AFTER A ROCKY FIVE YEARS in existence, the Consumer Product Safety Commission - which monitors the marketplace for all sorts of hazards from too-sharp toys to Tris - is still straining to improve its performance. Washington Post staff writer Bill Curry reported recently that, although the agency was "created with a sense of urgency and high hopes, it has responded with prolonged delays and small accomplishments.Largely because of internal chaos, the agency has for the most part failed to perform the mission entrusted to it by Congress . . ." While we know of no quick-fix solution that would transform the commission into an efficient, all-purpose guarantor of consumers' safety, the top direction of the agency is suffering from inattention on the part of the Carter White House.

The term of one of the five commissioners expired last fall, a second commissioner is an interim Ford appointee whose nomination wasn't approved by the Senate and a third commissioner's term expires this October. There are reports that a list of candidates for the positions has been circulating around the White House for months - but no nominations have been made.

Granted, these aren't the sort of decisions that are likely to get priority handling when a new administration moves in. But it's been six months now, and after all the rhetorical attention this particular administration has devoted to the proper care and feeding of the consumer, it should be time. Moreover, these nominations will be pivotal in determining who is to be commission chairman, which in turn should have a direct bearing on the agency's performance.

Only when these decisions have been made can a commission leadership begin to focus on such important tasks as working toward a coordinated federal policy for identifying and regulating potential cancer-causing chemicals and ohter risks to human health. As we noted here the other day, there are encouraging signs of some regulatory teamwork developing on this front; the sooner President Carter does something about the Product Safety Commission's leadership, the more likely this joint effort with other federal agencies will produce tangible results in the marketplace - where it really matters to the consumer.