News Release from U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor:
WASHINGTON D.C. – Senator Mark Pryor today [Wednesday] introduced legislation with Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) that is intended to rebuild the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) so the agency can meet the challenges of today’s economy.
“Every parent today is wondering about the lurking dangers in their children’s toy chests. It shouldn’t be that way and it doesn’t have to be that way,” Pryor said. “This comprehensive legislation is intended to give the CPSC adequate funding and authority to keep dangerous toys and products off our store shelves.”
Pryor said the CPSC Reform Act of 2007 authorizes additional funding for the agency to increase staff levels to at least 500 employees by 2013, improve antiquated testing facilities and increase CPSC agents at U.S. ports of entry. He is concerned the agency’s abilities have deteriorated, in part, because the staff has been reduced from 900 to 420 employees since its inception. Since 2000 alone, the agency has lost 79 full-time employees. The Senator disagrees with President Bush who proposes further cuts in the agency’s budget.
“This agency is in serious distress after years of budget cuts and staff reductions. That’s why companies can get by with selling Barbie accessories coated with lead paint. Or a fake eyeball toy filled with kerosene. Or magnets from a building block set that are squeezing children’s intestines shut when swallowed,” Pryor said. “The price is too high to let these toys slip into the marketplace. That’s why it’s critical we step up the CPSC’s budget, testing and oversight abilities.”
Pryor noted many companies are taking responsible steps to test their products and restore their reputation following major recalls, and he wants to further encourage all companies to place consumer safety above their bottom line. His legislation proposes an increase in civil and criminal penalties, third party safety certification on all children’s products, an outright ban all children’s products that contain lead, an increase in public disclosure requirements by manufacturers and whistleblower protections for manufacturers’ and importers’ employees.
Specifically, the legislation would:
•Authorize funding levels for 7 years starting at $80 million in 2009 and increasing at a rate of 10 percent per year through 2015. For 2008 and 2009, an additional $20 million would be authorized to upgrade CPSC’s laboratories and $1 million would be authorized to research the safety of nanotechnology in products.
•Increase civil fines up to $250,000 per violation with a cap at $100 million.
•Increase criminal penalties to 5 years in jail for those who knowingly and willingly violate product safety laws.
•Require independent, third party safety certification on every children’s product that enters the United States.
•Require manufacturers to label children’s products with tracking information useful to facilitate a recall.
•Ban the direct use of lead in all children’s products – from lunch boxes to toys.
•Restore the Commission to five members instead of three members to prevent future absences of quorum.
•Allow state Attorneys General to bring civil action on behalf of its residents to enforce product safety laws and obtain damages and restitution.
•Provide whistleblower protections for manufacturers’ and importers’ employees to shed light on any problems along the supply chain;
•Make it unlawful for retailers to sell a recalled product.
•Streamline product safety rulemaking process to be timely and proactive.