European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee , Monday, June 7, 2010, Brussels, Belgium

June 07, 2010

Good afternoon Chairman Harbour. Thank you for your kind introduction and for the opportunity to join this distinguished gathering in such a grand setting.

 

As a lifelong advocate for the well being of children, I was honored to have been asked by President Obama to lead a small agency with an enormous charge, protecting the American public from dangerous consumer products. My path from practicing environmental law in a large law firm, to being elected the State Superintendent of Education for South Carolina, to being appointed the Chairman of the CPSC allows me to continue my passion of promoting children's safety and well-being and has expanded that passion to ensuring the safety and well-being of all American consumers. We at CPSC are driven by this meaningful mission - protecting our citizens from injuries or death associated with consumer products - a mission that is similar to what you too are working to accomplish.

 

Success for all of us can be measured in lives saved and injuries prevented from dangerous products. In today's global market place, success can only be achieved if our vision stretches beyond the United States and beyond Europe.

 

Former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan once stated, "We must ensure that the global market is embedded in broadly shared values and practices that reflect global social needs, and that all the world's people share the benefits of globalization."

 

He added, "We have to choose between a global market driven only by calculations of short-term profit, and one which has a human face." The philosophy espoused by Secretary Annan is what brings me to Brussels - and has also taken me to Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Hanoi. I believe we must put a human face on those who are building global markets, those who are regulating them, and those who are consumers of its products.

 

The more familiar we are with each other's intentions, the greater the possibilities to harmonize those intentions and maximize safety. The more familiar our industries are with rules they must follow, the more likely they are to follow those rules and not produce dangerous consumer products.

 

For CPSC, our commitment to building strong safeguards in the global marketplace for comes from the agency's experiences in 2007 and 2008.

 

The media headlines from back then - before I became Chairman - were about waves of popular toys being recalled because of lead paint violations and dangerous magnets falling out, children's metal jewelry recalled because of high lead content, and millions of cribs recalled because of deadly entrapment hazards. And as we all know, products from China were at the center of that storm.

 

Those recalls, some of which you may have also had to deal with, resulted from manufacturing defects, failures in the supply chain, and a failure to comply with safety requirements.

 

You may ask, what has changed at CPSC? The answer is two-fold: the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and a change in regulatory philosophy.

 

A new U.S. federal law and a new approach to standards and enforcement have created a paradigm change in manufacturing and distribution, resulting in positive changes for consumers.

 

I would like to share with all of you today the basic components of the CPSIA itself and then some of the new rules and regulations that we are establishing in the United States as a part of implementing the CPSIA, all of which impact the global marketplace.

 

Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)

 

Sweeping reform that reinvigorated our agency by nearly doubling our budget and charging the agency to implement new regulations to enhance consumer safety.

 

This new law set stringent new limits for lead and phthalates in certain children's products

 

Required third-party testing and tracking labels for children's products and a reasonable testing program for nonchildren's products subject to a federal standard

 

New mandatory standards for toys (ASTM F963)

 

Required rulemaking for standards for durable infant products (cribs, baby walkers, infant bath seats, bassinets, potentially as many as 24 categories)

 

Creates a searchable public database for consumer comments on products that pose safety risks to consumers (March 2011)

 

Recent Commission Activities

 

In order to implement all of the sweeping changes the CPSIA mandated, the Commission has been very active in promulgating new rules and simultaneously educating the regulated community who must comply with the new requirements.

 

Proposed Rule on the Definition of a Children's Product

 

Primarily intended or designed for a child 12 years old or younger.

 

Clearly defines the scope of children's products subject to new lead in paint and lead content standards and the new tracking label requirements.

 

Clarity on what products must meet these requirements is good for manufacturers and consumers alike

 

Proposed rule on the Definition of Toy and Child Care Product as it relates to Phthalates (toys and child care articles subject to phthalate testing requirements)

 

Toy - Intended for use by a child 12 or younger while at play

 

Child Care Article - Facilitate sleeping or feeding for children three and younger

 

CHAP composed of International experts - Studying the three phthalates banned on an interim basis.

 

Proposed rule on how the new Public Database will function

 

Sets forth a user friendly environment for people reporting about potentially harmful products and also for manufacturers if they wish to respond to those reports

 

Proposed rule on third party and reasonable testing requirements for manufacturers imposed by CPSIA

 

Outlines the requirements for how manufacturers of children's products and manufacturers of nonchildren's products must test their products before putting them in the marketplace and their testing obligations as they continue to manufacture a product

 

Proposed Rule On Component Testing

 

Will allow manufacturers the ability to reduce their testing costs by having suppliers perform the required testing, it is my hope that this flexibility will simultaneously reduce testing costs and push safety upstream

 

Crib Safety - One of my top priorities this year as Chairman is ensuring the safety of our most vulnerable consumers, our children, in a place that they should always be safe - their crib

 

Safe Sleep Campaign - aimed at educating consumers on how the keep their children safe

 

Persistent problems I've seen with cribs - dangerous drop sides, broken mattress supports, poor wood quality, and cheap hardware

 

Too many deaths, too many recalls

 

With drop side defects alone - We are aware of 32 deaths over 9 years and there have been 7 million units recalled over 5 years.

 

Therefore, we are developing a vastly improved crib standard that will address many of the problems the agency has seen with defective cribs over the years

 

Standard for cribs to be completed by the end of 2010

 

The new standard will address both "new and used," "full-sized or non full-sized," and "portable cribs and crib pens"

 

All cribs manufactured or sold after the effective date of the new standard must be compliant

 

In addition, the standard will be retroactive for hotels, motels, daycare centers, and other child care facilities - meaning these establishments must purchase new cribs that meet the new standard

 

My goal - To ensure the safety of our most vulnerable consumers in cribs, a place where children should always be safe and parents should always feel confident that they are safe

 

Extensive Outreach on New Rules and Regulations - We are reaching out to our stakeholders like never before, both prior to developing proposed rules for input and constructive dialogue and education of the regulated community on their obligations under the law

 

One of my top priorities at the Commission is expanded education and outreach - To that end, as it relates to all of the new rules and regulations that the agency is implementing, I have charged our agency personnel to engage in extensive education efforts aimed at helping the regulated community comply with the new requirements mandated by CPSIA.

 

The staff has responded astoundingly by conducting numerous public workshops (one was 2 days, with 250 live attendees and hundreds more on the internet), public hearings, stakeholders meetings, webinars, trade shows, and countless other forums to educate those who have new responsibilities under the new law

 

Education and outreach beyond our stakeholders and regulated community

 

In today's global marketplace, I believe it is absolutely essential that my agency's education efforts extend beyond our borders to where many of the products imported into the US are manufactured

 

The agency has conducted training of foreign governments and manufacturers in the past but I believe these efforts should be expanded and I plan on expanding them

 

The Commission is creating an office of Education and Outreach - In addition to its education and outreach efforts in the US, this office will be tasked with the important responsibility of educating and having dialogue with our international partners and training foreign manufacturers and governments on our laws and regulations

 

When I traveled to Vietnam, the government officials and manufacturers there were eager to learn of our laws and regulations - we must take advantage of such willingness and maximize our efforts to push safety upstream through education efforts in the places where our products are manufactured

 

I believe this is essential to the enhancement of consumer safety in my country and any country where a substantial number of consumer products are imported - this is why it is one of my highest priorities as Chairman of the Commission

 

Notes:

 

Despite debate in the US about the law, it really does codify some of the simple fundamentals of product safety that are now the baseline requirements for companies trying to meet the standard of due care.

 

Companies must know and comply with federal & vol. standards

 

Control the supply chain and run the product through testing

 

Report Safety Issues - federal requirement in US

 

I could go on for a very long time describing the past and future activities of the agency, but I can sum it up very succinctly - since the passage of the CPSIA, the agency has promulgated more than 50 CPSIA related rules, interim rules, public notices, and guidance documents. In addition, agency personnel have engaged our stakeholders directly during the development of these new requirements and, after the requirements were established, have then turned around and educated the regulated community on how to comply with them. This is a record pace for agency staff and the Commission and I am proud to be leading this change, change that will enhance the safety of consumers.

 

So as you can see, at CPSC we have a lot of ongoing activity, mostly centered on significant new regulations that will build safeguards to protect the consumer and ultimately rebuild the confidence of the consumer. I truly believe that participating in meetings like yours today bolster relations between the United States and European Commission and allow us to find areas where we can speak with one voice.

 

A common vision of having products designed to the highest standards, tested by certified laboratories, and not causing injuries. A common commitment to the safety and well being of those we serve.

 

These are the foundational principles that bring us together today. I look forward to meeting many of you personally throughout the day and continuing our dialogue.

 

Thank you so much.