JPMA Summit - Keynote Address - Thursday, March 27, 2012, Arlington, Va.

March 27, 2012

Good afternoon everyone. Joe, thank you for that kind introduction. Joe, I believe that companies like yours play an important role in implementing recall programs in a way that helps both the consumer and the recalling firm.

 

You can always count on Stericycle to be at the key safety conferences like this Summit and ICPHSO, so keep up the good work.

 

I hope you all got a chance to listen to Andy Kameros's presentation this morning, as he has been working very hard to make the Office of Compliance accessible to the regulated community and promote fairness in our regulatory activities.

 

I also want to recognize Anu Connor, who is here today. Anu joined my office just last week as my Special Assistant and Legal Counsel.

 

To the members of the JPMA, I want to share with you that I feel like we have established a tradition. This is now my third JPMA Summit, and it is good to see many familiar faces here today.

 

About three months after my appearance here last year, we hit a milestone in the safety of juvenile products.

 

I believe that June 28, 2011 will go down as a defining date in consumer product history. That, of course, was the day that CPSC's new mandatory crib standards - the most stringent standards in the world - went into effect.

 

Keeping children safe and healthy has been at the core of my life's work, which is why I am especially proud of the new crib safety rules.

 

These new rules are intended to honor Tyler Witte, Bobby Cirigliano, Liam Johns, and so many other children taken too soon. Collectively, we should honor these children by preventing future tragedies and giving all children the chance to sleep in a truly safe crib.

 

As I have stated on many occasions, the cooperation we received from the membership of ASTM was vital to the Commission, as we voted out the first major upgrade to the federal crib standards in 30 years.

 

And in recognizing ASTM, CPSC is also recognizing the cooperation of the JPMA members on that subcommittee.

 

The way ASTM worked with CPSC on the crib standards is a model for future work. And I am going to talk more about how that model must not be disrupted, later in my remarks.

 

But I would be remiss if I didn't take a moment and recognize and thank the manufacturers of full-size and non full-size cribs. Many of you in this room have been hard at work, shipping compliant models to stores, child care centers, and hotels across the country.

 

You are at the forefront of helping CPSC achieve the vision of our standard.

 

And I want to recognize the retailers, large and small, who took the necessary steps to comply with the law and are proudly selling the safest cribs in the world. I know there are a few independent retailers here today, and I want to thank you for not just following the law, but doing what is best for your customers.

 

Today, I want the focus to be on building up pride in your industry, pride in making and selling safe cribs in variety of styles and price points for your customers.

 

I saw that pride when I visited Delta's testing facility in New Jersey this past fall. Delta's engineers were conducting crib testing that actually exceeded CPSC's tough performance standard.

 

I saw that pride when I visited a small retailer of baby products in Atlanta last summer. The proprietor was so proud to have safer cribs for sale for her customers.

 

I told her that we are going to do our part at CPSC to help her business thrive by encouraging parents to go out and buy a new crib for their baby.

 

And I heard from her this week that crib sales have been steady in recent months.

 

Your industry has taken center stage in delivering on CPSC's promise to reduce deaths and injuries from defective cribs. I believe all of you should be commended for your efforts.

 

But, don't slow down. We need to ensure adequate supply in the marketplace. December 28 is not that far off, and there are still many child care centers, hotel, and crib rental companies that need to purchase compliant cribs.

 

Just last week, we conducted an information and education session with state child care licensing officials from more than 40 states. We spoke to more than 250 officials about how to comply with the law, and we encouraged them to pass our information on to licensees who are impacted for the December 28 deadline.

 

My ask is that you keep educating your customers, and keep exploring ways to make those certificates of conformity accessible to consumers - either online or at retail.

 

Consumers believe in the new crib rules and want to have confidence in the new cribs they are buying. Providing a copy of the certificate of conformity is a great way to solidify consumer confidence.

 

During the remainder of my time today, I would like to focus on four topics:

 

First, tackling the challenges of soft bedding in achieving a safe sleep for all children;

 

Second, the ongoing work to promulgate the lifesaving rules required by the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act or "Danny's Law." "Danny's Law" is often referred to as section 104 of the CPSIA;

 

Third, providing you with an update on SaferProducts.gov, which marked its one year anniversary earlier this month;

 

And fourth, giving you an update on the agency's safety agenda for 2012.

 

Let's start with safe sleep.

 

At CPSC, we addressed a pattern of mechanical failures through the passage of the new crib standards. And we addressed an emerging hazard tied to sleep positioners by joining forces with the FDA to advise parents to stop using them.

 

What remains is the cause of most fatalities in the crib: soft bedding. And, as we all know, the problem is not isolated just to cribs. The majority of deaths in bassinets and play yards are also related to soft bedding.

 

The challenge we face is never-ending. With each new year comes new parents who do not know or understand the risk factors with soft bedding.

 

Your association and member companies already have a wide array of educational materials. And CPSC, AAP, and Keeping Babies Safe teamed up to produce an educational video that is airing on The Newborn Channel in hospitals across the country.

 

JPMA, CPSC, and various child advocacy groups are all coming at the problem from different angles. Some are trying to reach parents before their baby arrives, while other are educating parents in maternity wards, at the point of purchase, or when they visit their pediatrician.

 

Yet, the fatalities keep happening.

 

I'm not sure how many of you have heard this statistic, but CPSC staff estimates that between 1992 and 2010, there were nearly 700 deaths involving children 12 months and younger related to pillows and cushions.

 

Nearly 700 deaths. That is a heartbreaking and sobering statistic.

 

In addition to pillows and cushions, we know that blankets and comforters have also been involved in hundreds of positional asphyxia and suffocation incidents.

 

A Pediatrics study looking into the behavior of certain African-American parents found a misperception that so long as the mattress was firm, blanket and pillows could be added to the sleep environment.

 

Other reasons that parents cited for adding soft bedding was to keep their baby warm, create more comfort for their baby, or create a more aesthetically pleasing nursery.

 

The consequences with each of these ideas are tragic.

 

In my opinion, the problem is so great that the only way that we can tackle it is if we all work together.

 

In turn, I want to continue to use my office as a source of good and bring together industry, advocates, and government, in a coordinated effort to reduce the number of soft bedding related fatalities.

 

I know that there are a few areas of disagreement within the baby safety community when it comes to soft bedding. I get that. But, let's put those issues and product areas aside and focus on what we all know and can agree are the most common killers: pillows, cushions, blankets, and comforters.

 

My office will be reaching out to all of you to solicit your input and explore areas of opportunity. We will also reach out to partners in the pediatrics and child safety world to solicit their input and resources.

 

We need a coordinated campaign that uses approaches that have already worked - such as the "Back to Sleep" campaign of the 1990s - to reach the most at-risk families.

 

We want everyone's ideas for images and language that can create a positive change in behavior.

 

And we need everyone's help to stop the use of images and language in advertising and in-store displays that can lead to a false perception - a false perception that soft bedding is a necessary component of a modern nursery.

 

During my time as Chairman, this will be a priority for me and for CPSC. I look forward to us working together and rallying around the shared belief that a safe crib or bassinet is the safest place for a baby to be placed to sleep.

 

Next, I would like to discuss the mandates of Danny's Law and the CPSIA's section 104 rules. At CPSC, we have already completed the mandatory rules for bath seats, walkers, full size and non-full size cribs, toddler beds, and portable bed rails.

 

Next up to be approved is a final rule for play yards.

 

As many of you know, Danny Keysar was killed in 1998 when the previously recalled play yard he was napping in collapsed, suffocating him. The rule will honor him and his legacy in the CPSIA.

 

And also in the works this year are the standards for bassinets and cradles, strollers, and infant carriers.

 

The 104 rules are not optional; the 104 rules do not a have go or no-go provision based on risk; and the schedule for starting and completing the 104 rules will not be taken off course, so long as I am Chairman.

 

In recent days, CPSC has received letters from numerous manufacturers seeking incident data and risk analyses tied to a variety of juvenile products. And I received questions from other key stakeholders that were similar to these letters.

 

Now, I hope I have this wrong, but it strikes me that there is a coordinated effort underway.

 

I hope that this effort is not aimed at undermining the 104 rules, as I do not believe that a case can be made, nor would I ever support an approach that undermines Danny's Law.

 

In crafting the CPSIA, Congress took testimony from parents whose children were killed or seriously injured in nursery products.

 

The impact of the testimony and a series of high profile recalls was a mandate from Congress to make the juvenile product standards mandatory and enforceable.

 

You have a right to request injury data. I do not question that. CPSC technical staff has a long history of sharing injury data with the ASTM subcommittees on which they sit.

 

CPSC also has a long history of having regulatory language that identifies children as a vulnerable, at-risk population. Our regulations say that CPSC staff and Commissioners should consider that children "are often less able to judge or escape certain dangers in the consumer product."

 

So, for CPSC, calculating risk is not just determining the rate of injury, but we must take into account the vulnerability of those who we seek to protect.

 

The agency will continue to work through proper channels in contributing to the ASTM standards development process.

 

ASTM leadership has a clear understanding of my expectations. We respect the ASTM process and want the subcommittees to make a valuable contribution to the implementation of Danny's Law, by developing consensus standards that CPSC can turn into mandatory standards.

 

The explicit statutory language of the CPSIA calls upon CPSC to achieve the "highest level of safety that is feasible" in our 104 rulemakings. We can do that independently or we can do that by working with robust ASTM standards.

 

I favor the latter approach, but I will not hesitate to support the former, if the expert staff at CPSC advises the Commission that is what is best for the safety of children.

 

I certainly respect your right to lobby Congress and other stakeholders on this issue. But, please understand, that what you do with ASTM has a direct impact on the Commission's business.

 

The safety of children in infant carriers, clip-on chairs, play yards, folding chairs, slings, strollers, and numerous other products is dependent upon our efforts.

 

These are products with a history of deaths, serious injuries, and recalls, so establishing child-protective national standards is a worthy pursuit.

 

Moreover, should our federal standards process ever slow down from its current pace or stall, I would fully expect many of the individual states to start passing and implementing their own safety standards for these products.

 

A patchwork of regulations and enforcement actions by state Attorneys General is unlikely to be helpful to industry.

 

Let's keep working together to do right by those who we serve.

 

Next, I would like to update you on the progress we have made with the SaferProducts.gov website. Earlier this month, we marked the one year anniversary of the site.

 

During the past year, we have posted nearly 7,000 reports of harm or potential reports of harm and 4,100 comments from manufacturers.

 

We have processed about 700 material inaccuracy claims, with the majority involving the consumer naming the wrong manufacturer. We can handle those claims easily.

 

Baby products are in the top four product areas that consumers reported on via the website, along with kitchen, home maintenance, and furniture products.

 

So, who is visiting the site and who is filing reports?

 

The answer is consumers overwhelmingly - just as I expected.

 

And even prior to the passage of the enactment of Public Law 112-28, which amended the database provision of the CPSIA, we were seeing that 80 percent of the reports included specific product information, such as the model number.

 

Our most recent data indicates that we are now up to 87 percent of reports that contain information for the model number or serial number.

 

I appreciate that many JPMA members are using their right to comment as a means to educate consumers.

 

Some of the comments inform consumers that their product has been subject to a recall, and other comments provide information about why a company believes its product is safe.

 

What is key - and I said this before the database was launched, and I want to restate it again today - if you work for a company that CPSC regulates, and you have not registered on the SaferProducts.gov business portal, you should do so right away.

 

Every regulated business deserves the full benefits that our database rule affords you. But, if you are not registered to receive electronic notification of a report of harm, then it will take away from the amount of time you have to respond to CPSC.

 

Now, there are other benefits to registering in the business portal that I hope you know about.

 

You can use the site for Section 15 reporting.

 

You can use the site for retailer reporting.

 

And qualified small batch manufacturers can use the site to register to receive relief from certain third party testing requirements.

 

I believe SaferProducts.gov is doing the job of informing consumers in a way that is empowering them. I also believe the site is helping to make CPSC be more accessible to the public and letting the sun shine in.

 

We will continue to make improvements so that the site serves the business community and consumers even better.

 

And we will continue to work on integrating the data from SaferProducts.gov with all of our other systems, so that we can connect the dots faster in finding emerging hazards.

 

Finally, I would like to talk to you about CPSC's safety agenda this year, as we strive to become the global leader in consumer product safety.

 

Many of the talented employees at CPSC - and there are truly many - are working on safety initiatives aimed at making our agency even more proactive in 2012.

 

The safety agenda I would like share with all of you will guide CPSC in the months and years ahead. It is an agenda that advances consumer protection.

 

High on the agenda are a series of projects that, once completed, have the potential to save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of injuries each year.

 

I'm referring to:

 

Continuing to propose and finalize the 104 rules, as I stated earlier.

 

Continuing to work on portable gas generators, which were involved in 676 carbon monoxide related deaths in the United States between 1999 and 2010. Our mechanical engineers are working with college engineers to develop a cut-off switch that will shut down a generator if oxygen levels are depleted in a contained space. We have required a danger label that says, "Using a generator indoors can kill you in minutes." But, the fact that we are still seeing a high number of deaths and injuries associated with portable generators means that we need to explore technical solutions that can save lives.

 

Recreational off-highway vehicles are a popular off-road product in the United States, but they come with risks - risks compounded by the fact that these vehicles allow for passengers. There have been more than 170 deaths over the past nine years related to the use of these off-road vehicles. We started rulemaking in December 2009, and we are moving toward a proposed rule to make these vehicles safer - safer in terms of occupant protection, stability, and steering performance.

 

All-terrain vehicles also remain a serious concern to the agency and to me. With more than 700 deaths per year, ATVs are the second most deadly product we oversee. We have been doing grassroots education and technical research for years. And this summer, we will consider a final rule aimed at providing young riders with greater protections.

 

Upholstered furniture is involved in tens of thousands of fires and hundreds of deaths each year in the United States. And, we know that 90 percent of the addressable deaths are related to smoldering fires, and the vast majority of those are caused by cigarettes. CPSC staff has proposed a rule that would limit the fire spread in upholstered furniture without the need for manufacturers to use flame retardant chemicals. This rule has the potential to be one of the top lifesaving rules in CPSC's history. After 16 years of the agency trying, I am committed to pursuing the approval of a final rule while I am Chairman.

 

There are two fairly new rulemakings that I also want to share with you, because they address very serious risks.

 

First, is table saws. Would you believe that 11 people suffer amputations every day in the United States from using power saws that cut wood? It's true. We are exploring solutions at CPSC to save people from these life-altering injuries.

 

The other is gel fuels and firepots. In December, the Commission voted unanimously to publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, just months after nearly all bottles of pourable gel fuel used in firepots were recalled. The ANPR was prompted by the number of serious injuries and deaths. We are aware of 65 incidents that have resulted in two deaths and at least 34 victims who were hospitalized. The victims had second- and third-degree burns of the face, chest, hands, arms or legs, after ignited gel fuel splattered on them. The ANPR is exploring the question of whether it is possible to make gel fuel safe for consumers to use.

 

A common attribute that runs through all of the product hazards I just discussed is that we have team leaders and technical staff at CPSC who are experts in their field.

 

I'm proud of the work they are doing, and I know they want to bring closure to their projects, in order to advance consumer safety in these areas.

 

I know they want to prevent injuries and deaths from entrapments, suffocations, rollovers, CO poisonings, fires, and finger amputations.

 

We are a forward moving agency at CPSC, but it is still valuable to take a moment and look back at our accomplishments.

 

Since more stringent rules were established in 2008, recalls of toys and recalls of toys due to lead violations have declined 80 percent.

 

Since the Pool and Spa Safety Act went into effect in December of 2008, no child has died from the horrific hazard of a pool drain entrapment.

 

Independent, third party testing of children's products is now taking place in North Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, and Tennessee. It is also happening in Beijing, Milan, Guangdong, and Jakarta.

 

Independent testing of children's products is the capstone of CPSC's implementation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and it is one of the most important safeguards sought by parents and consumers.

 

Farther upstream, Chinese companies are starting to incorporate best practices in manufacturing. I have seen it firsthand. I have seen how strollers, toys, ATVs, and fireworks are made in China, and there are signs of progress.

 

My philosophy is to "take safety to the source." And that philosophy is driving CPSC's efforts to work with Chinese manufacturers to adhere to U.S. standards and build safety into product design.

 

Back on the home front, unprecedented cooperation with Customs and Border Protection is leading to success at the ports. Toys, teddy bears, hair dryers, Christmas lights, extension cords, jewelry, and fireworks are being caught by CBP inspectors and CPSC investigators.

 

Products with small parts, missing shock-protection devices, undersized wiring, counterfeit UL labels, high levels of cadmium, and too much flash powder are being caught by our investigators.

 

So, what do all of these products have in common?

 

They never reached store shelves and never reached the hands of consumers.

 

By being proactive at the ports, CPSC and CBP staff has stopped 6.5 million units of about 1,700 different children's products in 2010 and 2011.

 

I predict that our import surveillance program will continue to succeed. This is because for the first time we have gained real-time access to data from a special commercial targeting system operated by CBP.

 

This is a database that tracks the manifests of shipments headed from ports of call around the world to our shores.

 

Now we can anticipate when and where a shipment of interest will arrive.

 

The risk assessment methodology that we have piloted is aimed at early detection and targeting of high risk products and repeat offenders. I believe this will make CPSC even more effective in using our limited resources.

 

Our work at the ports is another win for the consumer and another sign that CPSC is willing and able to stand and protect.

 

Because of all of these accomplishments, I can say with confidence that the state of product safety is strong - and it is built to last.

 

CPSC is in a strong position, and I believe we are making a strong contribution to the state of product safety around the world.

 

We are using our strength not for short-term gains, but to create a sustainable product safety system.

 

A system built to last.

 

A system built to last through compliance with the stringent safety and testing requirements established by the CPSIA.

 

A system built to last by creating a regulatory approach that strives for injury prevention rather than reaction.

 

A system built to last for which future generations will thank us.

 

In closing, I believe that prevention must win out over reaction - from manufacturing to distribution, industry, consumer advocates, and CPSC should continue to work cooperatively to prevent injuries.

 

I predict that the year 2012 will be another successful year, especially if everyone rallies around the approach of being "Proactive for Prevention."

 

I know that each of you is up to the challenge, because you already have a corporate and an association mission that is committed to the well-being of consumers.

 

At CPSC, we are proud that this is a time when parents and grandparents can go shopping and know that many of the children's products they see have been independently tested.

 

This is a time when consumers have unprecedented access to safety information at the tips of their fingers.

 

This is a time when foreign regulators and foreign manufacturers understand the requirements established in the United States, and know that there are consequences for not following our safety rules.

 

This is a time when the American consumer is being well represented by their government and is being better protected by a global system of safety that is getting stronger.

 

Together, we are building a product safety system that is built to last - built to last so that future generations of children and other consumers have an even greater level of safety.

 

Thank you to Jeff Berman and Mike Dwyer for the invitation to speak with all for you today, and enjoy the remainder of your time in Washington.