Friday, January 16, 2009

Rep. Peter DeFazio regarding HR4040: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008

The following letter (quoted in its entirety) is Rep. Peter DeFazio's response to inquiries about the new law regulating lead content in children's clothing:

Dear Mr. Schnake: Thank you for your recent message regarding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. I appreciate hearing from you. As you know, on February 10th the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act becomes effective. The bill was a response to importers bringing in dangerously unsafe products from China. The bill passed the House by a vote of 407 to 1 as it was considered a common sense piece of legislation that was designed to keep our children safe. Unfortunately the Bush Administration's Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is in charge of drafting regulations in order to enforce the new law, did a poor job of explaining what was expected of retailers and consumers and have written what I believe are overly strict interpretations of the law. As a result, countless retailers, thrift stores, charities and even small toy manufacturers have contacted my office in confusion not knowing what they are or are not allowed to do when the law becomes effective. One if the main points of contentions is the new provision that bans lead in excess of 600 parts per million in children's products. While we can all agree it is important to protect our children from this dangerous substance, the CPSC provided little to no guidance to consumers, retailers or manufacturers on exactly what is expected of them when the law becomes effective. As a result rumors spread across the internet and amongst retailers about the new law, many of them untrue. The CPSC recently released a press release (located at www.cpsc.gov ) intended to provide guidance to consumers that did speak to some of these concerns. The release stated:The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children's products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban. Sellers of used children's products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.The new safety law does not require resellers to test children's products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell children's products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties. Furthermore, in response to complaints from small manufacturers, the CPSC is now considering some exemptions to the new regulations. Specifically, they are considering an exemption from testing certain materials that are not scientifically known to contain lead (like wood, cotton, gemstones, leather, etc), as well as looking into easing restrictions on batch testing for small manufacturers. The current regulation mandates all products be tested for lead, as well as all of its components. This is a burden for small manufacturers. Some groups have responded to this confusion by trying to delay or even eliminate the implementation of the new lead standards. Others have asked to exempt these new standards from unsold or used inventory. I am opposed to this. If a product is unsafe, it is unsafe. It doesn't matter when it was made. That being said, I feel the recent efforts by the CPSC have provided some clarification for retailers and manufacturers, but more can be done. I recently sent a letter to the CPSC asking them to respond to a series o f detailed questions so people will get accurate information about this new law. Once I receive a response I will forward it to you. Thanks again for contacting me. Please keep in touch.
Sincerely, Rep. Peter DeFazio Fourth District, OREGON
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