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Keynote address to the FJATA, Mohegan Sun, Ct.

April 17, 2013

Good afternoon everyone. 

Brent [Cleaveland], thank you very much for that kind introduction, and for your leadership during a transformative time for the association.

I truly appreciate the invitation to join all of you for your annual meeting.

The last time I was in Connecticut was February and I watched 22 inches of snow fall outside of the house in which I was staying.  As impressed as I was with the streets being clear the next day, it is nice to be back in Connecticut without any concerns about the weather.

Joining me today is Matt Howsare, my Chief of Staff.  Matt has been with me throughout my entire tenure as Chairman.  Matt’s counsel to me has been invaluable and his commitment to the mission of the CPSC has been steadfast.

During my four years as Chairman, there have been many changes—many positive changes at the CPSC.

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 like yours have evolved and kept pace with changes in product safety rules—and I believe, your customers are better off for it.    

Your association stepped up to the plate and played a leading role on the ASTM F15 subcommittee that created the first national safety standard for children’s jewelry.

I can still remember Brent, Jim Heagney, Anthony DeGeorge, Roger Ducharme, and Robert Headley visiting me, in Bethesda, Maryland.  It was December 2011 and the new jewelry standard had just been approved.  I remember the pride that they expressed about the effort that went into the development of the standard.

As I hope you all know, Brent chaired the subcommittee.  I appreciated how cooperatively Brent and the subcommittee members worked with CPSC’s technical staff, who contributed new research on children’s exposure to cadmium.

I said this in 2011 and I will say it again today: I believe the ASTM F2923 standard is a quality standard and I believe it is a child protective standard. 

The standard is based on sound science, and it proactively addresses many of the toxic metals that I have been concerned about, beyond just lead and cadmium.

The standard also addresses other hazards that can arise in children’s jewelry involving magnets, batteries, and the risk of strangulation.

The standard is creating positive change in the industry and the marketplace.

A look back at history shows us that change was needed.  During the seven years leading up to the development of the jewelry standard, CPSC announced more than 50 recalls of more than 180 million units of children’s jewelry, due to high levels of lead. 

Of course, 150 of the 180 million units involved the recall of vending machine jewelry, which is still the biggest recall in our history.

In 2010, cadmium made headlines, as we issued five recalls of jewelry, due to excessive levels of the toxic metal.

But, the media headlines failed to recognize that 2010 was a different time than prior years—it was a different time for CPSC and for your industry.

For starters, strict surface coating and content limits for lead had been put in place through our implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  The CPSIA had also established cadmium and toxic metal limits for children’s toys, and there was recognition that jewelry needed similar limits.

What also changed was CPSC’s approach to handling emerging hazard.  As Chairman, I decided early on to take a more active role in addressing emerging hazard.

In January 2010, I was determined to not let cadmium be the next lead.  I told regulators and manufacturers at an APEC conference in Hong Kong to stop any substitution of lead with other harmful metals, in the production of children’s products.

A few weeks later, AQSIQ, our counterpart agency in Beijing, sent a similar message to Chinese manufacturers.

 On the enforcement side, our import surveillance team worked with Customs and Border Protection to inspect children’s jewelry and we turned back a shipment of violative jewelry that had excessive cadmium. 

We also stayed vigilant in the marketplace, expanding our lead surveillance program to include cadmium.

The global system of safety that we established, along with the jewelry standard going into effect, have shifted the trend lines back in the right direction.

Here is some proof.

Since 2010, we have not had a recall because of excessive cadmium since 2010.

Since 2011, we have had just a handful of jewelry recalls due to excessive lead.

In 2011 and 2012, we performed nearly 19,000 screenings of various products for cadmium and we only found five pieces of children’s jewelry that raised a red flag.

In 2011, we did a major marketplace surveillance program and screened 711 pieces of children’s metal jewelry.  These results were promising, but showed that continued vigilance is needed.

Corrective action was needed for three of the models, due to high levels of lead. 11 items were addressed at the retail level and 15 items with high lead were determined to not be children’s products.

And of the 711 items screened, only eight were found to have more than 300 parts per million of cadmium.

But, those items were either not children’s products, had less than 200 micrograms of extractable cadmium, or the items were old and had no documentation to pursue action.

We went back in 2012 and conducted another marketplace surveillance program, but this time, we looked at low-cost jewelry.

Of the 217 items we screened by XRF, none contained extractable cadmium above the 200 micrograms limit.  And just four were found to have more than 100 parts per million of lead, which we took appropriate action to address.

At the ports and in the marketplace, we are finding a low rate of samples that require further laboratory testing.  And we are finding an even lower rate of samples that, once tested, violate the CPSIA’s lead limits or the ASTM F2923 cadmium limits.

Progress is being made by your industry.  I know that you are committed to complying with current standards and I trust that you will not let your guard down.

Jarnell Brown, Colton Burkhart, and other children who have suffered internal injuries must be a constant reminder that we must achieve the highest level of safety in jewelry and accessory products.

I recently learned that your association and members are now actively participating in the development of an ASTM standard for adult jewelry.

Although CPSC does not have a technical representative on that subcommittee, I am pleased that you are working on this standard.

Many of the items that we have screened in recent years were determined to not be children’s products, under our federal definition, but were found to contain elevated levels of lead and cadmium.

I hope you develop a good standard for adult jewelry that takes into account that some children play with their parents and grandparents jewelry, and there are still teenagers and adults who mouth their jewelry.

I am also fully aware that your association is closely tracking proposed jewelry standards in various states.

Although, I am not going to comment on legislative proposals in individual states, I continue to support the national, consensus ASTM standard.  To date, I have yet to see scientific research proving that a total content standard is necessary, rather than a solubility standard.

Now, during my remaining time with you today, I would like to discuss two additional issues:

First, is my future as the Chairman of the CPSC;

And second, is my safety agenda for CPSC, in the months and years to come.

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, as I announced in February, I 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 corporations and trade associations, like yours.   

Thank you. 

In the remaining time that I have at the CPSC, we have plenty of work to complete. So, 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.

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.  

Working together, 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.

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

We at CPSC 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.

The lack of resources available for CPSC to conduct import surveillance is just not acceptable from my point of view. It is not acceptable for industry and it is not acceptable for CPSC.

CPSC’s presence at the ports represents .057 percent of the number of FDA inspectors located at ports around the country and we have a mission equal in size.

We need more resources to do more inspections and carry out an important mandate in the CPSIA.

The CPSIA directed us to create a Risk Assessment Methodology—commonly known as the RAM—to identify imported products that are most likely to be violative.

We followed this mandate and created a pilot RAM targeting system that integrates data from CPSC's internal systems with data collected by CBP and turned over to us.

The RAM pilot is aimed at early detection and targeting of high risk products and repeat offenders.

The result, if we were to achieve the full potential of program, would be CPSC being able to electronically analyze 100 percent of incoming import line entries designated as high priority.

Now, in the current budget environment, it is a challenge to achieve this result; but, I believe American families want CPSC to be proactive in keeping dangerous products out of their homes and that means inspecting more products at the ports than we do now.

Although we are still operating this limited proof of concept, a recently completed study by our Office of Import Surveillance demonstrated that the pilot RAM system was effective—effective in identifying violative and hazardous consumer products at ports of entry.

By also identifying low risk importers and manufacturers who supply consistently compliant products –which could include many of you in this room—CPSC can allow them reduced review at importation and facilitate the flow of legitimate trade.

This can result in a reduction in port processing time and a savings of costs. Preliminary results indicate that 90 percent of shipments were reviewed and released on the same day.

Let me repeat that: 90 percent of the shipments were reviewed and released on the same day.

The number of samples obtained from 100 entries examined more than doubled, while maintaining the same percentage of violations.

This increase in productivity is a direct result of the visibility that the RAM provides to investigators performing risk-based targeting.

In addition to providing details about the types of products and companies involved, the RAM analyzes each shipment's risk, based on criteria we developed.

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.

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

And I need your support.

Facilitating the flow of legitimate trade and 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.  We are hosting a meeting at our testing and evaluation center next week, in an effort to move forward in establishing consistent and reliable fire testing protocols.
  • 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 you can see, CPSC has a robust agenda. 

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

We are on pace to make 2013 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 association and member companies 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. 

Thank you once again for the opportunity to speak at your annual meeting.  I hope the rest of the meeting is successful, and I hope to you will continue to stay connected with CPSC.  

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