The U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade recently held a hearing on draft legislation that would revise the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008. Seeking to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission “greater flexibility to regulate based on risk and to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses while maintaining strong safety protections,” the proposal could amend controversial lead and phthalate content requirements for certain children’s products.

In remarks during the April 7, 2011, hearing, subcommittee chair Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) said that the proposal’s “fundamental premise is that the commission can actually protect consumers far better when it is allowed to set priorities and regulate based on risk. Where possible, we should spare the commission from having to make time-consuming, case-by-case determinations, and let it spend more time on bigger problems.” For example, Bono Mack said the draft legislation (i) “leaves open the age for defining the term ‘children’s product’” in an attempt to determine which products intended for use by children should be subject to more stringent lead and phthalate mandates; (ii) “gives the commission the discretion to decide what standards should require third-party testing”; (iii) “gives the commission new authority and flexibility to require testing for only some portions of a standard or only for certain classes of products”; (iv) “spells out in greater detail who can submit reports of harm for the public portions” on CPSC’s new public database; and (v) “strengthens the commission’s authority to investigate complaints.”

“Congress must move quickly, too, because the clock is ticking—unless we act soon, the 100 ppm (part per million) lead limit will take effect retroactively in August and once again millions of dollars worth of products will become illegal to sell, donate or export,” Bono Mack said. A number of witnesses representing industry and public-health interests testified during the hearing. The former were united in their opposition to the CPSIA, noting its failure to make allowances for small businesses or to give the agency discretion in its application. They claimed that businesses are already closing because of the law’s requirements. An American Academy of Pediatrics representative endorsed the current law and urged the subcommittee not to roll back any of its protections.