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Commissioner Buerkle Statement on the Proposed Standard for Slings

July 10, 2014

I voted to approve the notice of proposed rulemaking to adopt a mandatory standard for slings.  I have reservations as to whether this is the right course, and I urge all interested parties to send us their comments on this proposed rule.

First, I am concerned that the proposed standard will not address the biggest safety problem we have seen with slings, namely the deaths attributed to positional asphyxia.  This is not for lack of trying.  The CPSC staff has confronted this issue directly, but was unable to find a satisfactory solution.

Despite this shortcoming, the proposed standard may impose very substantial costs on manufacturers, most of whom are small or very small.  Most of these costs would not result from any changes to the product, but only because the new mandatory standard would trigger the requirement of third-party testing under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).  The testing costs anticipated by CPSC staff are significant enough to consume all the profits from small batch operations.  Many small manufacturers may be forced out of the market.

Second, I am not convinced that slings meet the definition of a “durable infant and toddler product” under CPSIA section 104.  They are different from the other products that are listed in the definition.  Some slings bear some resemblance to certain infant carriers—for which we have already adopted a mandatory standard under section 104—while other slings are nothing more than a swath of cloth of suitable length and breadth.  I question whether it is appropriate for the Commission to regulate such items under section 104.

Given the substantial problems that will ensue if we read the definition as encompassing slings, I am very hesitant to start down the rulemaking path.  I hope that we will get comments focused on these difficult questions.  Please tell us your thoughts.

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