Skip to main content

American Apparel and Footwear Association Product Safety and Sustainability Seminar & Exhibitions - Wednesday, February 1, 2012, New York, N.Y.

September 17, 2012

Thank you for that kind introduction, Michael. Good morning everyone. It is wonderful to see so many familiar faces here today.

First, I want to commend AAFA on hosting its seventh Product Safety and Sustainability Seminar & Exhibition. Just a few months ago I spoke to AAFA's Product Safety Council.

As I expressed to the members of the Product Safety Council, it is my hope that AAFA and its members will use these types of events to carry out what I believe is a fundamental building block of a "preventative" product safety strategy - education.

As we continue to implement our most recently passed regulations, we will continue to rely on trade associations like AAFA - we will rely on you to be our partner in educating and answering questions of industry members.

We want to work with you to answer questions about how to comply with our safety requirements and always deliver a safe product to consumers.

During my time with you today, I would like to focus on two main areas:

  • first, a few of the remarkable achievements CPSC recorded last year;
  • second, the future work of the CPSC, in 2012 and beyond.

Let's start with a discussion of CPSC's accomplishments last year. Last year was another outstanding year for our agency.

CPSC approved or put into effect new requirements that will strengthen the product safety net for children and provide safeguards that parents have long sought.

Four months ago, we celebrated quite an achievement at CPSC. On October 19, 2011, CPSC voted to adopt requirements for continuous, independent, third-party testing of toys and other children's products before they reach consumers.

I view this accomplishment as a monumental day for the safety of America's children and one that parents and grandparents have waited for years to happen.

With this accomplishment, we approved what many consider the capstone of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

By requiring independent, third-party testing of all regulated children's products, we are requiring all companies to do what many of you in this room likely already strive to do - to take safety "to the source."

Congress made it a requirement that CPSC establish independent safety checks throughout the manufacturing process and implement protocols and standards for doing so.

What CPSC approved in October will require periodic and continuous testing to the applicable standards for all regulated children's products starting in early 2013.

What we did not do with this rule is try to dictate one approach to fit every manufacturing regime.

Instead, we said that, the absence of other steps to ensure compliance, or in the absence of a material change, third-party periodic testing should occur at least once a year.

But, if a manufacturer has and follows an appropriate production-testing plan, then third-party periodic testing only would be required at least every two years.

And if a manufacturer uses an accredited ISO 17025 certified laboratory, then third-party periodic testing only would be required at least every three years.

What is important to know is that the testing interval must be short enough to ensure that, if the samples selected for testing pass the test, there is a high degree of assurance that the other untested products, comply with the applicable standards.

One thing that I'm sure many of you were relieved to see was not included in this rule is what we call "subpart b" or the "reasonable testing program."

Rather than finalize this part of the rule, we chose to reserve this section and not to formally define what constitutes a "reasonable testing program" at this time.

Along with the continuous third-party testing rule, we also issued a final rule officially allowing for the use of component part testing or finished product testing.

It is my hope that this new rule will provide additional meaningful relief for all manufacturers, especially for smaller children's apparel and footwear manufacturers. My vision is that meaningful relief can be provided for those who choose to rely on the testing and/or the certification of an upstream supplier.

I believe we struck the right balance between recognizing best practices in manufacturing and testing, and giving parents confidence that a strong system of safety is being established for children's products.

Our children deserve this protection.

The final third-party testing rules we adopted will fulfill the pledge that Congress made to parents through the passage of the CPSIA and the promise that CPSC made to children when we started to implement the law.

I believe we took a giant step forward in transforming the children's product safety framework in the United States. We transformed it from the reactive recall centered system that led to the "Year of the Recall" in 2007 to the new, more proactive safety framework that will help to reduce injuries and illnesses and save more lives by preventing safety problems at the source, before products reach the market.

Following the vote on this rule, a father who had lost his daughter in a baby monitor cord strangulation incident wrote me an e-mail.

He said: "You know as well as I that the child product industry will work with government, test labs, and others over the years to improve the new certification and testing rules

Your votes today and your efforts in getting the recent array of child safety laws and rules in place will forever reduce the accidental injury and death rates of children. That is a perfect example of good government and the good side of human nature." Those words mean a great deal to me and they mean a lot to the hard-working staff at CPSC.

For many of you, the third-party testing requirements, especially the third-party testing and certification requirements that came into effect last month, are not really anything new.

It probably is the case that many of the companies represented here today have been third-party testing and certifying many of their children's products intended for the United States for quite some time.

And as you may know from our recent education and outreach efforts, including the roundtable meeting that Michael attended, CPSC stands ready to assist AAFA in educating its members about all of our requirements, new and old.

The new third-party testing rules represent a major deliverable in our implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Yet, CPSC had other notable accomplishments last year that I would like to share with all of you.

These include:

  • One regulation that I am sure you are all keenly aware of, the approval of mandatory standards aimed at keeping drawstrings and ties out of children's outerwear. We also adopted a similar standard aimed at keeping shock protection devices on hair dryers. Both of these rules were established using new authorities that we call "15(j) rules," which were made possible by the CPSIA.
  • The approval of the world's strongest crib standards, a final safety standard for toddler beds, and proposed rulemaking aimed at creating a federal safety standard for bed rails. All of these rules contribute to our effort to establish special requirements for juvenile products.
  • The approval of procedures that require independent safety testing to the mandatory toy safety standard and to ensure that companies meet strict limits on the use of phthalates in children's toys and child care articles.
  • The approval of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at exploring the possibility of federal performance standards to reduce the thousands of needless injuries and billions of dollars in societal costs that occur every year from table saw blade contact injuries.
  • The approval of an ANPR alerting the industry to the possibility of federal safety standards being created for the labeling or performance of gel fuels and firepots, or a ban if no adequate standard can be found to address the serious burn injuries associated with these products.

One other important determination was made by CPSC last year.

We found that there was insufficient evidence to support a conclusion that manufacturers of children's products sold in the United States could not meet a total lead content limit of 100 parts per million.

Simply stated, the impact of our determination is that the total lead content limit in the United States is now 100 parts per million for children's products, which is one of the lowest levels in the world.

This will allow consumers to have confidence that lead should be virtually nonexistent in toys and other children's products made on or after August 14 of 2011.

Now that this requirement is in effect, we should step back and commend the companies in the apparel industry and your industry's suppliers - commend them for responding to CPSC's call to "get the lead out" and for delivering nearly lead free products to the market.

I know that some of you had concerns with this new standard when we originally adopted it. I am happy that the signs to date are indicating that companies like yours have taken the steps necessary to ensure compliance with these lead standards.

I am also thankful that your industry, the Fashion Jewelry and Accessories Trade Association, and the Toy Industry Association, were all supportive of new ASTM voluntary standards for cadmium and other toxic metals in both surface coatings and substrates of children's jewelry and toys.

At my urging, the ASTM children's jewelry and F963 subcommittees approved these voluntary standards in December of last year. I appreciate the determination that both subcommittees displayed in carrying out their work.

For the past two years, I have been warning manufacturers about substituting cadmium or other toxic metals in place of lead.

We now have standards for both toys and children's metal jewelry, reinforcing my warning to manufacturers about the hazards of cadmium and other toxic metals.

Children's jewelry and toys will be safer thanks to these efforts.

To me, that is forward progress.

From port inspections to retail surveillance to our new testing laboratory, our screening and testing data shows that the majority of children's products comply with these standards - this is a big win for children.

Finally, as most of you know, in August of 2011, the U.S. Congress approved, and the President signed into law amendments to certain parts of the CPSIA.

Congress did not overhaul the independent testing requirements, nor did it back away from the stringent lead limits in children's products.

What Congress did do is establish a pathway for small batch manufacturers to gain some relief from some of the third-party testing requirements.

Congress also made sure that the 100 parts per million total content lead limit was applied prospectively only - not retroactively - for manufacturers, retailers and resellers. I fully supported this change in the law.

In addition, Congress asked the agency to seek public comment on ways to reduce third-party testing burdens while still assuring compliance. Our staff is reviewing those comments now, including the detailed submission that I know AAFA worked very hard to submit on behalf of its members.

Now, I know that the CPSIA has presented certain challenges to your industry. Nevertheless, I believe that your motivation to comply with the law should continue to be the same as CPSC's motivation to implement the law - a desire to keep children safe while at play.

As I have stated many times, if we all work together, we can make the product safety laws work as intended.

Finally, this afternoon, I would like share with all of you the vision I have for what CPSC will focus on in 2012.

One might say that this is a vision that goes beyond the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Although some may believe that the CPSIA has kept us from carrying out our mission, I do not believe this to be the case.

As many of you know, CPSC staff is comprised of many people who do much more than just CPSIA, such as:

  • our compliance officers, who secure hundreds of product recalls a year;
  • our engineers and health scientists, who are confronting acute and chronic hazards; and
  • our port inspectors, who keep finding violative products within mountains of cargo containers.

Many of our talented employees are working on safety initiatives that go beyond the CPSIA - initiatives aimed at making CPSC more proactive and the global leader in product safety.

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

  • Continued federal rulemaking for juvenile products. Right now the agency is considering a notice of proposed rulemaking for infant swings and I expect that we will also consider rules for bed rails, bassinets and cradles, strollers, and infant carriers this year. Our dedicated professional staff will continue to work with all of our stakeholders on these important rules for juvenile products in 2012 and beyond.
  • Portable gas generators, which were involved in 676 carbon monoxide related deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2010. Our mechanical engineers are working with college engineers to develop a cut-off switch that will shut down a generator if oxygen levels are depleted in a contained space. We have required a danger label that says, "Using a generator indoors can kill you in minutes," but we need to explore technical solutions that can save lives.
  • Recreational off-highway vehicles are a popular off-road product in the United States, but they come with risks-risks compounded by the fact that these vehicles allow for passengers. There have been more than 115 deaths over the past eight years. We started rulemaking in December 2009, and we are moving toward a proposed rule to make these vehicles safer.
  • All-terrain vehicles or ATVs remain a serious concern to me and the agency. With more than 800 deaths per year, ATVs are the second most deadly product that we oversee. We have been doing grassroots education and researching technical ATV safety issues for years and will continue to expand this effort. We will also consider a final rulemaking aimed at establishing greater protections for young riders in 2012.
  • Upholstered furniture is involved in tens of thousands of fires and hundreds of deaths each year in the U.S. And we know that 90 percent of the addressable deaths are related to smoldering fires, such as those caused by cigarettes. CPSC staff has proposed a rule that would limit the fire spread in upholstered furniture without the need for manufacturers to use flame retardant chemicals. After 16 years of trying, I am committed to pursuing the approval of a final rule while I am Chairman, as I believe it could go down as one of the top lifesaving rules in our history.
  • A new rulemaking project is on table saws. Would you believe that 11 people suffer amputations every day in the United States from injuries related to using these power saws that cut wood? It's true. We are exploring solutions at CPSC to save people from these life-altering injuries, and we are also currently seeking comments from our stakeholders on how the safety of these products can be improved.

A common attribute that runs through all of the product hazards I just discussed is that we have team leaders and technical staff at CPSC who are experts in their field.

I'm proud of the work they are doing, and I know they want to bring closure to their projects over the next couple of years and prevent injuries and deaths from defective juvenile products, rollovers, crashes, CO poisonings, fires, and finger amputations.

On another note, one of the most exciting recent advances that CPSC has made and will build on in 2012 and for years to come is the opening of our first foreign office in Beijing. This is in keeping with my goal of the agency being more proactive and engaged, especially in the regions where many consumer products shipped to the U.S. are manufactured.

The Beijing office is fully functioning and through dialogue with foreign regulators and stakeholders, our staff in Beijing, are promoting two-way communication, regulatory alignment, and best practices.

The Beijing staff is doing such great work and they are a great resource if any of your members located in Asia need additional information about CPSC's requirements or training tools.

Now our Beijing office is actually part of a new office that I established at the agency - the Office of Education, Global Outreach, and Small Business Ombudsman.

This new office is tasked with staying committed to the vision of achieving best manufacturing and best import practices throughout the world and in the United States.

I believe that by establishing an office dedicated to addressing the questions and concerns of the regulated community, CPSC can facilitate the transfer of knowledge across industries and borders.

As many of you probably already know, we now have a full-time dedicated small business ombudsman who is Neal Cohen.

Neal came from our office of general counsel and has been doing an excellent job as the agency's small business ombudsman.

Neal is a resource that AAFA already has called upon on behalf of their smaller member companies, and I hope that you will continue to call upon him and other CPSC staff within this new office in the future.

This new office, I believe, will ultimately create safer products through better-educated manufacturers.

I am hopeful that our new Office of Education also can collaborate with colleges and universities on special educational courses, domestically, and internationally.

In fact, CPSC is already involved in ongoing conversations with several institutions of higher learning to explore the development of meaningful certification programs related to best manufacturing processes in China.

It is my hope that this initiative can result in academia playing a leading role in training a future generation of experts in supply chain management.

I envision that some of the topics the panelists will cover late this afternoon - how to manage a brand when working with third-party vendors; maintaining quality control; and getting proper documentation for US market entry - would be some of the same topics covered in any such formal training.

The last thing I want to touch on today is an issue that I know is very important to many of the companies represented here today - children's sleepwear.

In December 1996, in July 2008, and again in December of 2011, the Office of Compliance stated its view that "loungewear" garments in sizes 0 to 14 are primarily worn for sleep-related activities, and therefore, must comply with the children's sleepwear standards.

This position is supported by:

  • the children's sleepwear standards,
  • literature on the definition and trends regarding loungewear,
  • a review of catalogues and store displays to see what types of garments are being marketed as "loungewear,"
  • and discussions with manufacturers and importers of children's sleepwear.

Last year, AAFA testified at a CPSC hearing that greater enforcement efforts needed to be taken in this area.

I want to reassure this group that enforcement action will be taken. We will take action against firms that market "loungewear" and certain "comfort wear" items that are intended to be worn primarily for sleep-related activities and do not comply with children's sleepwear standards.

When I spoke to the Product Safety Council in November, I announced that as a part of these enforcement efforts, I had directed the Office of Compliance and Field Operations to send a new letter to all firms involved in the manufacturing, importing and marketing of children's sleepwear reiterating these points.

I am pleased to tell you today that the letter has been updated, reissued, and distributed far and wide.

It is my hope that AAFA and the companies in this room will help CPSC to ensure this message reaches as many companies as possible in the children's sleepwear industry.

These are my reflections of the past and my goals for the future. They are ambitious, and require integration and collaboration, and seek to bring mutual benefits to consumers and industry.

In closing, I hope you can see that we have already made great progress at CPSC in establishing a system of safety for American consumers - a system built to last.

And I believe we will continue to make progress in advancing consumer product safety over the next few months and years.

I hope each of you has found today informative and productive, and I would be happy to answer any questions.

Report an unsafe product