A US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) commissioner says state-level regulation of children’s products creates “confusion” and “chaos”.
In remarks at a recent Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) conference, Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle said the patchwork of state and federal regulations “creates such confusion, it creates such chaos. As a consumer, it’s so confusing and disruptive … it really does need to be addressed.”
Several states, including Washington and Oregon, have implemented rules that impose stricter limits for certain chemicals and substances of concern than those required at the federal level.
Five counties in New York have also moved to ban specific chemicals in children’s products.
In one instance, Buerkle said legislators were “kind of reluctant” not to act on a bill that had “safe kids” in its title. “That reference really concerns a legislator, because they don’t want to be known as the one who doesn’t care about kids.”
The commissioner told industry representatives that educating state legislators on CPSC’s role is essential: “The federal government, CPSC, has taken care of it. There’s no need to create this confusion, and create stricter standards or standards unique to a county.”
But Holly Davies, Ph.D., toxics policy coordinator at Washington State’s Department of Ecology – which oversees the Washington Children’s Safe Products Act (CSPA) – observed that “There continues to be an essential role for state-level chemical regulations, both to address local issues of importance and to respond quickly to emerging toxic threats.”
She notes that Washington was among the first to ban bisphenol A (BPA) in child cups, and has been a leader in restricting the use of flame retardants. Davies asserts that the 2008 passage of the Washington CSPA “helped advance” the federal Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).
“While uniform standards are important and worth pursuing, states have shown that they can move quickly andway for national agreements or action by federal agencies.”
Also covered in the CPSC commissioners’ remarks was progress made on reducing regulatory burdens.
Congress’s 2011 passage of Public Law 112-28, which awarded the CPSC additional powers, gave the Commission increased discretion over enforcement of the Consumer Products Safety Act (CPSA). It also directed the agency to seek ways to reduce the burdens imposed by third-party testing.
Regarding this effort, CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler told the TIA: “I think we’ve made great progress, but we’re continuing to work on it.”
Recent developments in this area include elimination of some testing requirements for untreated wood in toys, and lead in certain textiles.
According to Commissioner Adler, many stakeholders have requested that the agency make determinations that totally exclude certain products and materials from third-party testing and certification. That “has certainly been our focus”, he said.
And with respect to phthalates, Mr. Adler said the CPSC is “exploring if there is a sure hardness number we can come up with that would exclude people as part of a determination”. But Commissioner Buerkle said she is “frustrated” by the slow progress: “We haven’t provided, in my opinion, any real relief in third-party testing.”
She said that US regulations produce a barrier to entry for start-ups, and has encouraged the industry to come forward with any ideas that could help reduce these burdens.