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Fireworks Symposium Remarks - Monday, January 9, 2012, Hong Kong

September 17, 2012

Good morning everyone. John [Rogers], thank you very much for that kind introduction.

I want to thank the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory for organizing this conference and for their commitment to improving fireworks safety in the United States.

Several key members of the CPSC team are joining me today, and I would like to introduce them to you.

Executive Director Ken Hinson; Director of our Office of Hazard Identification and Reduction , DeWane Ray; and Regional Product Safety Specialist, Jenny Wang, who is based in Beijing, are all here today.

Feel free to approach any of us during the break today to introduce yourselves, and share any issues or ideas you have for enhancing product safety through manufacturing and testing processes.

It is always a pleasure for me to come to China and meet with some of the world’s leading manufacturers and exporters. And it is especially valuable when I can address a group of companies that dominate U.S. consumption of a product that is very important to the CPSC—fireworks

Liuyang City in Hunan Province is the best place on Earth for any discussion about fireworks. Liuyang is not only the global center of fireworks production, the city also is the birthplace of fireworks. This city is also an important contributor to China’s cultural heritage of manufacturing innovation.

I was pleased to learn that “Liuyang Fireworks” is recognized as a cultural brand name, and enjoys similar legal protection that “champagne” and “Parma ham” enjoy.

It is clear to me that the manufacturers are striving to ensure that locally made fireworks have a premier reputation for high quality and safety. Of course, I support any initiative aimed at promoting quality and safety.

At CPSC, we focus a great deal of time and considerable resources on China because China has become a predominant exporter of consumer goods to the United States.

CPSC’s data show that products from China comprised almost half of the $630 billion in consumer product imports entering the United States in 2010.

If current trends hold—and I expect they will—China will soon export more consumer products to the United States than all other countries combined.

Chinese manufacturers dominate the U.S. market in some very important product categories that fall under the CPSC’s jurisdiction. For fireworks, that domination is practically absolute.

More than 98 percent of the consumer fireworks purchased in the United States in 2010 were made in China. About three-fourths of our fireworks consumption was sourced from Hunan Province, and indeed, most of Hunan’s fireworks production is concentrated right here in Liuyang.

As I hope all of you know, we work closely with AQSIQ, and its provincial and local CIQs, because improving product safety is in the best interests of the United States and China.

For CPSC, our steadfast commitment is to keep Americans safe from products that pose unreasonable risks of injury or death. The AQSIQ is also focused in many facets of consumer safety and quality control.

China’s industrial health and the stability of its employment levels depend very much on the overall reputation of goods made in China, the status of individual Chinese industries, and the good name of the individual manufacturer.

While AQSIQ and CPSC may work to improve product safety with somewhat different motivations, everyone benefits from the end result, which is improved product safety.

CPSC has been conducting training sessions for stakeholders in China for many years. But, in recent years, we have increased the frequency, scope, and depth of our training in China.

My visit with all of you during this conference, as well as the technical discussions we will be having here, are another sign of our commitment to expanding our outreach and education efforts. I believe this is a winning approach to enhancing compliance with U.S. requirements and to improving the safety of fireworks.

Across many key industries, I believe our relationships have never been stronger with the AQSIQ, Chinese manufacturers, and local industry associations. Much of the success of this program is due to the hard work of Director General Wang Xin, who was with us yesterday.

Almost one year ago to the day, I was in Beijing to open officially the CPSC’s first-ever foreign office. It was only natural to open our first foreign office in Beijing, given the growth and importance of Chinese consumer goods in the U.S. market and our increasingly cooperative relationship with the AQSIQ.

The Beijing office is functioning fully and has been very busy over the past year, as Jenny can attest.

Jenny is joined in the office by Jeff Hilsgen, who is CPSC’s Attaché and Regional Product Safety Officer.

In just the past 12 months, Jeff and Jenny have provided training on U.S. product safety requirements to more than 16,500 industry representatives in China—2,500 in person and more than 14,000 via live webcasts.

Two of those training programs occurred in Liuyang—in August and October 2011. Jeff spoke to many of you about the CPSC’s latest fireworks regulations and initiatives.

I trust that these educational sessions have aided Chinese manufacturers’ understanding of the safety requirements that must be followed in order for products to reach U.S. store shelves.

In particular, this approach has helped manufacturers direct their attention toward best manufacturing practices, which is a principle that my counterpart at AQSIQ and I have been promoting.

Now CPSC’s Beijing office is actually part of a new and larger office that we have established at CPSC—the Office of Education, Global Outreach, and Small Business Ombudsman.

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.

Ultimately, this will create safer products through better educated manufacturers.

I am hopeful that this new office also can collaborate with colleges and universities on relevant educational courses in the United States and in China.

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 that focuses on safe products.

Each of our countries has restated our common commitment to promoting best manufacturing practices during a highly productive consumer product safety summit with AQSIQ, held in Washington, D.C., last October.

To all of our colleagues from the Chinese government who are here today, I want to say thank you once again for strengthening our cooperation on product safety.

Our trip to Liuyang and our meetings here highlight the importance of the products you make and send to the United States.

Americans love fireworks made in China!

They bring so many smiles and so many good times to millions of Americans, especially during our national Independence Day and New Year’s holidays.

But of course, the ingredients in fireworks that make them so fun and exciting—that is, the explosive powder and flammable materials that light up the night—also create safety hazards.

Our latest statistics indicate that fireworks were involved in an estimated 8,600 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2010.

When we closely examine injury statistics over the 4th of July holiday period, we find that children younger than 15 years old accounted for about 40 percent of the injuries. That held true over the 4th of July holiday period in 2010.

In fact, if we look at per capita injuries for the 4th of July holiday period in 2010, children ages 5 to 9 years old had the highest injury rate from fireworks of any age group, followed by children ages 10 to 14, and then children ages 15 to 19.

Fireworks are associated disproportionately with injuries to children, as compared to injuries to adults. Each year, I stand on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and I talk to the media about the dangers of children using fireworks, especially sparklers.

Sparklers are of special concern because they were associated with an estimated 1,200 emergency room visits during the 4th of July holiday in America in 2010—700 of which involved children under 15 years old. In fact, sparklers account for nearly one third of all types of consumer fireworks injuries.

U.S. (Federal Hazardous Substances Act) regulations require sparkler packaging to state clearly that sparklers may be used only under close adult supervision by children at least 12 years old. I think more can be done to improve the safety of sparklers and how they are used.

In 2012, CPSC intends to work with the American Pyrotechnics Association to develop a sparkler-specific education program for the United States. Our goal is to reduce the number of sparkler-related injuries to children.

I also encourage the sparkler manufacturers in this room to work to develop and produce safer sparklers. You are all known for your creativity and engineering skills. We look forward to seeing what your design teams come up with to improve these products—and I know you will succeed.

Fireworks safety in the United States begins with a properly designed and manufactured device from Hunan province. Fireworks devices must have a warning or caution label that describes the hazard associated with the device, as well as information about proper storage, handling, and use.

While I believe most fireworks are manufactured properly, there is more work to be done.

CPSC is continuously improving its criteria for selection and evaluation of which shipments to test as we detect and detain products at import. We still need to see a decrease in the violation rate of consumer fireworks that CPSC tests.

The three primary violations detected were: (1) too much powder packed into aerial fireworks devices; (2) improper fuse burn times; and (3) improper cautionary labeling.

We thank the AFSL and the Chinese government for being receptive to our concerns and suggestions of ways to make improvements across the industry. CPSC maintains an active dialogue with AQSIQ and Hunan CIQ officials as they try to ensure that fireworks shipments to the United States comply with CPSC regulations.

AQSIQ and CPSC fireworks experts participate in digital video conferences focused on improving fireworks safety. We also share enforcement information in an effort to identify and work with companies in the United States and China that violate U.S. fireworks standards.

CPSC staff also routinely conducts education and outreach sessions with U.S. fireworks industry associations and importers. As Chairman, I fully support these efforts, and I look forward to speaking next month at a fireworks conference sponsored by the American Pyrotechnics Association.

Regardless of the particular device you are building, the manufacturing process is critical. To the extent that steps can be taken to ensure the uniformity of manufacturing quality control procedures, I think the industry and consumers would be well served.

Equally important is uniformity of training for technicians who may be operating in the various factories. Another consideration would be to test to more stringent internal standards as a method of reducing variability. We know that many importers depend upon the third party testing process managed by the AFSL because the AFSL’s test results enable U.S. importers to certify that their fireworks imports meet all U.S. fireworks safety requirements.

Therefore, it is imperative that the manufacturers and AFSL work harder to ensure that the violation rate is reduced.

Finally, I hope that Chinese stakeholders will place a special emphasis on the potential danger of fuseless fireworks—the same emphasis that we are starting to see in the United States.

We have designated these fuseless fireworks as “adult snappers” as they have a significantly higher charge than the traditional snapper.

These devices are not manufactured in the same way as a traditional “snapper.” This product contains several milligrams of pyrotechnic composition, and staff considers them to be the regulatory definition of a “consumer firecracker,” albeit fuseless.

Our concern is that these devices have an explosive force that produces a report that could seriously injure the user if not labeled properly. We intend to inspect closely for this product.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that fireworks safety ultimately depends on two key elements: consumers who are well informed about the potential dangers of fireworks, and manufacturers who produce high quality fireworks that meet all U.S. regulations.

We believe that China’s fireworks industry and the AFSL will continue to work hard to improve the performance of fireworks exports to the United States.

If we are partners in that effort, I know we can make progress on fireworks safety.

Thank you all for joining this event today.

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