Congress Takes Action in Juvenile Products Industry
Congress took a tremendous leap forward last week in strengthening regulations within the juvenile products industry by passing the “Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.” Clearly a response to the 45 million toys and other children products recalled in 2007, the legislation passed both the House (424-1) and the Senate (89-3) convincingly.
The legislation, which is expected to be signed without hesitation by the President, does the following:
- Adopts the toughest lead paint standard in the world, banning lead beyond minute levels in products designed for children 12 and younger.
- Ensures consumers will have access to a publicly-accessible database to report and learn about hazards posed by unsafe products.
- Doubles the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (“CPSC”) annual budget, giving the watchdog organization considerably more recourses to monitor testing procedures and impose civil fines on violators.
- Permits the CPSC to seek asset forfeiture as a criminal penalty for violating the CPSC’s regulations.
- Raises the maximum criminal penalty for violators of the CPSC’s policies.
- Requires “accredited” third-party testing for many products before they are marketed. The CPSC is empowered to establish accreditation standards for testing agencies. The CPSC will publish a list of accredited agencies on its website after standards are adopted.
- Addresses six types of phthalates in children’s products, which are chemicals prevalent in plastics that are suspected of posing serious health risks. The European Union has already prohibited phthalates in children’s products.
- Grants whistleblowers significant protections.
A link to the Conference Report, which “represents the most significant overhaul of U.S. consumer product safety laws since the creation of the [CPSC],” according to Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), is attached.
Juvenile product manufacturers need to act immediately to ensure future compliance with the legislation’s stringent requirements. First, manufacturers need to adopt “reasonable testing programs,” or revisit the programs currently in place, to ensure they comply with the legislation’s new policies. Second, manufacturers need to monitor the list of accredited testing agencies to ensure they are utilizing acceptable testing partners. Third, manufacturers need to familiarize themselves with the legislation’s many nuances.
Additionally, according to the legislation, juvenile products in the future will have to receive compliance certification for safety and testing. Until the CPSC has an opportunity to adopt its own certification requirements, the legislation anoints the American Society for Testing and Materials’ international standard F963-07 as the temporary standard.
To ensure future compliance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, discuss reasonable testing procedures, or to otherwise inquire into the legislation’s requirements, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys in our Product Liability group.