Total Recall: The Need For CPSC Reform Now July 2008 Page 1 Summary and Introduction Summary: The year 2007 was called the year of the recall. But in 2008, recalls are up, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data. Already, as these data show, more toys and children’s products have been recalled in the first half of this year than in the first half of last year, a supposed “100-year-flood” period. Yet the remedial CPSC reform legislation passed overwhelmingly by both the House and Senate in response to that 2007 recall wave has yet to become law. It is stalled in conference committee, where both the toy and chemical industries seek to block, weaken or delay some of its most critical reforms. This report explains why Congress needs to enact a strong final law that includes all of these key uncompleted reforms1 -- a new toy standard that requires mandatory safety testing for toys, a ban on toxic phthalates and whistleblower protections -- while rejecting industry’s eleventh-hour demands to add new and unprecedented limits on state authority to enforce and enact product safety laws. Introduction: Beginning in the spring of 2007, a wave of recalls of children’s products and toys2 sparked renewed interest in product safety reform and in reauthorizing the moribund CPSC for the first time since 1990. One year ago, the agency’s budget of less than $63 million was less than half what it would have been ($145 million) had it simply been updated for inflation since its 1973 establishment. Its staff in 2007, at about 400 FTEs, was again less than half its peak staffing level in 1980. For much of 2007 it operated without a legal quorum; it could conduct voluntary recalls, but do little other business. Yet the tiny agency was and is nevertheless responsible for the safety of over 15,000 separate consumer products, ranging from coffee makers and home appliances to chain saws, escalators and children’s products, including toys. In response, Congress first raised the CPSC budget significantly for this and next year while it considered broader reform legislation. Both the House and Senate developed and passed comprehensive CPSC Reform Act proposals, which are now in conference committee. In June 2008, the committee announced agreement on 21 consensus provisions, including greater authority over import safety and recall authority, and an increase in civil penalty authority. On July 17, the committee met and announced agreement on nine more items, including an important new provision establishing a public database of potential hazards, a new state Attorneys General enforcement provision and another establishing new lower limits for lead exposure. Significant additional funding increases are also expected to be approved for future years, if final action is completed this year. At this point, however, several critical reforms remain unfinished, although the conference committee may meet again formally this week. Some of these critical reforms are the subject of massive efforts by the toy industry and the chemical industry, including Exxon-Mobil, to weaken them or delete them from the conference report and the final law. This report first explains why action must take place this year and then outlines those remaining unfinished provisions and why they are critical to reform efforts.