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Industries Seek Changes On Consumer Safety Regulations

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A wide-ranging group of industries, including textile and apparel manufacturers, is mounting an effort to bring about changes in a new consumer product safety law, which they feel is resulting in chaos in the marketplace.

The recently enacted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, designed to address problems with unsafe toys, has been interpreted to cover products ranging from toys and other products used by children to include textiles and clothing. Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, says that while his members support the “good intentions” of the legislation, its coverage and deadlines are a threat to the apparel industry. He charges that the legislation has “unrealistic timelines, rigid statutory language, no-risk-based safety approaches and unclear guidance for the Consumer Product Safety Commission [CPSC].”

Burke has outlined four key issues that he believes need to be addressed including:

•    elimination of retroactive application of product safety standards;

•    the need for the commission to move quickly to make pending determinations on textiles and other products that do not contain lead, and for Congress to grant the CPSC authority to make “commonsense determinations” to ease the testing burden;

•    the need for CPSC and Congress need to accredit more testing agencies and revise testing mandates that currently are redundant and costly; and

•    the need to delay effective dates for the new standards and requirements until full regulations are developed and guidelines published.

Burke says that at this time, manufacturers and retailers are having to develop their own guidelines and guessing as to what the regulations actually are.

Following a recent Washington rally of interested parties and members of Congress, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and 16 co-sponsors introduced legislation designed to address these issues. Among other things, it would establish third-party testing requirements and make the rules covering lead in products prospective rather than retroactive. It would exclude products for which there clearly is no problem with lead content, which textile and apparel manufacturers contend is the case with their products. It also would grant CPSC authority to waive tracking and labeling of products that are not considered dangerous.

April 14, 2009