Thank you so much Bob [Waller] for your gracious introduction and for JPMA’s public support of CPSC at last month’s ICPHSO conference. I appreciate your leadership and efforts to keep the association at the forefront of child safety.
It is good to be here at my first JPMA Summit. This gathering could not be more timely.
I come before all of you this afternoon in the spirit of partnership – a partnership aimed at restoring the confidence of parents in the products they buy and rely on for their babies and toddlers.
From my point of view, the products all of you make and sell are the most important ones inside of homes with young children. The well-being, development, and safety of American children is dependent to a large degree on the standard of care that each of your companies strive to reach. I trust that all of you would agree that nothing short of the gold standard will do for your cherished customers.
I want all of you to know that I did not come here today to talk only about the CPSIA and new mandatory standards for juvenile products. I will certainly get to those topics. But I am here because I believe we share a common purpose: to commit all of our energy and all of our expertise to the safety of children.
Ensuring the well-being of children has been a driving force throughout my career, from my work in the South Carolina House of Representatives to serving as Superintendent of Education for the state. I was an advocate for many underserved and vulnerable children in South Carolina, and I am still an advocate for them now as the Chairman of CPSC.
I am so fortunate to have a team at CPSC that also wears their passion for the safety of children on their sleeves. The vision we have collectively rallied around is ambitious, but we cannot be anything but ambitious when it comes to our most vulnerable consumers.
Our vision for keeping babies safe has four key elements:
first, rid homes of recalled and dangerous nursery products,
next, fill the marketplace with a new generation of juvenile products that meet state-of-the-art performance standards,
third, educate parents and caregivers at the earliest stage possible as to what a safe nursery looks like, and
fourth, modernize CPSC into an agency that identifies and responds to emerging hazards with the speed needed to prevent harm, not just react to it.
We are pouring new resources, technology and thinking into an initiative built around achieving this vision. We are calling it our SAFE SLEEP campaign and it is at the heart of my agenda for the agency in 2010. And I hope all of you here today and all of those in the JPMA community will join us in this effort.
Before I go into the details of the SAFE SLEEP initiative, let me step back and share my thoughts about how we reached this point in time.
For all of the attention that toys with lead paint and dangerous magnets received in 2007 during the year of the recall, we must not forget another major recall that happened back then. Simplicity cribs.
The Simplicity drop side crib recall of September 2007 was a game-changer.
Over 1 million cribs were recalled. At that time CPSC was aware of 3 deaths and 7 entrapments in those cribs. Since 2007, we’ve recalled another million Simplicity drop side cribs.
And sadly, we are now aware of 11 children that have died due to drop side defects and other hardware defects in Simplicity cribs. The 2007 Simplicity recall made national news for days and it was the start of a drumbeat of drop-side crib recalls.
A drum-beat that we must bring to a close.
The Simplicity recall, which came just 2 years after the Lineweavers declared success and dissolved The Danny Foundation, also had a major effect on the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. The impetus for the Section 104 rules in the CPSIA was to prevent another tragic death like Danny Keysar’s and to prevent a repeat of Simplicity.
It is has been nearly two years since the company ceased operations and stopped providing repairs to consumers. The staff at CPSC and I continue to be deeply concerned about recalled Simplicity products - not just cribs, but also bassinets and play yards - that remain in homes and daycare centers across the country.
As many of you know, we continue to warn the public about the dangers with these products and would like JPMA’s help in this effort to prevent further deaths and injuries in the aftermath of the recalls.
Under my leadership, CPSC is committed to doing everything in our power to prevent a repeat of Simplicity, but we all know that it wasn’t just Simplicity that put us where we are today.
Over the past 3 years there have been far too many recalls, deaths and near-deaths with cribs, basinets, play yards, and baby hammocks.
In the past you may have heard leadership at CPSC tell you that recalls are a sign of CPSC doing its job to police the marketplace. I do not share that philosophy and parents surely do not share that perspective.
My philosophy is that multiple recalls with a similar defect in a product class is a failure in the marketplace. A piecemeal approach to addressing such problems is not the answer; it must be addressed with a preventative, systematic solution.
That brings us back to CPSC’s Safe Sleep initiative.
To make every child’s sleep environment a fortress of safety, we at CPSC are pursuing a holistic, multipronged approach.
I have said this before to Congress, in media interviews and recently at ICPHSO, and now I get to share it with the JPMA community: in 2010, CPSC staff will propose a final rule mandating new federal performance standards for cribs.
CPSC staff is working closely with ASTM on this standard and I am pleased to hear that it is out for ballot right now.
There are key elements of CPSC’s multi step performance plan that were incorporated into the standard, which I believe will make it a state-of-the-art standard. To those of you involved in the ASTM process, do not delay in bringing closure to the vote.
We are prepared to act independently, but we believe that working with ASTM, JPMA, and other stakeholders to finalize a new voluntary standard can help us expedite the process of developing a new mandatory standard - a standard that will usher in a new generation of safer cribs to the marketplace.
Cribs that are free of drop side, mattress support and wood quality defects. Cribs that parents of any age or financial status can have confidence in and trust when they lay their baby or toddler to sleep.
Of course, there are benefits to JPMA in this approach. Let’s be frank - your seal of approval was on many of the recalled cribs in recent years. Going forward, I want your seal to have value and so do parents and caregivers. So we need the best standard possible for you to certify to. And we need it fast.
CPSC is working hard to regain the confidence of consumers in the marketplace, and consumers need to have confidence in the JPMA seal when they bring their baby product home.
So let me repeat again, to be clear, there will be a new federal safety standard for cribs this year – that’s a promise I’ve made to parents all over this country.
Another element of the SAFE SLEEP initiative is that we have created a new safe sleep environment team that will coordinate all crib recalls and expand our use of the Early Warning System.
Michelle Gillice, whom many of you know, is the leader of this team and it includes experts from our compliance, engineering, health sciences, epidemiology, legal and public affairs divisions. Experts like Patty Edwards and Suad Wanna-Nakamura.
There will now be more eyes locked in on incoming data and more strategic thinking about ways to address safety issues endemic to a class of products.
Other key components to our SAFE SLEEP initiative include:
working with industry and educating the public on the product registration rule, which becomes effective this summer;
rolling out a national safe sleep campaign with new videos and educational materials for new parents that address soft bedding hazards, as well as recalls; and
analyzing the effectiveness of repair kits to determine what is the best way to motivate consumers to respond to juvenile product recalls.
On this last point, I would like to add that I am aware that CPSC staff and JPMA leadership are communicating and exploring the possibilities of establishing a global fix for drop side cribs. I know there are challenges to making this happen, that it is not as straightforward as fixing all window blinds.
But, keep at it. I am optimistic that the collective knowledge in this room can come up with a technical solution. It would be another step in the process of bolstering consumer confidence.
Now I would like to turn to Section 104 of the CPSIA and update you on where we stand at CPSC.
In March and April, we will be having briefings and votes on notice of proposed rules for toddler beds and bassinets. The NPR stage is the first of 2 steps in these rulemakings. All of you will have a chance to provide comments to the agency before these rules go final.
In May, we expect the Commission to vote on the final rules for baby bath seats and infant walkers.
We are also looking very closely at where baby hammocks fit into the 104 rules, as we are becoming increasing concerned about deaths and serious suffocation risks tied to these products.
We believe that babies need to be on a firm, flat sleep surface, yet we also understand that these hammocks serve a medical purpose for babies with colic. We need to find the right balance for safety.
Regarding all of the 104 rules, it is not the intent of CPSC to write new standards that essentially create a marketplace with no products that can meet the rules. But we will not sacrifice an iota of safety in writing these new rules.
There is actually synergy between my philosophy on voluntary standards and the Act’s mandate to create mandatory rules for the products you make. If there is a voluntary standard that isn’t working to protect the safety of children and we realize that at CPSC, I will give you one chance to enhance it.
If you act swiftly, like ASTM has done recently with cribs, then we at CPSC can recognize the improved standard at the mandatory level. If the voluntary standards process fails, then CPSC will write its own rules. This is why it is important for all of you to participate in the voluntary standards process.
So to those here today who sit on voluntary standards committees, I say your work has never been more important. Stay relevant by stepping up to enhance your standards now.
For example, if you revamp the standards to make strollers less prone to finger entrapments or bassinets less prone to entrapment, then CPSC will give serious consideration to recognizing your work.
As I stated earlier, there are opportunities for a partnership to exist between us.
One of the products that the Commission has recently added to the list of juvenile products that will be subject to a 104 rule is infant carrier slings. Although a draft mandatory rule is a ways out from being proposed, I want to make a good faith gesture today and give you advanced notice that a general warning is likely to go out to the public very soon.
We know of too many deaths in these slings and we now know the hazard scenarios for very small babies, so the time has come to alert parents and caregivers. We want to empower them to make a decision that is best for the safety of their baby, while realizing that slings play a role in the bonding of baby and mother in many cultures.
Being proactive and reaching the highest levels of safety is an imperative that I believe CPSC and industry need to achieve. There are three key ways in which all of you can be proactive when designing and manufacturing your products: First, by making products that go well beyond the performance requirements in ASTM. For instance, if the crib standard says the slats should withstand 80 pounds of force, make sure your cribs meet 100 pounds.
Second, consider potential safety problems well before certification. As all of you know the certification program only tests a small fraction of the actual products that you make. CPSC is concerned that safety problems may not be detected during the certification tests and that’s how recalled products end up in the hands of consumers.
I believe as manufacturers it would be best for you to do design reviews on every new product before it gets made. Also, have a robust quality control process in place for your factories and your manufacturing lines. I have been advocating for these same best practices to be used by Chinese manufacturers.
Lastly, new thinking is needed for hybrid type products, such as baby hammocks or a product that looks like a bouncer seat but acts like a bassinet. Products like these do not fit nicely into one particular certification program.
Rather than going ahead and getting a certification that only goes half way, JPMA members should spearhead the development of new ASTM standards where they do not exist. This will allow JPMA to create the right certification process to ensure that multiple tests are run before a seal of approval is placed on a hybrid product.
It’s not that CPSC wants to stifle ingenuity in your industry, we just want you to build safety into your designs and have robust conformance and testing processes. This will help ensure that the final product that makes it to retail is one that will never be reported to CPSC.
Let me take a few moments now and talk about where things stand at CPSC beyond just juvenile products. Since I became Chairman 9 months ago, I have seen great strides made and have come to believe that we are headed in the right direction in building a safer marketplace and safer communities.
After a tumultuous 2007 and 2008, we made 2009 a year of change at CPSC:
change that brought new staff and new thinking,
change that brought new partners and a return to openness, and
change that has brought renewed confidence to parents.
And I’m pleased to report that we ended 2009 on a high note,
with a 75 percent decline in toy recalls versus 2008,
an 80 percent decline in toy recalls due to lead violations,
the opening of our first foreign office in Beijing, and
a 2010 budget that is double what it was 4 years ago.
When you look at where we have been and where we are headed, you can see why we are agency on the rise. You can see it in the determination of CPSC staff
working in the marketplace to catch unscrupulous makers and sellers of children’s clothing with drawstrings,
working late into the night to complete new rules on tracking labels and product registration cards, and
working on weekends to stop online auctions of recalled products.
So that we never again have the year of the recall, let’s continue to work together to put the interests of consumers above all else.
Now, some folks say that all of this talk of change at CPSC and better days for product safety is just happy talk and rhetoric.
Well, that’s not true.
I have seen it.
I have seen competitors become partners in the pursuit of product safety. I have seen industry and advocates come to CPSC with outside the box thinking of ways to keep consumers informed about hazards in their homes.
That is what this new direction is all about - it is what we all need to be about at this time.
As many of you have heard me say before, I am a believer in open government. It is integral to the Administration’s efforts to change the culture in Washington, and I believe it is integral to changing perceptions of the CPSC.
Over these past months, I have made the Commission as accessible to the public as any time in its history. At the same time, I have made myself accessible to associations like JPMA and to consumer groups.
I will continue to have an open door in the months and years ahead. But I am looking to work with people who come to the table with solutions and creative approaches to safety, not those who want to delay progress or fail to respond quickly to problems.
For we are an agency moving at a rapid pace. During the past nine months we have:
begun federal rulemaking on recreational off-highway vehicles, after it was brought to my attention that there were no standards despite a dramatic rate of rollovers resulting in deaths and injuries;
jump-started the agency’s dormant rulemaking on all-terrain vehicles, on which staff made great progress before the passage of the CPSIA and was supported by Congress in their call to complete our work;
visited China multiple times to push for best practices in manufacturing, building safety into the products they export, and complying with CPSIA requirements;
conducted an industry wide recall of 50 million Roman shades and roll-up blinds with a free repair for everyone;
moved swiftly to get ahead of the emerging issue of cadmium in children’s jewelry;
created CPSC 2.0, our social media initiative, which is reaching out to tens of thousands of consumers and has the potential to put lifesaving information before millions of online users;
joined forces with other federal partners to address health and safety concerns associated with Chinese drywall in thousands of homes in the south – this has been the most expensive and expansive investigation in CPSC history;
joined forces with state Attorneys General from across the country to coordinate on major recall announcements and protect children from hazardous products; and
held companies such as RC2, Fisher-Price, Mattel, and Target accountable for lead in paint violations tied to the major recalls of 2007 and 2008.
Our achievements in recent months represent a turning of the page on the past. We are now turning to a fresh page and scripting our own future. I believe this is rich with opportunities to retain the public’s trust in CPSC.
To keep our focus on what consumers expect of CPSC and what is in their best interest, I have established an ambitious agenda. The top priorities for CPSC in 2010 are:
carrying out the SAFE SLEEP initiative that I mentioned a minute ago;
modernizing the agency, including our work on the product incident database and opening a new testing facility;
continuing our work to finish the pending CPSIA rulemakings, including defining what is a children’s product and what is a reasonable testing program;
implementing an expansive information and education campaign tied to the Pool and Spa Safety Act;
carrying out a minority outreach campaign; and
conducting an operational review and a new five-year strategic plan in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton.
I believe that there are opportunities for us to work together and for you to have a say in the direction of our agency. I hope that you will engage with us as those opportunities present themselves.
I would like to close my remarks today by giving you a better sense of who we are at CPSC. CPSC stands for safety and that is best represented in our staff.
We are parents and grandparents, survivors and fighters.
We are an agency represented by people working in honor of children taken too soon and people whose own lives were almost taken too soon.
We have heart and we have talent at CPSC.
And we have the best compliance and enforcement team in government. Many of you have sat at the negotiating table or been on the phone discussing very serious matters with this team, so you know what I’m talking about.
I know Gib Mullan spoke to you this morning. If you have never met Gib or his deputy Marc Schoem before, then either you are making a great product or this is your first time in Washington. (smile)
The team of compliance officers that Gib and Marc lead is tireless in their pursuit of protecting children. Their case loads are enormous, the gravity of their work speaks for itself, and success for them is best measured in lives saved and injuries prevented.
If you have heard that I am encouraging the compliance team to move faster and be bolder, it is true. But it is equally true that I am appreciative to have them working for me and they have my full support.
We also have a new, expanded Commission. Not always unanimous in our votes, but all committed to the safety of children.
A new Commission that has new powers – and we are not afraid to use them. If you resist our efforts to recall children’s products, be forewarned, this Commission stands ready to be creative in the use of our enforcement authorities.
As the Toyota experience has shown in recent weeks, this government will not allow for delay in recalling dangerous products. This is position taken across the board – from Democrats to Republicans to independents.
Consumers expect CPSC to be proactive, put their interests first, use their tax dollars wisely, and be nonpartisan in our pursuit of protecting children.
Under my leadership this is what we will strive to do at the CPSC. And with your support, I will continue the transformation of CPSC from what some have described as a “teething tiger” into the world’s leading lion of consumer protection.
Once again, thank you to Bob, Mike Dwyer, the JPMA Board, and all of you for your commitment to keeping young children safe in and around their homes.
It was a pleasure to be here today and I wish you all an enjoyable remainder to your conference.