CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye told reporters in a press conference call that CPSIA rule 6(b) is an “anti-consumer safety, anti-transparency” requirement. The limitations it imposes are the reason the agency had not spoken about the Lumber Liquidators situation until nearly a month after a 60 Minutes report that made allegations about levels of formaldehyde in laminate flooring sold by the retailer.
In response to interest in the information disclosure requirements, Kaye explained the 15- and five-day clocks it sets. He confirmed, however, that he was unaware of any move by Lumber Liquidators to sue to stop CPSC release of information. At various time during the press conference, he characterized the retailer as cooperating with the agency’s investigation.
Kaye further asserted that it is “highly frustrating” to be required to withhold or delay release of information that could help consumers or give them clarity about a situation. He contrasted CPSC’s limits with the ability of FDA to speak readily about its investigations. He told the reporters that CPSC is the only health and safety agency bound by these restrictions.
A week earlier, Kaye had told members of Congress that two proposed rules – on 6(b) and voluntary recalls – were not priorities for him as they do not target direct safety benefits. The proposed 6(b) rule, moreover, would not change the statutory timelines and would focus on other elements such as no longer re-notifying companies of requests for release of previously-cleared information.
As for CPSC activities related to Lumber Liquidators, Kaye noted that CPSC for now is focusing on only Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by the retailer. However, Kaye confirmed the agency would be willing to branch out to other sources, other product types, and other retailers if warranted.
The results of CPSC’s investigation are “months, unfortunately not weeks,” away, he said. Steps involve sample collection, contract-ing a lab, doing the testing, and comparing data results to existing research on related risk assessments.
Kaye emphasized CPSC will not be focusing on the California CARB requirements involved in the 60 Minutes piece. Rather, it will seek to replicated real-world, in-home conditions to assess potential acute and chronic health risks.
He also noted CPSC is communicating with EPA, FTC, CDC and its Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, and NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences related to the National Toxicology Program.
It is too early to tell if a recall is warranted or if there were any breakdowns in the supply chain. If the latter proves to be true, CPSC would probe deeply to try to isolate the problem, Kaye said.
Agency sources note that at least two Senators have prodded CPSC to investigate. Soon after the 60 Minutes report, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) called for an interagency effort that replicated the one that targeted Chinese-made drywall and resulted in a 2011 CPSC/HUD remediation guide.
More recently, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) voiced his concerns about formaldehyde in homes rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy. Those rebuilt in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina were prominent among buildings affected by the drywall problem.