At Initial Hearing Markey Hails Reform Package,Calls for Additions

Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a long-time consumer protection advocate, today welcomed comprehensive reform legislation for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Below is his opening statement from the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection’s legislative hearing:

Opening Statement for Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
Hearing, “The Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act of 2007”
Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection
November 6, 2007

Thank you for calling today’s hearing on this important legislation.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is an agency in crisis, starved of resources and slow to respond to a growing tsunami of toxic toys and other products that continue to put consumers at risk.

CPSC used to stand for Consumer Product Safety Commission; today, it stands for the Can’t Protect Safety of Children Commission.

80 percent of all toys sold in the United States are imported from China. But even as the amount of imported and recalled toys has skyrocketed, and even as parents scrutinize every gift doting grandparents give to be sure it is not on the recall list, the reality is that being on that list only means that the CPSC, with its single inspector testing toys for compliance with outdated standards, got lucky and found the problem before more children were affected. The reality is that the CPSC has lost 15% of its workforce since 2004 and has only half the employees it had 30 years ago.

As the holidays approach, parents should not have to play “Toy Box Roulette”, unsure of whether the toys they choose could harm their children.

This must change. We must upgrade our safety standards to reflect scientific reality, and we must upgrade the CPSC to reflect the realities of globalization. I commend the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for taking up legislation to respond to the current mess over at the Consumer Products Safety Commission, and I look forward to working with them, and Mr. Dingell and Mr. Barton and the other members of the committee to further refine the legislation as we move towards markup. Specifically,

• We need to close the roller coaster loophole, which currently prevents the CPSC from investigating accidents at so-called “fixed site” amusement parks. Some of these thrill rides hurtle children at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour, but when accidents occur, the CPSC lacks the authority to even conduct an investigation or compel the sharing of information about the accident with operators of the same ride in other states.
It’s time to close this loophole. Children are at risk all across the country when their parents take them to a fixed site amusement park and the CPSC is actually prohibited from investigating. Children should not be put at that risk.

• We need to improve the public’s awareness of potential hazards. Currently, when the CPSC wants to warn the public about a hazard, it actually has to negotiate with the companies in order to do so! Companies even have the right to sue the CPSC to prevent the disclosures from being made! This is outrageous and I intend to make an amendment in order to make sure that we change that once and for all.

• I believe that the ban on lead in children’s products in this legislation needs to be strengthened and accelerated so that it conforms with the 90 parts per million standard already adopted by the European Union. I also think that instead of the CPSC’s current practice of only looking at the amount of “accessible” lead on the surface of a toy, legislation should apply the standard to the entire product – because we all know that children put things into their mouths and sometimes swallow them.

• We need to expand use of screening technologies that can identify the highest risk children’s products at ports of entry to the U.S. for further screening. If we can screen these toys as they come into the country, we should be able to find Thomas the Toxic Train and other dangerous toys before they show up on store shelves and under the Christmas tree.

• I also believe that this legislation should include whistleblower protections for CPSC or private sector employees who are retaliated against for warning Americans about dangerous products.

I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman and the other members of the committee towards the goal of putting together for once a comprehensive approach to how the Consumer Product Safety Commission is out there and actually protecting the American people.

November 6, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836