Pryor: Committee Advances Consumer Safety Overhaul
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation today passed legislation by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) that includes sweeping reforms to prevent dangerous products from ending up on store shelves and in children's toy chests.
Pryor said the CPSC Reform Act of 2007 will help the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) meet the challenges of today's economy. It 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. While the number of products the agency regulates has increased exponentially, its abilities have deteriorated, in part, because the staff has been reduced from 900 to 420 employees. Since 2000 alone, the agency has lost 79 full-time employees.
"It is very clear to me, as well as millions of moms and dads around the country, that the CPSC is failing to keep dangerous toys and products out of the marketplace," Pryor said. "My legislation infuses the agency with the resources and authority it needs to keep dangerous toys and products out of our homes. I'm pleased to have the Committee's support to put the right protections in place for our children and consumers."
Pryor said his legislation also encourages 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, a ban on all children's products that contain lead, a more expedient recall process and whistleblower protections for manufacturers' and importers' employees.
"My legislation forces companies and manufacturers to act in the public's interest through increased penalties, disclosure and accountability. Companies who skirt consumer safety laws should be held accountable, and my legislation does just that. Our kids' health and safety are at stake." said Pryor.
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 $40 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 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; and
* Streamline product safety rulemaking process to be timely and proactive.