A picture caption in yesterday's editions transposed the identifications of R. David Pitle and Lawrence M. Kushner, members of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, during their appearance at the House subcommittee hearing.
Members of a House subcommittee yesterday accused the Consumer Product Safety Commission of woeful neglect in protecting the public from Tris, a fire retardant which the commission recently banned from children's sleepwear, and other chemicals suspected of causing cancer.
Under hostile questioning from the subcommittee, the commission was accused of lackadaisical use of its broad powers and impractical demands for proof before declaring a product to be a hazard.
The staff of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations presented safety commission memos from 1975 in which the safety of Tris was questioned. The substance was banned from children's nightwear 18 months later.
In a loud voice, subcommittee Chairman John E. Moss (D-Calif.) remonstrated the five commission members: "We are dealing with products used by the American people. There is adequate authority to move much more quickly than you have. The chronology on Tris is one of the most graphic . . . in illustrating the failure of the commission to utilize its existing powers."
Moss, principal House author of the 1972 law that created the commission, denounced the panel for waiting for irrefutable proof before taking action. "We say to you," Moss said, "if you err, err on the side of safety for the benefit of the human beings."
Commission Chairman S. John Byington defended the commission's action in waiting for National Cancer Institute studies before taking action against Tris despite preliminary tests indicating Tris could be a carcinogen.
He also defended the commissionis decision to recall only unwashed Tris-treated garments on the basis that three washings removed almost all Tris from fabric surfaces. The subcommittee had previously heard testimony that even after 50 washings enough Tris remains to be of concern.
When Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked Byington whether he would allow his own children to sleep in washed Tris-treated night wear, Byington attempted to bring his two daughters to testify before the subcommittee.
But Moss, after a staccato of loud gaveling, cut Byington short and accused him of "incredibly bad taste, poor judgement" in the ploy.
All five commissioners endorsed the need for a product safety commission policy on chronic hazards like Tris instead of the current product-by-product approach.