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Democrats Stand Up for Consumer Safety

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Bobby Rush, Rosa DeLauro, Bart Stupak, and Diana DeGette and consumer advocate Donald Mays held a news conference in the Capitol this afternoon on Democratic efforts to promote consumer product and toy safety. Speaker Pelosi announced new comprehensive legislation coming:

“Good afternoon. We're gathered here this afternoon on a subject of very great concern to America's families. As we approach the holiday season, with Halloween tomorrow, and Thanksgiving around the corner, and shopping for Christmas toys going on probably as we speak, we want to make sure that we are doing the best possible job to protect America's children.

“Twenty million imported toys, manufactured overseas, were recalled this summer. Twenty million toys. Some of these toys contained nearly 200 times the legal limit for lead. Two hundred times…

“Now, under the leadership of Chairman John Dingell and Bobby Rush, the Chair of the Subcommittee, we are moving legislation that will ban lead from children's toys, will require testing of children's products by independent, third-party laboratories, that will provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission with significantly greater resources to protect America's consumers.”

The legislation will come on the heels of four child safety bills passed on October 9th and a new report on Democratic efforts to correct years of failed protection by the Bush Administration.

But yesterday Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, announced her opposition to such legislation, and today the White House has expressed its support for her. Democrats reacted angrily at today’s press conference.

US House speaker wants safety agency chief to quit
Kevin Drawbaugh and Diane Bartz, Reuters – October 30, 2007

The battle over lead-tainted toys heated up on Tuesday as the top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives called for the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to resign and the White House criticized a bill that would strengthen the agency.

At issue is legislation aimed at giving the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission more money and authority to protect American consumers from unsafe products after the recent recall of millions of Chinese-made toys for lead paint and other hazards.

“Any commission chair who … in the face of the facts that are so clear says we don’t need any more authority or any more resources to do our job does not understand the gravity of the situation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in calling for the resignation of Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the safety agency.

Three other Democrats joined Pelosi in calling for Nord’s resignation. They said Nord had done too little in the wake of recalls of millions of lead-tainted toys imported by Mattel Inc (MAT.N: Quote, Profile, Research), RC2 Corp (RCRC.O: Quote, Profile, Research) and other companies. High levels of lead are linked to brain damage in children, and even death.

Nord has criticized parts of a bill, approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday, that would boost funding and staff for her agency and make other reforms.

“It’s time for Nancy Nord to step aside,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, told reporters. “She’s an acting chairperson, but we’ve seen more inaction than action.”

Donald Mays, Senior Director, Product Safety at the Consumers Union spoke as well, an excerpt of his remarks:

A recent consumer poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center revealed that our product safety problems could have economic implications. 36 percent of consumers say they will be buying fewer toys this holiday season, and 30 percent say they will not be buying Chinese-made toys at all. 84 percent blame our product safety problems on the manufacturers, but 62 percent hold the U.S. Government or regulators accountable.

We can no longer allow industry to police itself when it comes to safety. We can no longer sit back as our government's watchdog agencies allow dangerous products to slip through the gaping holes in their safety nets.

We support strong legislation that would give our government agencies the resources and authority they need to protect consumer from this onslaught of hazardous products. Consumer safety must be a non-partisan issue. The CPSC and FDA need strong leadership and the will to develop proactive measures to prevent unsafe products from reaching our homes. Consumers Union urges Congress to make 2007 the year of safety reform, to fix our broken food and product safety agencies, and restore consumer confidence in the marketplace.

Read Speaker Pelosi’s full remarks today:

“Good afternoon. We're gathered here this afternoon on a subject of very great concern to America's families. As we approach the holiday season, with Halloween tomorrow, and Thanksgiving around the corner, and shopping for Christmas toys going on probably as we speak, we want to make sure that we are doing the best possible job to protect America's children.

“Twenty million imported toys, manufactured overseas, were recalled this summer. Twenty million toys. Some of these toys contained nearly 200 times the legal limit for lead. Two hundred times.

“At the Consumer Safety Protection Commission, there is only one inspector charged with testing toys to make sure that they are safe for our children. There are toys being sold in our stores now that are untested and are unsafe.

“Some of them are here. This top is very dangerous in terms of the amount of lead that it contains. This toy, with these little steel balls and the rest — this is suitable for a four-year-old child according to the label, not suitable for a child three years and under.

“And then this — this really breaks my heart because with five grandsons I have Thomas the Train toys practically set up across the country — but some of the Thomas the Train toys, not all, but some, are dangerous to the health of our children.

“And I say not all, but some — why should it be up to the moms and dads to be able to figure that out? Is it too much to expect the government to live up to its responsibility to protect our children? We have a consumer protection agency to do that.

“In a letter just last week, the chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nancy Nord, said she was opposed to increasing the agency's funding or authority. One person assigned to testing toys to ensure that they are safe, and the Chairman of the Commission saying she is opposed to expanding the authority or the funding.

“That is not what American parents want to hear. They want to know that we are doing all we can to ensure that safe toys, safe food, and safe medicine are available for our children.

“We stand here today because we do not believe that it is too much for America's parents to ask. America's children deserve all of that and more. My colleagues who are standing here, they have taken the lead on this. They and Mr. Dingell, the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, have been in the lead, and Congresswoman DeLauro on the Appropriations Committee.

“Already this year, we passed sweeping new drug safety legislation, conducted vigorous oversight with toys and food safety hearings, and increased funding for the Consumer Safety Product Commission while toughening the fines that they can levy.

“Now, under the leadership of Chairman John Dingell and Bobby Rush, the Chair of the Subcommittee, we are moving legislation that will ban lead from children's toys, will require testing of children's products by independent, third-party laboratories, that will provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission with significantly greater resources to protect America's consumers.

“I want to commend Congresswoman Diana DeGette for her leadership on these issues that relate to toys, medicine, and food safety for our children. I want to commend Chairman Bart Stupak for his chairmanship of the important committee and the oversight hearings he has had. I want to commend Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro for her leadership on the Appropriations Committee, where she has made food safety a mission and a crusade, and acknowledge and yield to the distinguished Chairman of the Subcommittee that has dealt with this issue of toy safety and commend him for his leadership. I want to yield now to Congressman Bobby Rush.”

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