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Washington Outlook Archive

New Commissioners Named To Consumer Agency

The Senate has confirmed two of President Barack Obama's appointees to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), bringing the commission up to full strength for the first time since the 1980s The new makeup of the commission comprises: Chairman Inez Moore Tenenbaum, confirmed earlier by the Senate;  the two new appointees, Anne Northup and Robert S. Alder; and two Bush administration holdovers, Thomas Hill Moore and Nancy A. Nord.

In addition to having five commissioners on board, the CPSC has expanded funding and authority as a result of enactment of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) last year, and each of the new appointees has expressed a commitment to strict enforcement of the new act, particularly where products are  intended for use by children. Tenenbaum set the tone for the reconstituted agency recently when she told an international safety audience in Singapore: "My regulatory philosophy embraces open dialogue, information sharing with all stakeholders and a commitment to finding mutual interests. When a law has been passed, I will ensure that our requirements are vigorously enforced."

One of the new appointees, Adler, has been involved  with consumer safety issues for 36 years including service as a staffer at the CPSC, where he worked for former commissioners David Pittle and Sam Zagoria; and on the staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where some of his responsibilities involved oversight of the CPSC.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Adler said he believes enactment of the CPSIA is a "monumental achievement in promoting product safety." He also noted a significant change in the commission's responsibilities since his earlier work with it as a result of the growth of imported products, which he said account for 85 percent of the commission's current recalls. He also said that in spite of the new funding under the CPSIA, the commission staff remains 40-percent below the level of 30 years ago.

Northup, a former Republican member of Congress from Kentucky, also underscored the importance of the new CPSIA in providing new resources  to protect consumers, noting that its implementation will require new rules, new standards, new testing laboratories and new procedures for dealing with imports. She said she will work with Chairman Tenenbaum to build a "collaborative effort" to address the current challenges of the commission.

At some point, the commission is expected to address pending issues involving flammability of upholstered furniture and a CPSIA-mandated study of the formaldehyde content of textile and clothing products.

August 11, 2009