Lawmakers Return Clout To Safety Commission

By Will Lester
Associated Press
Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has regained its full authority to oversee the safety of thousands of household products, but only for the next six months.

The CPSC has been unable to order mandatory recalls, adopt rules or assess civil penalties since early this year because it has not had enough members to officially meet and take action.

An amendment to a homeland security bill allows the commission, which normally has three members, to meet and take action for the next six months with only two members present. President Bush signed the legislation yesterday.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) pushed the amendment to restore the commission's full powers after a spate of product recalls, including several involving imports from China.

"What we have here is an agency in distress," Pryor said recently.

Democratic lawmakers also are moving to increase the agency's budget and enhance its enforcement authority.

The agency has continued to work with businesses on voluntary recalls of products that might be harmful to consumers.

This week, the agency negotiated a recall with the world's largest toy company, Mattel, for almost 1 million Chinese-made toys because their paint contained excessive amounts of lead.

The commission has had a vacancy for a year but was allowed to continue working with only two members until Jan. 15.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company