The comment period for our regulation defining what is a children’s product has just now closed and the staff, over the next few months, will be analyzing the comments and preparing a final rule for the Commissioners’ consideration. This definition is needed to determine when third party testing is required. Nevertheless, tomorrow the Commissioners will be discussing the need for third party testing requirements to show compliance with the carpet and rug flammability rules. The question before us is, does the CPSIA require that so-called “youth” carpets be third party tested to this reg even though: (1) there seems to be wide spread compliance through a well-established and long-standing testing and guarantee program, (2) there is no hazard presented that is unique to children, and (3) there are real questions as to what is a “youth” carpet anyway, given that the flammability characteristics of a carpet do not change whether Sponge Bob or a stripe is woven into it.
This issue presents, in real terms, the conundrum presented both by this law and the CPSC’s implementation efforts, that is, viewing testing as an end in itself rather than a means to help achieve safety. If a proposed requirement does not advance safety, I submit that we have an obligation to look for ways to forego regulating. I believe this because implementation is not an academic exercise—real jobs are being lost unnecessarily because of our actions.
This point was brought home with the following email that I received which reads in part:
“My [profit] is down 11.8% . . . on sales that are only down 5.9% from 2007 – a damned miracle in my mind. After three solid months of hard work, we gave our owners $11,100 in pre-tax income or 1/2 OF 1 PERCENT of sales for the first quarter of this year. That makes us a non-profit pretty much de facto. Four years ago we turned in $280,000 in pre-tax income or 11.2% of sales. While I can ‘blame’ the economy for a lot of this, in reality the time, energy and resources that are being misdirected toward (CPSIA) compliance – NOT SAFETY, COMPLIANCE. . Out here in the ‘real world’, resources are limited, we cannot print money (run in the red) and people do lose jobs. There is a serious disconnect here between safety and actual risk . . . Thousands of jobs depend on you fishing or cutting bait on this issue. . . “
I will continue to advocate for common sense application of the law, I hope my colleagues will do the same.