Keynote Address at the JPMA Summit, Washington, D.C.

The Chairman spoke about safe sleep for babies, a baby monitor cord safety campaign, the continuous testing rule, and agency priorities in 2013 to the association.
February 05, 2013

 

Good morning everyone. I know that you have a long agenda of speakers and Hill visits today, so I appreciate you getting up early to hear me speak.

 

Those of you who are early risers like I am can appreciate this quote from Thomas Jefferson, who once said, "The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years."

 

That's true for me. The sun is more likely to catch me in the gym rather than sleeping in.

 

This is my fourth consecutive JPMA Summit, so it is nice to see so many familiar faces. It was back in 2009 that I first met a number of you, and that speaks to the longevity that many JPMA members have had with the association and their companies.

 

Mike, thanks to you and the JPMA Board for the invitation to speak this morning. And Steve, thank you for that kind introduction.

 

As I stated last year, I believe that companies such as Stericycle play an important role in implementing recall programs in a way that helps both the consumer and the recalling firm.

 

Your company's support of this Summit and the ICPHSO conferences shows how committed you are to the product safety community. Steve, I'm sure we will be seeing you and Stericyle at the ICPHSO conference in Crystal City at the end of the month.

 

I also want to recognize Anu Connor, who has joined me today. Anu is my Special Assistant and Senior Counsel, and she is doing fantastic job leading the effort out of my office to promote safe sleep. Many of you met Anu last year at this conference, but if you have not met her, please come up and introduce yourselves to her later.

 

When I joined you last year, I discussed what the crib rule's going into effect for manufacturers and retailers would mean to families and children.

 

Well this year, I am pleased to note that the crib rule has gone into effect for childcare centers, hotels, motels, and other places of public accommodation at the end of December.

 

The strongest crib standard in the world is now fully implemented, and the safety of our children is better for it.

 

All babies deserve to have a safe sleep - no matter where they are, whether it is their homes, childcare, hotels, or visiting grandparents.

 

When it comes to safe sleep, we must be "all in." And the CPSC under my watch certainly is.

 

No doubt others are, too.

 

For instance, the Childcare Licensing Unit in New Hampshire and the Department of Early Learning in Washington State are helping with this effort. They are working closely with the provider communities in their state to make sure everyone complies with the law.

 

Judy Bannon and a national coalition of safe sleep specialists are doing their part. Their network is making sure healthcare providers and child wellness specialists are well informed about the federal safety rules and sharing that information with parents.

 

The National Institutes of Health, the Administration for Children and Families, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, faith-based organizations, advocacy organizations, and of course, JPMA members, have all helped to get the word out and make the crib rule work.

 

The rulemaking process was a collective effort, and successfully implementing the rule must be a collective one as well.

 

Once again, I want to thank the crib manufacturers who are producing compliant models. Whether your customers are at retail, in childcare, or both, I hope 2012 was a busy year for you and that 2013 is even busier.

 

You are at the forefront of helping CPSC achieve the vision of our standard.

 

I also want to thank the retailers, large and small, who took the necessary steps to comply with the law and are proudly selling the safest cribs in the world.

 

Your industry has taken center stage in delivering on CPSC's promise to reduce deaths and injuries from defective cribs. I believe all of you should be commended for your efforts.

 

Before leaving this topic, I would like to talk about the issue of safe sleep and economic disparities.

 

Price points of new cribs will hopefully continue to come down, as supply increases to meet consumer demand.

 

Yet, there are still economically disadvantaged families - families in need of help - who cannot afford to purchase a brand new crib. I meet several of these families when I was practicing law in South Carolina and was appointed guardian for a child.

 

I made a home visit to see the little baby for whom I was appointed guardian, and found that there was no crib in the home. Laundry baskets, cardboard boxes, dressers drawers, and cosleeping are the norm for babies born into economically disadvantaged families.

 

These families desperately need cribs to provide their child with the same safe sleep environment all children deserve.

 

I know that Cribs for Kids in Pittsburgh, First Candle/ SIDS Alliance in Baltimore, and certain juvenile product manufacturers have run effective crib and play yard donation programs for underserved families. I am interested in hearing from other JPMA members who have operated similar programs.

 

We're interested in how these programs work, because we believe more can be done, and I very much am hoping to see it. Anyone who has information or interest along these lines, please reach out to Anu in my office.

 

My door is always open to speaking with anyone who has ideas for how to help a new parent with little to no means or even a childcare center operating on a shoestring budget.

 

We have a common cause.

 

Let's put our heads together now and see what could be done in time for Baby Safety Month in September, if not earlier.

 

The ultimate measure of our success in implementing the crib rule is, of course, a reduction in deaths and injuries.

 

CPSC's most recent nursery report only has fatality figures through 2008, which was a bad year, as we all know. Crib deaths increased between 2006 and 2008, with nearly 125 reported deaths during those three years.

 

CPSC's most recent nursery report only has fatality figures through 2009, and we were still warning about drop side cribs back then. Crib deaths increased between 2007 and 2009, with nearly 150 reported deaths during those three years.

 

Many of those deaths involved soft bedding - pillows, comforters, stuffed animals in the crib. While others were related to the tragedies that entrapped and suffocated children in defective cribs.

 

It is my hope - and I trust yours as well - that when CPSC compiles the crib death and injury figures for 2011, 2012, and 2013, we see a marked decline.

 

Addressing and promoting safe sleep will continue to be a top priority for me for as long as I remain at the CPSC.

 

During the remainder of my time this morning, I would like to focus on four additional topics:

 

First, our joint campaign to prevent children from strangling on baby monitor cords;

 

Second, the ongoing work to adopt lifesaving rules as required by "Danny's Law," as well as the ongoing work to promote "Bare is Best" when using sleep products;

 

Third, the continuous testing rule that goes into effect this week;

 

And fourth, giving you an update on my safety priorities for 2013.

 

Let's start with baby monitor cords.

 

Like window coverings, baby monitor cord strangulations are a rare, but a tragic hazard found in millions of homes. The deaths of Savannah Pereira and other innocent children compelled both of our organizations to act.

 

Last May, we launched the "Coordinate a Safe and Sound Zone" campaign. It's a good name for our joint campaign, and so far, there have been some positives. For starters, the campaign has achieved more than 40 million viewer impressions in a variety of media.

 

The copy for the magazine ads was well designed. The website and videos are informative and also consumer friendly. And JPMA and CPSC staff have used all of the social media tools at their disposal.

 

I believe that the JPMA team has been working hard on the campaign. But, I want everyone to understand my perspective on it.

 

First, this is part of a corrective action program. We are going to evaluate the program next month to assess its success to date. And, we retain the right to call for a change in the CAP, if our assessment takes us in that direction.

 

The fact that available funds for the stretch drive of the campaign are so low is a concern.

 

Even if we permit this campaign to run its course - and that is no sure thing right now - it is imperative that all understand that this program is unique, and not the start of a new norm. Recall to repair, refund, or replace is still at the heart of how companies work with CPSC's Office of Compliance - and will remain so, while I am Chairman.

 

As a sign of just how unique the baby monitor cord campaign is, let's look at the next best example in CPSC's history: window coverings.

 

During the past two decades, CPSC has participated in two special programs with the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC).

 

Like you are doing on baby monitor cords, the WCSC took the lead on behalf of the industry in operating a toll-free number for consumers and conducting an education campaign - a campaign that is still ongoing.

 

But, here is the difference: individual makers of blinds and shades carried out consumer level recalls, at the same time as the association carried out its education program.

 

As I said before, this agreement is unique.

 

As we come upon the one year mark of the program, I want you to keep achieving more outreach. The new outreach to NARTS members is the type of grassroots partnership building that I often advocate for CPSC.

 

Keep making new connections and keep the focus on preventing baby monitor cord strangulations.

 

And, we'll keep monitoring the effort and see in a few months which direction is best to proceed.

 

Next, I want to talk about CPSC's ongoing work to establish mandatory juvenile product standards and promote the Bare is Best concept.

 

As we have discussed many times before, clutter and soft bedding are the biggest hazards in a babies sleep environment. The majority of suffocation deaths involving children younger than one are related to soft bedding.

 

The challenge we face is never-ending. With each new year come new parents who do not know or understand the risk factors with clutter in the crib or soft bedding in the bassinet.

 

During the past few months, Anu has reached out to major retailers to help me spread the word about infant safe sleep, and the retailers we contacted have responded enthusiastically.

 

In the second half of 2012 alone, several retailers took on projects to help us get the safe sleep message to their customers:

 

  • Target hosted a Facebook Q&A with their Target Baby Community of about 725,000 friends.
  • And, several retailers updated their websites to include our safe sleep video and links to our safe sleep information pages.

 

Going forward, most of the retailers we spoke to committed to ensuring that their crib and bedding marketing conveys that Bare is Best.

 

They are working with us to project this concept by using photos in their online and print catalogues and advertisements that show a bare crib - a crib without blankets, pillows, and plush toys.

 

And, they are working towards the goal of marketing nursery bedding separate from crib.

 

I have seen examples of the updated imaging, and the bedding looks just as adorable on its own, as it does when it's draped over the side of a crib!

 

Many retailers informed us that the marketing conversion will happen more expeditiously with their store-branded cribs and bedding.

 

But, as some of you may already know, they have begun reaching out to you - their suppliers - to provide them with images that display bedding apart from the crib itself.

 

Please cooperate with the retailers on this new effort.

 

It is not just marketing alone. Several retailers have committed to innovative long-term projects.

 

They want to work with those of you who are crib manufacturers to incorporate safety information in crib assembly instructions, so that new parents see important safety facts when they are putting together their baby's crib.

 

For example, JPMA's "Naptime to Nighttime" publication is quite good. It would be good for do-it-yourself parents to see it, as they open the box and start unloading the parts of a new crib.

 

Retailers will be looking to you to help make that happen, and I trust you will heed the call to help reduce preventable and tragic infant suffocation deaths.

 

In looking back at the past 3 ½ years, I am proud of the work we have done to fulfill the mandate of Section 104 of the CPSIA.

 

Bath seats, baby walkers, full size and non-full size cribs, toddler beds, and portable bed rails are all covered by strong mandatory standards.

 

Thanks to Danny's Law, a mandatory standard for play yards is going into effect this month.

 

The play yard rule is very special to me, because I have long had a photo of Danny Keysar in my office.

 

Danny's Law honors many children who were taken too soon. Danny's Law is about peace of mind for parents and bright futures of babies. Danny's Law is a very good law, and to meet its full potential, there is much work still to be done.

 

As many of you know, CPSC staff is working to present the Commission with final rule briefing packages on bassinets and cradles, bedside sleepers, and hand held infant carriers.

 

This year and in coming years, agency staff will be working on strollers, soft carriers, infant slings, bouncers, and updating existing mandatory standards.

 

I want the agency to stay on track with introducing two new rulemakings every six months. And, I know our dedicated staff is committed to working with ASTM and all of you to keep to this charge.

 

I do enjoy spending time with all of you at this Summit, but we keep having these moments that flare up each year with emails or letters that come in to CPSC at the last minute before a Commission meeting or vote.

 

Let's not have that happen this year.

 

Let's make 2013 a year that we work constructively on the ASTM subcommittees to anticipate and address potential issues. And let's work cooperatively during the public comment periods on 104 rulemakings.

 

It will help CPSC and JPMA have a healthier relationship and it will help parents have greater confidence in the safety of the important products all of you make.

 

Next, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge a very important upcoming safety milestone - February 8th. Just three days from now, CPSC's periodic testing rule goes into effect.

 

Since I arrived at CPSC - which was less than a year after passage of CPSIA - we have worked diligently to implement the world's toughest lead limits and bulk up our enforcement of product safety standards at the nation's ports.

 

Even with all that progress, February 8th ushers in what many consider the capstone of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 - that is, periodic independent, third-party testing of toys and other children's products.

 

In 2008, this nation stood at the crossroads of children's product safety - behind us was the "year of the recall" and millions of shocked and disappointed moms and dads and grandparents.

 

We had two choices.

 

Retain the failed children's product safety framework of the past that only caught and recalled dangerous children's products after they were already in the hands of millions of toddlers and young children, or create a new safety scheme designed to help ensure the safety of children's products when they are manufactured and before they are in the hands of children.

 

Parents want - and expect - that the products they purchase for their children have been third party tested for safety prior to entering the country.

 

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.

 

My guess is that many, if not all, of your members have already been doing this kind of testing for a long time.

 

As we have all learned, without periodic independent testing, there is much greater risk - as was seen during the "Summer of Recalls" in 2007 - that something dangerous will go unnoticed during what is usually a complex manufacturing process.

 

So as February 8th approaches, I am pleased to say that the periodic testing rule fulfills two promises - a promise that Congress made to parents and a promise that CPSC made to children, when under my leadership we adopted these third-party testing requirements.

 

Finally this morning, I would like to share with you my safety priorities for the year ahead - beyond those that involve juvenile products.

 

We at CPSC are continuing to strive to solidify our place as the global leader in consumer product safety. And many of the talented employees are working on safety initiatives aimed at making our agency even more proactive in 2013.

 

The safety agenda I would like share with all of you will guide CPSC in the months and years ahead. It is an agenda that fully advances consumer protection.

 

High on the agenda are a series of projects that, once completed, have the potential to save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of injuries each year.

 

I'm referring to:

  • The creation of an upholstered furniture flammability standard that promotes the use of barrier technology, does not require the use of flame retardant chemicals, and can prevent deaths and injuries caused by upholstered furniture fires
  • Next, is carbon monoxide. CO is the invisible killer. Exciting research was recently completed by CPSC staff, the University of Alabama, and NIST on a gas generator engine that emits lower levels of CO and increases escape time. I want to see this research be 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 will of the industry to make it happen.
  • Another 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 the 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 that industry.
  • Two other products 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 safety culture change in that sport. It was inspiring being 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 reach this year and in future years. Safer play is smarter play - it is also the future of youth sports, I believe.
  • The final initiative that I would like to mention is our very important Risk Assessment Methodology pilot program, which is a critical part of our import surveillance program. I am so pleased that Carol Cave, our Director of Import Surveillance, was invited to speak to all of you about this topic this morning. Carol and her team have done a great job of using state of the art technology, skilled staff, and the priceless assistance of Customs and Border Protection to build a formidable line of defense at the ports. We recently announced that in the third quarter of fiscal year 2012, CPSC and CBP investigators stopped nearly three million units of violative products at the ports. Our surveillance program keeps getting better and better. Carol will have more to share with you during her presentation.

 

CPSC continues to be in a leadership position, and I believe we are making a strong contribution to the state of product safety around the world.

 

We are wisely and efficiently employing our limited resources not just for short-term gains, but to create a sustainable product safety system.

 

A system built to last.

 

A system built to last through education, compliance, and enforcement of the CPSIA requirements.

 

A system built to last by creating a regulatory approach that strives for more robust injury prevention rather than mere detection and reaction.

 

I predict that the year 2013 will be another successful year, especially if everyone rallies around the approach of being "Proactive for Prevention."

 

I know that each of you is up to the challenge, because you already have a corporate and an association mission that puts the safety and well-being of consumers first.

 

At CPSC, we are proud that this is a time when parents and grandparents can go shopping and know that many of the children's products they see have been independently tested.

 

This is a time when consumers have unprecedented access to safety information at the tips of their fingers.

 

This is a time when foreign regulators and foreign manufacturers understand the requirements established in the United States, and know that there are consequences for not following our safety rules.

 

This is a time when the American consumer is being well represented by their government and is being better protected by a global system of safety that is getting stronger.

 

Together, we are building a product safety system that is built to last so that future generations of children and other consumers have an even greater level of safety.

 

I hope you all have a great rest of your day in Washington. You certainly have a great lunchtime speaker in my good friend and safety partner David Strickland.

 

Thank you once again to the leadership at JPMA for the invitation to speak with all for you.