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Feb. 24 — The CPSC unanimously approved a measure aimed at saving apparel companies an estimated $250 million a year in costs related to certifying that most clothes imported for adults meet U.S. consumer safety requirements.
The action applies to clothes made from fabrics already exempt from safety-related testing.
“This item stands up in terms of dollar amount with the relief provided by any other agency, and ours is annual,” Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Elliot Kaye told reporters. The call with Kaye came immediately after a Feb. 24 decisional meeting in which the CPSC voted 5–0 to approve the agency's proposed Fiscal Year 2016 operating plan.
Kaye also said he has directed staff members to report to him within 90 days on emerging safety-related hazards associated with several specific types of products. Those include crumb rubber, which is used in artificial turf and playgrounds, as well as hoverboards, which can catch fire, and 3D printers, which can explode and use plastics that may contain unsafe chemicals.
“There has to be some mechanism in place to ensure they aren't dumped onto the market and we're left to pick up the pieces,” he said about products presenting emerging hazards.
The CPSC recently announced joint efforts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to understand children's exposure to the chemicals and heavy metals in crumb rubber, Kaye said.
But the agency is “severely underfunded,” Kaye said. He hopes Congress recognizes crumb rubber as an important public health issue, he said.
On other issues, a recent proposal by Democratic members of Congress to consider giving the CPSC authority to address gun defects didn't, to Kaye's knowledge, originate at the agency, he said.
The approved operating plan envisions final rules on whether to restrict or ban certain phthalates in children's products and other issues; proposed rules on portable generators, table saws and all-terrain vehicles; and staff production of briefing packets which will include their recommendations on organohalogen flame retardants and crib bumpers.
President Obama's request for $5 million to fund a nanotechnology center wasn't granted , but CPSC staff will conduct research and other activities related to nanomaterials, largely in conjunction with other agencies.
The commissioners also unanimously adopted amendments to add a staff briefing packet providing data on furniture tip-overs and another on whether to adopt California's furniture flammability standard as a national standard.
The panel also accepted a suggestion by Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle to automate companies' compliance reports in a way that would shed light on recall effectiveness.
The furniture tip-over amendment was prompted by the agency's inability to “move the needle” on child deaths and injuries despite a public-education campaign called “Anchor It,” Commissioner Marietta Robinson said at the hearing.
There is a “very minimal voluntary standard” on furniture stability, as well as a “compliance problem,” she said, referring to a major manufacturer that has declined to comply with the voluntary standard.
Many people don't or can't anchor their furniture, she said. “We should make furniture stable,” she said.
The question for staff in the new data briefing packet will be how effective the current standard is, Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic said. One question is what percentage of emergency-room visits for tip-over injuries involved products that complied with the current standard, he said. Robinson and Mohorovic jointly introduced the amendment.
The focus would be on furniture alone, not injuries involving appliances or televisions on furniture.
Mohorovic, with an assist from Robinson, was also behind the motion to stop requiring import certificates for most apparel for adults, which was separate from the operating plan.
He and Kaye emphasized that the action makes no change to the underlying regulation. “Decades of testing data” show the fabrics are inherently safe, Kaye said at the meeting.
“The certificates' only function is to tell us what we knew decades ago,” Mohorovic said.
A key feature of his work was quantifying the costs of compliance.
Customs data indicate 20 billion individual items of apparel are imported each year, he said; his staff estimates manufacturers and importers produce 26.6 million certificates per year, with the heaviest burden falling on small companies because larger ones have economies of scale.
The usual focus of efforts aimed at reducing cost burdens on makers and others is children's products, which require testing, Commissioner Robert Adler said. “But this is burden reduction too.”
Children's apparel wasn't included, partly because the agency doesn't have “the same history” to provide “that kind of comfort,” Kaye said to reporters. The agency continues to find violations at the ports, he said.
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