The Consumer Product Safety Commission yesterday voted tough regulations that will make it easier for the commission to identify and ban cancer-causing agents from consumer products.
The CPSC is the first independent federal agency to develop a formal carcinogen policy.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed rules on carcinogens and the Environmental Protection Agency has less formal guidelines on cancer-causing agents.
But the five-member CPSC voted unanimously yesterday to establish formal procedures for screening, classifying, evaluating and regulating potential cancer-causing agents using test results from the National Cancer Institute or another, unspecified, laboratory.
"This is a tough policy on the side of public health and safety, and it deals with the other factors involved like economics, social aspects, and the like, said commission member Barbara Franklin, who has been pushing the administration for an all-out attack on carcinogens.
Both Franklin and commissioner R. David Pittle have been outspoken proponents of a CPSC policy for dealing with carcinogens, and have had many of their early proposals incorporated into the final policy.
The new policy changes the commission's attitude toward carcinogens from primarily a reactive to a more aggressive stance.Under the new rules, for example, the commission can take "precautionary action" without establishing actual proof of a chemical's harm.
The policy calls for categorizing all tested substances into one of four areas based on the strength of the evidence of carcinogenicity. Category A substances will be banned outright, while the other three categories will be subject to continuing investigation and may be subject to warning labels or other intermediate regulation depending on the danger posed.
To date, in its five-year history, the commission has taken action against four potential carcinogens: banning aerosols containing the chemical vinyl chloride, prohibiting the flame-retardant Tris in children's sleepwear, banning use of asbestos in artificial ashes and spackling compounds, and prohibiting the deliberate use of benzene in any consumer products.
In another commission action yesterday, the Chain Saw Manufacturers Association and the CPSC signed an agreement to enter into an experimental program under which the manufacturers will develop voluntary safety standards for chain saws.
Under the agreement, the association will have 18 months to come up with standards that satisfy the commission, or the commission if it feels not enough progress has been made, can take over and develop a mandatory standard.
Although a voluntary standard can be ignored by an individual manufacturer, that action would be unlikely, according to CSMA official Don Purcell.