Danny's Law.

 

I have kept a picture of Danny Keysar in my office for years. What a sweet young boy.

 

At the age of 16 months, he died in a play yard - a play yard that had previously been recalled.

 

Danny was taken far too soon from his mom, Linda and dad, Boaz - far too soon.

 

Linda and Boaz became the founders of Kids In Danger, and they worked tirelessly to turn Danny's tragedy into Danny's Law. The time I have spent with them has been among the most meaningful moments of my tenure as Chairman.

 

This is why I am so proud to announce that a new federal safety standard for play yards goes into effect - today.

 

I look out at Nancy Cowles from Kids In Danger, sitting here today. She too has dedicated years of her life to the memory of Danny and the pursuit of child safety.

 

Nancy, it took 15 years - 15 long years. But, we did it.

 

Again, all the hard work we do at CPSC is about healthy upbringings and bright futures.

 

And thus, we press forward.

 

Because, we have safety rules that still need to be established for bassinets and cradles, bedside sleepers, handheld infant carriers, strollers, slings, and many more juvenile products.

 

And, we are pressing forward with establishing protections for consumers of all ages.

 

Strong compliance action and ongoing rulemaking have tamped down the terrible burn hazard posed by pourable gel fuels in fire pots.

 

Open rulemaking and ongoing work with the Underwriters Laboratories is aimed at reducing the life-altering finger and hand amputations that happen every day to woodworkers using table saws.

 

And, in support of our aging population, CPSC is working with FDA to warn older consumers, their families, and healthcare providers about the entrapment hazard posed by adult bed rails.

 

This is what our system of safety is all about - strong performance standards, better manufacturing, independent testing, enforcement, education, and accountability.

 

The results of this system are lives saved, injuries prevented, and healthy families.

 

When I first arrived at CPSC, some questioned why I pushed so hard to complete the CPSIA rulemakings.

 

I did not make the staff work at an exhaustive pace to complete a record number of rulemakings simply because Congress told us to do so.

 

We did it, because we knew Congress had handed us a roadmap - a roadmap to become a truly proactive agency.

 

Ask a parent what kind of safety system they want.

 

Ask a grandparent what they want for their grandchildren.

 

Ask a consumer what they want from the marketplace.

 

The answer you consistently hear is that they want a system that works for them:

  • to represent their interests,
  • to hold manufacturers and retailers accountable, if their products put the safety of families in jeopardy, and
  • to have their confidence in government restored.

 

This is what we have done.

 

And I want the ICPHSO community to join CPSC in making our system even better.

 

When I was a little girl growing up in rural Georgia, on Friday afternoons when school let out, I frequently went home with a friend to spend the night.

 

The next day, when my mother came to take me home, my friend and I would be having such a great time that we would ask if I could stay over another night.

 

Most of the time, my mother would not let me, saying, "You should not over stay your welcome."

 

I still believe that one should not over stay ones welcome in any venue - professionally or personally.

 

So, I want to announce to all of you today, that I have asked President Obama not to renominate me, when my term is over in October.

 

I plan to stay on as Chairman, however, until my successor is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, so that I can be sure that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is in safe hands.

 

I have been assured by the White House that my successor will be someone who believes in and fully supports the mission of the agency - that is to protect consumers.

 

So many qualified, deserving people have wanted to serve in President Obama's administration - and he chose me. For the rest of my life, I will be grateful to President Obama for nominating me Chairman of the CPSC and for giving me the opportunity to serve in his administration.

 

It has been my great privilege to serve as Chairman of the CPSC, and the best part of my experience has been working with the many talented, dedicated professionals at the agency.

 

My term as Chairman, also has been greatly enhanced by working with all of you - consumer advocates, corporations, trade associations, and members of ICPHSO.

 

Thank you.

 

In the remaining time that I have at the CPSC, we have plenty of work to complete. So, during the rest of my time today, I would like to talk about the future agenda for the CPSC - an agenda that will strengthen our layers of consumer protection.

 

Leading off is our import surveillance program.

 

As the President has stated on many occasions, manufacturing is making a comeback in the United States.

 

That comeback should not be slowed by foreign manufacturers and domestic importers who seek a competitive advantage by sacrificing safety.

 

Any company - domestic or foreign - seeking to do business in our marketplace should adhere to the same performance standards. I believe that American manufacturers deserve a level playing field.

 

Exporters who do not achieve safety at the source are on notice that they face a CPSC that is standing guard on the front lines.

 

Well-trained port and field investigators are using state-of-the-art technology to detect and detain violative imports - from toys to fireworks to lighters to mattresses.

 

As was discussed throughout the morning, our port investigators are standing arm-in-arm with inspectors from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

 

CBP is one of the very best agencies in the government, and we are proud to be collocated with them at the Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center in Washington, and at ports from coast to coast.

 

CPSC and CBP staff prevented more than four million units of violative and hazardous imports from ending up on store shelves during the last fiscal year.

 

I will not restate the well-presented points made this morning about our Risk Assessment Methodology (RAM) pilot.

 

But, I want to emphasize one key point: my administration has made it one of our top priorities to increase the funding for our RAM program.

 

More staff will mean a stronger RAM, and a stronger RAM will help CPSC to be an even more proactive regulator.

 

As great a job as our import investigators do, CPSC should not be limited to just 20 people working at a handful of ports.

 

We cannot fight a fair fight with just 20 people to screen $700 billion worth of consumer products imports - $340 billion that come from China.

 

The more eyes we have on incoming shipments and the more hands we have on potentially violative samples, the safer American consumers will be, and the more level the playing field will be for compliant trade.

 

I will be seeking more funding support for our RAM program.

 

And I need your support.

 

Facilitating the flow of legitimate trade is one of the benefits of the RAM.

 

Moving compliant products through the system faster is good for industry, and it helps our investigators focus on high-risk products and repeat offenders.

 

This is a winning approach to ensure a level playing field for the trade, and I hope many of you will express your support.

 

I would now like to discuss a series of projects that have the potential to save hundreds of lives, prevent thousands of injuries, and advance consumer protection.

 

I'm referring to:

  • The creation of an upholstered furniture flammability standard that promotes the use of barrier technology that does not require the use of flame- retardant chemicals, and that can severely slow down or prevent deadly fires.
  • Next is the invisible killer - carbon monoxide. Exciting research was recently completed by CPSC staff, the University of Alabama, and National Institute of Standards and Technology on a gas generator engine that emits lower levels of CO and increases escape time. I want to see this research turned into real-world innovation that gets incorporated into generators for consumers. The potential to save lives is there; now, we need the know-how and the will of the industry to make it happen.
  • Another project is window coverings. I will continue to speak out and encourage families with young children to go cordless with the blinds and shades in their homes. When it comes to child safety, going cordless is the position of this Commission; it is the position of consumer advocates; and it is the position of the industry's education council. Consumers should know that they can walk into major box retailers and specialty stores today and find cordless options and blinds and shades with inaccessible cords. I believe that the innovators - many of whom I met last year - will chart the future of the industry.
  • Two other products on which we are focusing are ATVs and ROVs. Staff is working on separate rulemaking projects, but both of these off-road vehicles are involved in far too many incidents each year that result in deaths and life-altering injuries. We will continue to work to make these products safer and educate riders and families about the risks they pose.
  • Safer play in youth sports and reducing brain injuries are also high on my list. I initiated a great program last year with the NFL and others in the football safety community to accelerate the much-needed change in safety culture in that sport. It was inspiring to be with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and youth football players in Akron, Ohio, during the Hall of Fame weekend, to celebrate the kickoff of this program last year. The program provides helmet assistance to economically disadvantaged youth teams, but only if they agree to specific steps that support player brain safety. This has been a great example of the power of public-private collaborations, and I am looking forward to the program's growth and expanding the reach this year and in future years. Safer play is smarter play - it is also the future of youth sports, I believe.
  • Lowering the child drowning rate and maintaining a zero death rate from drain entrapments in pools will drive our Pool Safely 2013 education campaign.
  • We will help affected companies to understand and comply with the continuous testing rule, which went into effect earlier this month. The periodic testing rule is intended to fulfill two promises - a promise that Congress made to parents and a promise that CPSC made to children, when under my leadership, we adopted third party testing requirements. The need for the independent testing of children's products periodically during the manufacturing process to help ensure continued compliance is not only a good manufacturing practice - but, it is an absolute necessity for safety.
  • And using CPSC's enforcement powers wisely will continue to be a priority. Companies that report on time, are responsive to letters of advice, and agree to corrective action programs will be treated fairly. Companies that fail to report on time, decline to agree to the terms of a corrective action program, or ignore repeatedly letters of advice, will feel the effects of our enforcement team. Civil penalties, stop sales, administrative lawsuits, and health and safety warnings are authorities that the Commission takes seriously and will use judiciously. As many of you know, it is rare for CPSC not to reach an agreement with a company when a recall is negotiated. In a few pending matters where staff filed administrative actions against noncompliant manufacturers, the retailers were the ones who stepped up to provide a remedy to consumers. I want to express my appreciation for the proactive role that many retailers have played in recent months.

 

As you can see, CPSC has a robust agenda.

 

It is an agenda aimed at making 2013 even more successful than 2012.

 

I predict that the year 2013 will be another successful year, especially if everyone joins together to strengthen our product safety system.

 

At CPSC, we are up to the challenge.

 

We are committed to employing our limited resources, not just for short-term gains, but for the greater good of the next generation.

 

I believe that each of you is up to the challenge too.

 

I believe this because your corporations, associations, organizations, and agencies already have missions that put the safety and well-being of consumers first.

 

Collectively, we can build a global product safety system that supports and empowers future generations to reach their potential.

 

In closing, I would like to commend ICPHSO for reaching the milestone of its 20th anniversary.

 

It is quite fitting that after hosting events on three different continents, across three decades, this conference has set a record for attendance.

 

That is a testament to the thousands of hours that product safety consultants, attorneys, association leaders, consumer advocates, and CPSC staff have volunteered - volunteered because of their belief in the ICPHSO way.

 

Many of ICPHSO's founders are here:

 

Ross Koeser, David Schmeltzer, Michael Brown, and Joan Bergy.

 

The 24 founders were a wonderful mix of CPSC staff, industry representatives, and state officials.

 

They eventually turned over the reins to today's leaders - Carol Pollack-Nelson, Marc Schoem, Joan Mattson, Joan Lawrence, Mark Dewar, and others.

 

Though, Ross is still the heart and soul of this great organization.

 

Ross, please stand. Let's give him a round of applause.

 

ICPHSO has carved out a special role in creating constructive conversations among diverse sectors of the product safety community.

 

These conferences bring to light new and emerging technologies, provide training for new members, and provide a forum for the leading practitioners of risk assessment and quality assurance.

 

Many of the advancements in consumer safety that are now commonplace were first discussed at ICPHSO.

 

So, in recognition of 20 great years, let us raise our glasses and give a toast to the next 20 years.

 

To ICPHSO!

 

Thank you once again for the opportunity to speak at CPSC Day. Please attend all of the great sessions this afternoon, and I hope to spend time with many of you throughout the day.