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Product Safety Update From Capitol Hill

After Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (“CPSIA”) in 2008 and the major amendment to the CPSIA (Public Law 112-28) in 2011, the product safety world turned its attention and focus to CPSC regulatory action – and for good reason.  Over the past five years, the CPSC has implemented numerous product safety regulations touching upon recalls, testing and certification requirements, lead and phthalate limits in children’s products, and the safety of infant products (among many others).  But, we must not forget the important role that Congress continues to play in addressing product safety issues and driving the product safety debate.

For example, just last month, before Congress left town for the year, two important product safety bills were introduced on Capitol Hill, and one Senator indicated that she planned to introduce legislation regarding phthalates in children’s products in the new year.

First, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced a bill (S. 1887) that seeks to enhance information exchange between the CPSC and its international counterparts.  The bill allows foreign governments to share certain information received from the CPSC with its agencies or political subdivisions in certain circumstances.  This legislation must be carefully monitored to ensure that it does not weaken present legal requirements, which prevent the CPSC from disclosing information to governments that cannot or will not protect confidential information provided to the Commission.

Additionally, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced legislation (S. 1793) that would require the CPSC to establish a grant program to provide assistance to states and local governments in educating the public on the dangers of carbon monoxide and installing safe detectors in homes.  According to the CPSC’s “Carbon Monoxide Information Center,” more than 150 people die each year in the United States from accidental, non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning associated with consumer and household products.

Finally, it is worth noting that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced that she plans to introduce legislation soon to permanently ban phthalates in all children’s products  -- not just toys and child care articles as the ban currently exists under the law.  Senator Gillibrand also stated that she will seek to add additional phthalates to the list of those currently banned permanently under the CPSIA.  The Senator publicized her plans at the New York Public Interest Research Group’s release of their annual toy safety report in December.

Our product safety team will continue to monitor these bills if they make their way forward on the Hill and provide updates here.

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Charles A. Samuels

Member / Co-chair, Retail and Consumer Products

Charles A. Samuels is an antitrust and regulatory lawyer at Mintz. He assists clients with consumer product safety, product recalls and environmental regulations. and Chuck also serves as general counsel to many trade associations. Chuck represents clients before federal agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission.