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Highlights from ICPHSO 2010

Feb.19.2010

The International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization ("ICPHSO") hosted its 17th annual meeting on February 15-18, 2010, at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. Attendees included representatives from federal and state governments, consumer interest groups, industry, consulting firms, and consumer product testing facilities. Crowell & Moring attorneys Laura Walther and Natalia Medley attended this year's meeting.

A highlight of the meeting was "CPSC Day," where officials from the Consumer Product Safety Commission ("CPSC") spoke about recent changes to the law, compliance and enforcement efforts, upcoming rulemakings, and the Commission's new strategies and policies. Panel members and speakers from the Commission included Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, General Counsel Cheryl Falvey, Assistant Executive Director of the Office of Compliance John "Gib" Mullan, and Deputy Director of the Office of Compliance Marc Schoem.

Key points from the meeting included:

Cadmium

  • CPSC is studying the current cadmium limits set by ASTM F963 and conducting a health hazard assessment of cadmium.
  • CPSC stressed that the health hazards of cadmium are known and advised manufacturers to pay attention to potential risks of substances substituted in place of cadmium.
  • Cadmium content of imported products will be monitored at the ports using XRF technology.

Focus on cribs and other durable nursery products

  • The Commission is working with ASTM to revise the voluntary standard for cribs and other infant sleep environments and will promulgate a mandatory standard, as required by Section 104(b) of the CPSIA. The Commission expects to issue the new crib standard before the end of the calendar year.
  • Anticipate agency action in the coming months pertaining to toddler beds, bassinets, bath seats, baby walkers, and children's garments with drawstrings.
  • The definitions of "children's product" and "toy" will be clarified, which will likely be different from past interpretations of those terms.
  • Safe Sleep Campaign: This initiative is focused on improving the safety of infant sleep environments, including cribs, bassinets, and play yards, and educating consumers about the safe and proper use of infant sleep environments.
  • Commission staff intends to publish a diagnostic guide in the coming months for use in determining which standards apply to specific products.

Increased control over recalls

  • The Commission has been auditing the execution of corrective action plans more regularly and has been closely monitoring the disposal of recalled products.
  • When a recalled product is to be disposed, CPSC should be notified at recalledproductdisposal@cpsc.gov so that CPSC may send a witness, or if unavailable, the Commission may request an affidavit.
  • The Commission expects to show less leniency towards companies seeking to enter into Fast Track at later stages of an investigation. Instead, companies should generally determine within 3-5 days of a report whether they intend to avail themselves of the Fast Track option, and if doing so, should expect that a corrective action will be part of that process.
  • Currently, recall posters are required to remain posted in stores for at least 120 days, but CPSC is considering whether to increase this time period, and some states already require a minimum of 180 days.

State Attorneys General

  • CPSC panelists stated that coordinated enforcement with state attorneys general is a "top priority." CPSC staff met with state attorneys general in October 2009 and have monthly conference calls.
  • Harmonization of federal and state consumer product laws was identified as a CPSC goal as well.

Coordination with Health Canada

  • Health Canada and the CPSC intend to continue issuing joint recalls where applicable, and both agencies hope to increase these cooperative efforts in the future.
  • Health Canada representatives indicated that they have a practice of reporting Canadian recalls to the CPSC.

Online Public Database

  • The public database is under construction and progress may be tracked at www.saferproducts.gov, where the database will eventually be posted.
  • Stakeholders are strongly encouraged to provide the Commission with comments and concerns about the database.

Information Technology and Social Networking

  • CPSC is planning an overhaul of its IT system and its website to make CPSC materials more accessible to the public.
  • The Commission stressed the increased ability to engage and educate the public through social networking tools such as Twitter and YouTube. Companies were urged to be aware of social media comments about their products.

For more information about ICPHSO, please click here.

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