The Checkout

Product Safety Agency Needs A Troop Surge

The Consumer Product Safety Commission hasn't had a chairperson since July 2006, when Hal Stratton stepped down to return to the private sector.

Normally this sort of agency churn would be considered inside baseball, but in this case it affects millions of average consumers.

As my colleague Cindy Skrzycki explained yesterday, the panel needs three members to have a quorum to perform certain vital functions such as setting civil penalties or writing rules. It can still carry out those tasks without a third member for six months. But those six months ended in January. The agency tried to get as much done as possible before quorum expired, but it didn't get to everything on its plate. It wasn't able to lower the level of lead allowed in children's jewelry or deal with the safety risks of all-terrain vehicles.

The White House has combined its failure to appoint a chairperson at CPSC with a budget proposal that essentially continues a series of cutbacks at the agency. Experienced staff--folks who conduct investigations in the field and test products in the lab--have left, leaving fewer people to pick up the slack.

At an agency with a mission like the CPSC's, that's some slack. It is responsible for ensuring the safety of more than 15,000 consumer products.

Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee passed an amendment that would allow the CPSC to continue its work for another six months without a third member.

It still has to be passed by Congress.

Both industry and consumer advocates are getting impatient. The Lighter Association, which represents makers and distributors of lighters in the U.S., has been waiting on the CPSC to pass mandatory safety standards for lighters to ensure imports abide by the same rules its members do.

Rachel Weintraub, director of product safety for the Consumer Federation of America told Cindy between not appointing a chairperson and the proposed budget cuts, the White House is showing what a low priority the agency is for it.

The Bush administration supposedly has someone in mind for the top job: Michael Baroody, a top lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers. So far, the White House is officially mum on that rumor. So is NAM. And as of Friday, the Bush administration had yet to formally forward the name of a nominee to the relevant Senate committee.

We'll keep you posted on any new developments.

By Annys Shin |  February 21, 2007; 8:30 AM ET Consumer News
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Comments

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Appointing the head of NAM would only serve to further Stratton's mission to rename the agency the Product Manufacturers Protection Commission.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 21, 2007 9:45 AM

This post is probably more applicable to your blog from yesterday concerning the tainted peanut butter, but you mentioned the CPSC so I thought I would send this out to everybody.

You can subscribe to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) e-mail alerts for all recalled products at the following location:

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.asp

That way you can always be informed.

Taking action on a recall is still your responsibility.

Posted by: SoMD | February 21, 2007 9:48 AM

Lets try something today class... To all the impatient people that keep double, triple, quadruple posting their comments: When you hit "Submit", if your page doesn't refresh right away, don't keep hitting "Submit". Wait a little, and if the page doesn't refresh, then go back to the main Post website and click back into the blog to see if your comment posted. If you're really afraid your comment is going to get lost, then highlight and copy/paste it into Notepad or some other word processing document before you hit "Submit". Then if your comment really gets lost and doesn't post, which is almost never the case, you can just copy/paste it and re-submit and spare us all from having to read your post over and over again.

On the other end of things - Annys, isn't there a little script or something that could be run periodically to search for duplicate posts and delete them? Doesn't seem like that would be asking too much.

Argh! Sorry for the rant but it seems like this has been getting worse and worse over the last few weeks.

Posted by: 22209 | February 21, 2007 9:57 AM

22209,

What ever do you mean?

Posted by: John | February 21, 2007 10:32 AM

22209,

What ever do you mean?

Posted by: John | February 21, 2007 10:33 AM

22209,

What ever do you mean?

Posted by: John | February 21, 2007 10:35 AM

yes, re-submitting is annoying, but please be aware that the problem is often caused by submitting, seeing your post, then hitting refresh to see new posts. This, depending on where you are, often re-submits for you.

Posted by: jj | February 21, 2007 11:05 AM

I'd like to see the Bush administration take its obligation to serve the interests of the common man and put in a chairperson that is not beholden to the very interests it is supposed to police! NAM, and indeed any interest group, does not produce impartial administrators that can hop between playing lead cop and lead robber, DUH. It's sad to see such continued patronage...and as a citizen it makes me mad. Unfortunately my only tool is a vote that is pre-empted by an outdated electoral college, aka good old boy network.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 21, 2007 12:21 PM

CyanSquirrel,

Why do you turn every bad thing into a political statement against Bush? You established you hate Bush and the "machine" that elected him several thousand posts ago. It's time to get over it and look to 2008. No one cares anymore about your political standing.

Posted by: John | February 21, 2007 2:21 PM

I don't know cybersquirlls history, but in this case he is right. The president appoints the CPSC Commission. The Senate confirms him or her. When you have both the same party (as it was when Stratton was confirmed) the Senate is simply a rubber stamp. The prior attempt at a chairman nomication (Mary Shielia Gall, summer 2001) occured during a brief dem. majority, and it was turned down (argueably to prove a point, she actually would have been decent). The CPSC sat Chairmanless for about a year until Stratton was nominated. One can only hope that the Senate will not again confirm a chairman that believes buisness is always right and consumer safety should take a backseat to protecting US buisness.

Posted by: To John | February 21, 2007 2:56 PM

John, what crawled up your behind? I have NEVER talked about Bush nor made any political comments before today. People who read this and blog and the Get There blog should be able to vouch for that as these are largely the only two I bother to post on (occasionally On Balance but that's about it). So I find your comment to be both interesting and an unwarranted attack. Go troll some other blog if you have nothing useful to add to the discussion.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 22, 2007 12:44 AM

What's even funnier, I'm an issues based voter. I lean republican on some issues and democratic on others. So...John, what are you smoking? And are you sharing? Hehe...

Ahh civil debate in blogs. A long lost artform. Funny I had quite a nice virtual conversation with a person using the handle Hillman in the comments section of the article A Condo Grows in Brooklyn. I wish more people interested in sharing insights and debating ideas, not tearing down people, were more active on this blog. Bah!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 22, 2007 12:53 AM

CyanSquirrel,

If John thinks you lean too far one way or the other, I can't wait till he meets Che.

As far as his statement "No one cares anymore about your political standing." is concerned: you keep right on lettin'-fly with your comments.

I may or may not agree with everything you post, but you definitely stimulate thought - and thought stimulates action.

John seems to advocate apathy, which accomplishes nothing.

Posted by: SoMD | February 22, 2007 8:16 AM

Ha! Che would get John's panties in a wad, I agree. Thanks for the laugh!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 22, 2007 12:42 PM

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