March 15, 2010 
By Mary O. Foley 

With the U.S. Congress knee-deep in healthcare, debt issues and the like, the best way to achieve a CPSIA amendment that allows the CPSC to grant case-by-case lead testing exemptions may be to add it as a rider to an appropriations bill or other similar legislation, Commissioner Anne Northup hinted March 9. In a meeting with representatives of the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (USA-ITA), Northup explained that while it was “purely conjecture” whether the Congress would get to CPSIA-tweaking legislation this year, “If you can get Appropriations [Committee] to put this on, it strikes me this would be a strategy.” Northup is a former House member from Kentucky’s 3rd district.

Textile and apparel importers are among those who would welcome CPSIA exemptions. Many industries are finding the testing requirements to be costly and time-consuming.

Indeed, several representatives of USA-ITA companies told Northup that they have quit selling certain items to avoid the rigors of CPSIA testing. “We completely got out of children’s jewelry,” said one member. Said another, representing a company that sells T-shirts, the shirts’ designs now feature less colors to cut down on testing costs.

The group told Northup and Commissioner Robert Adler in separate meetings that they are also hard-hit by having to meet the dual requirements of federal standards and those set by U.S. states, such as California’s Proposition 65.

While both commissioners said they felt federal laws should preempt state requirements, Adler noted that CPSC has limited resources (PSL, 3/8/10, p. 1) and chooses, in the end, not to use funds in legal battles with states. “Should we spend [CPSC] money preempting a state, or working on recalls?” he mused. “We are constantly having to choose between the spouse and the child.”

The group also mentioned its concerns over the CPSIA complaint database (PSL, 2/22/10, p. 1). Several company representatives worried aloud that the database would allow individuals to attack their companies’ reputations without giving the companies chances to respond to allegations. They asked that the database be designed to give companies time to respond to allegations before any comments were posted, and that some type of fines or punitive damages be considered against individuals who post false claims.

In response, both Northup and Adler mentioned that work is continuing on the database, which is targeted to be functional by March 2011. “It will be an incredible balancing act” to meet the CPSIA’s requirements that the database allow consumers to file timely complaints while affording companies protection from errant claims, noted Adler.