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The House of Representatives recently voted to make major cuts in funding for federal agencies. How could this affect you as a parent? Well, for starters, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which helps set standards for children’s products, is a big target for the GOP, according to a recent article in the New York Times. The CPSC came out with new guidelines in the 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, after a rash of lead-related recalls in 2007 -- remember the "Made in China" scare? -- and now those new standards are under scrutiny.
With manufacturing companies and mom-and-pop outfits alike claiming that the act's safety regulations are unfair and cost prohibitive, lobbyists are finding an attentive audience in the GOP. In particular, proponents of amending these regulations are targeting a new searchable database from the CPSC, set to go live in mid-March. The database will allow consumers to check the safety of specific products and post their own opinions and safety claims. A main concern is that this site could be misused and become a soapbox for personal vendettas.
Another major issue is third-party lead testing -- another requirement of the new regulations. Small manufacturing companies say they can’t afford the stringent testing, while larger companies argue that the regulations are too vague. They claim the rules ask for testing of all products, including ones like bikes, which can't be ingested. (To be fair, that sounds like a reasonable argument to us!)
As with any good argument, both sides have valid points. But in this case, it seems that confusing terminology in the law and a need to cut funds fast may affect whether you’re comfortable with the purchases you make for your children. If the House backs these changes, we can only hope that the Senate, which retains a Democratic majority, will be able to thwart efforts to cut the budget for this program and keep children’s safety standards high. Otherwise, the biggest losers in this battle may be our kids.