For anyone who has followed the ups and downs and federal product safety regulation, the two recent dueling posts written for The Consumer Chronicle by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum (a Democrat) and CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord (a Republican) represent a time-honored partisan split on how much regulation is necessary.
I’ve been following the goings-on there on and off (more on than off) over the past 15 years and have seen both over-eager moves toward regulation and over-reactions to necessary rule changes. For the most part, though, the recent trend toward more regulation and a bit tougher posture toward business has been a welcome change from where I sit.
Safety is extremely important to me. I have heard too many stories about children dying due to products that should have been recalled earlier or banned altogether. Has every regulation change been just right? Of course not.
Will there ever be a day when every product is safe? No.
Will regulation solve ever problem? No.
Was banning dropside cribs the right move? Absolutely.
Problems with consumer products that pose serious hazards crop up in homes across the country every day.
My own son brought up a flashlight that caught fire. I bought another set of them and two out of three more started to burn within seconds, leading to a recall of hundreds of thousands sold at Target stores nationwide. Target happens to be one of the more responsive companies.
For my involvement, opinions and long commitment to keeping children, in particular, safe I was recently honored as the KIDS Best Friend by the safety advocacy group Kids In Danger. I’m also the safety expert for Parents magazine’s website.
I happen to think the nation’s product safety system I spent a year investigating in the late 1990s, while improved, remains deeply flawed. One great change: The launch this year of a consumer-driven public product safety complaint database.
There have been a few recent examples of the CPSC flexing its enforcement muscles — such as declaring a line of phil&ted products as dangerous — but there are still plenty of companies that abuse a system largely reliant on voluntary compliance by delaying recalls until long after they’re aware of a problem.
I’m glad Chairman Tenenbaum and Commissioner Nord have turned here to air their views. I’m just sorry that the long history of partisanship at the CPSC’s Bethesda, Md., headquarters that still yielded consensus on some major issues has since disintegrated in the same way it has down the road in Washington, D.C.
Visit my Facebook page and let me know what you think about product safety regulation. Too much? Too little? Just enough?