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Washington Outlook Archive

Congress Considers Amending Consumer Product Safety Law

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

As Congress considers amending the consumer product safety law, apparel manufacturers are seeking more flexibility in testing and reporting requirements and for federal preemption of a growing number of state regulations.

The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) broad new authority to regulate products used by children 12 years of age and younger, and both industry and regulators believe it may have gone too far. As a result, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection is considering the Consumer Product Safety Enhancement Act, which addresses what many in industry feel are "unintended consequences" of the previous act that have caused considerable disruption and unnecessary costs.

Testifying at a subcommittee hearing on behalf of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), Steve Levy, director of operations of Star Ride Kids, a New York City-based wholesaler of children's apparel, called on Congress for relief from some of the testing and certification requirements of the CPSIA by giving CPSC more flexibility in writing regulations.

Levy cited as an example of regulatory overkill in CPSIA a requirement for testing and certifying the lead content of textile components in apparel when it is well-known that textiles do not contain lead.

Levy said AAFA supports efforts to give CPSC authority to grant testing and certification relief for small businesses, but it believes such relief should be available to all businesses regardless of their size. Warning that "the system we are about to see will treat all components and materials equally regardless of risk," Levy said consumer safety would be better-served if testing focuses on those products where there is reason to believe there is a risk of lead content.

Levy also urged Congress to provide relief from a rash of state regulations that complicate doing business. He said more work needs to be done to ensure that CPSIA preempts state and local product safety rules so that "we can achieve a single, harmonized national product safety standard."

May 11, 2010