The CPSIA: Broader CPSC’s Responsibilities Benefits Consumers

"I’ve been involved in the product safety world for 30-plus years and have seen the political pendulum swing on multiple occasions. One constant is that most reasonable, informed people, whether business executives or consumer advocates, agree that a well-functioning CPSC is a critical part of a vibrant economy for consumer products in this country." -- Chuck Samuels, Consumer Product Safety Attorney


A well-functioning Consumer Product Safety Commission is exactly what concerned consumers, product safety advocates, responsible businesses and legislators across the board had in mind when the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was passed all but unanimously and signed into law by George W. Bush.

By the end of the last decade it was obvious that too many recalls were affecting the very face of the US market’s integrity on a global level. Even well-established corporations like Mattel were awake to correlations between growing consumer quality awareness and their bottom line.

In the ten years since the passage of the CPSIA, it has become increasingly clear that the law has greatly benefited the consumers as well as the CPSC.

Increased Organization, Focus and Incorporation of New Data

The CPSC’s website offers accessible and frequently updated safety information concerning a variety of products and industries, including recall updates, expert panel discussions, industry events and public service announcements.

Also, the fact that so many variant product safety standards are joined under one umbrella makes it is easier for manufacturers and importers to follow applicable requirements, and for the bolstered CPSC to carry out its updating and enforcement responsibilities.


Open to New Data

An example of such data incorporation is the CPSIA’s updated lead restriction requirements in Children’s Products. Initially, after lead-related recalls and even some fatal incidents, a more modest “Lead-Free Toys Act” was introduced in the House of Representatives.

However, with the confluence of problems like lead-related toy recalls, and even blind spots in recall awareness communications concerning infant and toddler products, individual legislative proposals seemed too short-sighted.

A greater overall problem was evident: legislative oversight and product safety measures are only as effective as they are organized, easy-to-understand and clear about the penalties that will meet all non-compliances.

Increased Budget and Personnel For Research and Enforcement

Reinforcement cannot come without a dramatic increase in both budget and personnel. Patchwork legislation is a recipe for inefficiency. The flexibility of the CPSIA allows for further evaluation of existing regulations based on continued discovery of data that would suggest a need for either tweaking or tightening of a particular specification.

Lead limits in children’s products have dropped three times. All three thresholds were laid out by the act in advance to give toy companies time to implement their own updated production procedures and testing programs.

Beyond the current limit of 100 ppm, the act dictates a “Periodic Review” for further reductions, “based on the best scientific and technical information”.


Stronger Enforcement

Increased enforcement power was also granted to the CPSC when the act allowed it to level the kind of civil penalties that can stick to your ribs. After Gree Electric Appliances Inc. knowingly failed to report a hazardous product defect; intentionally mislead CPSC investigators; and sold out-of-spec humidifiers bearing the UL safety certification mark -- causing an estimated $4.5 million in total property damage -- the CPSC successfully issued a $15.45 million fine against the company.

Along with the fine, Gree EA also agreed to “implement a program to ensure compliance with the CPSC”. This is reverberating law enforcement at its strongest.

Expanded Whistleblower Protection

The Act offers complete protection for any employee who voluntarily reports product health or safety violations, against any form of work discrimination or retaliatory measures including termination.

The CPSC’s authoratorial range was challenged very early on when an employee at the Publix Super Market chain’s dairy manufacturing plant in Florida complained that the milk they were sending to the stores had been tainted by chemicals. The employee was eventually terminated, and filed a lawsuit.

Initially, OSHA argued that a food safety complaint didn’t fall under the newly created CPSIA’s Whistleblower Protection criteria. The U.S. Administrative Review Board (ARB) rejected OSHA’s claim and found that the issue did in fact fall under CPSIA’s sphere of influence. The case was a landmark in establishing the CPSIA’s enforcement range and power.

Ensuring Better Third-Party Testing

The CPSIA mandates CPSC lab-accredited, Third-Party testing for all Children’s Products and dictates stronger compliance measures across every industry. This is good news for consumers, and great news if your company has the right testing partner to help bring your quality and safety standards to the U.S. market.

AI’s comprehensive Lab Testing and Inspection Services can start you off on the right foot with Lab testing advice and expertise that begins at the design level, well before production starts.

We incorporate all national and international testing standards, including all CPSIA requirements and further voluntary measures which best validates the integrity of your product.

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