May 16, 2008
Consumer advocates joined mothers pushing their children in strollers to urge House and Senate Conferees to negotiate the most consumer-protective product safety bill possible, combining the best provisions of competing bills.

The consumer groups and parents called on Congress to ensure that the final bill results in a well-funded, accountable Consumer Product Safety Commission that can protect families and repair the broken product safety net.

Consumers illusion that our product safety system is working has been shattered by the many recalls of childrens toys as well as the spotlight on a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in need of more resources, authority and transparency, stated Rachel Weintraub, Director of Product Safety and Senior Counsel for Consumer Federation of America. We call on Members of Congress to pass the strongest bill possible to protect all consumers and especially our children from hazards posed by unsafe products.

Toxic chemicals like lead and phthalates have no business in childrens toys, said U.S. PIRG Public Health Advocate Liz Hitchcock. Were counting on Congress to act quickly to help Americas littlest consumers grow up safe from toxic hazards.

As educated parents who believed that we took all safety precautions for our children, what we learned after Dannys death shocked us, said Linda Ginzel, co-founder of Kids In Danger and mother of 16-month-old Danny Keysar who died ten years ago in a dangerous crib. Still, today it continues to shock parents across the country through last years epidemic of lead-laced toys and deadly cribs there is no requirement that childrens products be tested for safety before they are sold.

In December of last year, the U.S. House of Representatives responded to public demands for greater toy safety by passing legislation to reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission, ban lead in childrens products, and increase scrutiny of imported toys.

In March, the Senate passed its CPSC reform proposal which, among many provisions, creates a publicly accessible database to help consumers identify potential hazards, makes toy safety standards mandatory and bans phthalates -- a dangerous developmental toxin -- in childrens products.

In the last fiscal year alone, there were 473 recalls involving toys and jewelry with excessive levels of lead, toys with dangerous magnets that can rip a childs intestines and stomach lining when swallowed in multiples, and cribs with hardware and side-slat failures that can cause injury and even death.

Since January, CPSC has recalled more than nine million products because they are unsafe, according to a report released by Consumers Union. We are well on our way to breaking last years record number of products recalled, said Ami Gadhia of Consumers Union.

We need a system that identifies and alerts consumers and parents in particular to these problems as early as possible, prevents hazardous products from entering the stream of commerce in the first place, holds manufacturers and others accountable when these unsafe products do wind up in stores and in our homes, and requires more effective recalls for their removal, said Gadhia.

The two bills now in conference committee -- H.R. 4040 and S. 2663 -- each contain provisions designed to improve the safety of products. The consumer groups are calling on House-Senate conferees to come together and produce a final measure that includes the strongest consumer protection provisions in each bill. Specifically, they say, the final bill should include the following provisions:

• Definition of Childrens Product. Because many families have more than one child sharing a toy box, the groups say it is critical that the scope of childrens products be broadly defined to include childrens products intended for grade-school children.

• Database. The final bill should create a publicly accessible database to improve disclosure of product safety information, such as incidents associated with cribs and toys that could injure or kill babies and children without requiring further legislative action.

• Enforcement by State Attorneys General. AGs offer additional eyes ensuring compliance with product safety laws and they need broad authority to enforce product safety laws.

• Toy Safety Standard. Current voluntary standards for toy safety should be made mandatory (subject to upgrading by the CPSC) and toys should be tested and certified to this standard.

• Lead Provision. Lower lead levels and faster implementation are desirable to protect children from the serious health risks posed by lead exposure.

• Phthalate Ban. The groups support the Senate provision eliminating phthalates in childrens products and childcare articles, which will serve to significantly curb childrens routes of exposure to these potentially cancer-causing chemicals.

• Whistleblower Protection. A comprehensive product safety bill should include whistleblower protections because such protections are critical for effective enforcement of consumer product safety laws.

• Civil and Criminal Penalties. The groups support increasing the cap on civil penalties to provide the greatest deterrent for violators of the law that will help to increase compliance with CPSC laws. They also support eliminating the free bite of the apple pre-notification requirement in existing law.

• Recall Authority. CPSC should have the authority to halt distribution of a product and notify all parties transporting, selling or distributing a product to cease distribution.

We lost our beautiful son to a broken childrens product safety system, said Linda Ginzel, co-founder of Kids In Danger and mother of 16-month-old Danny Keysar who died ten years ago in a dangerous crib. We need Congress to keep that from happening again. Please ensure that children are put first.