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Inez Tenenbaum Addresses CPSC's Work in Protecting Children in 2009 and 2010

In her keynote address given February 17, before the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO), Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) Chair Inez Tenenbaum covered a wide range of topics regarding the work her Commission has accomplished in the past year and hopes to accomplish in the future. Specifically, Chairman Tenenbaum had particular remarks of interest to consumers affected by the recent toy and crib recalls.

First, despite what may seem to consumers like a year overwhelming product recalls, Chairman Tenenbaum noted that in 2009, there was a 75 percent decline in toy recalls versus 2008, and an 80 percent decline in toy recalls due to lead violations. Additional improvements last year included the opening of an office in Beijing, China and a home CPSC budget for 2010 that is double what it was 4 years ago.

Chairman Tenenbaum discussed the many accomplishments and changes in the CPSC over the last year, including the extensive work it has done on the drop side crib recalls, attempts to "move[] swiftly to get ahead of the emerging issue of cadmium in children’s jewelry," and the work to hold companies like RC2, Fisher-Price, Mattel and Target, "accountable for lead in paint violations tied to the major recalls of 2007 and 2008."

Most importantly, one of the major goals Chairman Tenenbaum set out for 2010 is to carry out a "Safe Sleep Initiative" for babies and toddlers in the U.S. Ms. Tenenbaum described the initiative in part saying, "In response to the completely unacceptable number of [crib] recalls, deaths and near-deaths in recent years, we are taking action. Our Safe Sleep initiative is a holistic, multipronged approach. In 2010, CPSC staff will propose a final rule mandating new performance standards for cribs."

The Chairman emphasized her promise to develop a new federal safety standard for cribs this year. Ms. Tenenbaum then when on to pointedly say to crib manufactures that she finds it unacceptable for companies with products under recall to point fingers at parents who have lost a child. Sounding like she is squarely on the side of the consumer in this issue, she said, "Take responsibility and show respect to the grieving family, yes, even if they are pursuing litigation. Those who tread into this arena when CPSC has found your product to be defective will be called out. Make no mistake about it."

Ms. Tenenbaum concluded by promising to better protect consumers by transforming the CPSC "from what some have described as a 'teething tiger' into the world’s leading lion of consumer protection." We look forward to a productive year ahead for the CPSC.

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