Friday, March 19, 2010

March Madness – Waxman style

In response to Chairman Henry Waxman’s request for reaction to his proposed fix to the CPSIA, I have submitted a letter noting that the draft falls woefully short of resolving the problems with the statute I have witnessed since joining the Commission last August. Unfortunately, the so-called functional purpose and low-volume manufacturing exemptions contained in the draft bill are too narrow, expensive, and uncertain to provide much relief.

To read my full letter, click here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Are we seeing a pattern here?

The Product Safety Letter summarizes last week's public meetings of the US Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel's (USA-ITA), sharing how they are affected by the excessive costs of the CPSIA…

“Several representatives of USA-ITA companies told Northup that they have quit selling certain items to avoid the rigors of CPSIA testing. ‘We completely got out of children’s jewelry.’”

“Said another, representing a company that sells t-shirts, the shirts’ designs now feature less colors to cut down on testing costs.”

They are “hard-hit by having to meet the dual requirements of federal standards and those set by U.S. states”

(Product Safety Letter, March 15, Northup Says riders May Be Best Chance for CPSIA Change)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ever wonder how the IRS Tax Code got so complicated???

Congressman Henry Waxman’s proposed fix to the CPSIA has been released to the public. Now is the time to weigh in on how this would work for you. Specifically, these are my questions:

- Could your company (or anyone you know) afford to petition the agency in order to prove that the lead in their product serves a “functional purpose,” that it’s “not practicable” to remove, and the other new requirements?

- Note the further limitations under sections entitled: “burden of proof;” “admissible evidence;” “limitation on exception,” and; “narrowest possible scope of exception.” Do these requirements set a bar that you can reach? Would the cost to apply for such an exemption exceed the benefits?

- Does this proposal do more to discourage companies from the hope of an exemption, rather than provide a hope of flexibility?

- How many small businesses could qualify for the “relief for small manufacturers” on testing costs with such a narrow definition of “low-volume”?

- And a rhetorical question: Why would we ask companies (and our own agency staff) to do all of this new work for perfectly safe products to begin with?

If the expansion of the tax code is any reminder….a fix that’s not necessarily a complete fix, yet adds loads of paperwork and time-consuming, complex, costly, new requirements—is probably not a fix.

Please email me at

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hit’em again! Hit’em again! Harder! Harder!

In today’s vote on the Final Rule Interpreting Civil Penalties, the Commission had a chance to moderate some of the CPSIA’s harshest effects by incorporating a reasonable enforcement regime. While the new law greatly expands the allowable penalties, this is one area, and one of the few, where the law is not completely prescriptive. Here the CPSC had freedom to use its creativity and expertise to do what it does best: evaluate risk as an important factor. Unfortunately, I do not believe the lightweight language in the rule is sufficient to encourage good corporate citizens to stay in the game.

By refusing to say that we will not swat flies with sledgehammers, we instead leave people guessing and wondering if the stakes are too high to risk entering the children’s product market.

To read my official statement, click here

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oops there goes another rubber tree...

You may have seen last week’s article in the Product Safety Letter in which the CEO of American Home Furnishings Alliance told Commissioner Northup that “…some of the member-companies, many of them small businesses, were leaving the youth furniture market because of fears of increased costs due to the new CPSIA requirements.” (Product Safety Letter, March 1, Commissioners Open to Exemption Request from Furniture Makers)

So the next time you are wondering why there are fewer choices in the children’s furniture market…

Monday, March 8, 2010

Unblockable Drain Cover Vote Ensures Safer Swimming

We won a narrow victory for safety and common sense last week when a bi-partisan majority of the CPSC voted 3-2 to interpret the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act to treat pools fitted with unblockable drain covers as compliant. Commissioners Nancy Nord and Robert Adler joined me in the majority. The Commission’s professional staff reviewed the various alternatives and recommended unblockable drain covers as the best solution to the entrapment risk for several reasons. Unblockable drain covers are the only (let me repeat, only) solution that works for all five kinds of entrapment. Unblockable drain covers prevent an entrapment from occurring in the first place, whereas other back-up systems kick in only after someone gets into trouble (if then). To learn more about why I supported the decision, you can read my statement here.

Some pool safety advocates have criticized the agency’s decision, claiming that the vote puts swimmers at great risk. In truth, of the roughly 3,400 annual drowning deaths in the U.S., an average of less than one per year occurs as a result of a drain entrapment in a public pool or spa. Because we do not have good data on how many people are exposed to blockable drains each year, we cannot ascertain a true risk level. However, unblockable drain covers offer not only the safest but also a cost-effective solution to the drain entrapment problem. I believe they will save more lives and prevent more injuries than the other alternatives.

Friday, March 5, 2010

BREAKING NEWS – Commissioners support an economic impact analysis of the CPSIA

I know that you will be happy to hear that both Chairman Inez Tenenbaum and Commissioner Nancy Nord agreed on the need for an economic impact analysis of the CPSIA at this week’s congressional hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services.

Given that the question of economic data was brought up by Ranking Member Jo Ann Emerson and that Congress has been considering ways to amend the CPSIA due to its unintended economic consequences (see our Recommendations to Congress and my personal statement here), it is clear that our agency should be making these studies a priority.

Just as you have expressed concerns about the CPSIA's impact on our economy, it is clear that Congress shares those same concerns. I believe we should be doing everything we can to define and aggregate the economic impact of the law and I look forward to starting these studies soon!