Consumer Product Safety Commissioner R. David Pittle is attacking the attempts of administration inflation-fighters to cut back regulatory efforts involving health and safety.
"If we make cost-benefit analysis the sole criterion for decisions, as some critics of government regulations are doing," Pittle said in remarks prepared for delivery today, "then we are abandoning human judgment in favor of a mathematical calculation that can be performed by a computer.
"What is the value of a life?" Pittle asked in a speech to the sixth National Consumer Symposium in Tucson. "No one has yet developed an adequate economic model to answer questions such as the value of a life, nor am I sure that one can be developed."
Pittle, a Democrat, criticized those who are trying to make all federal regulation adhere to strict costbenefit rules in an effort to cut the inflationary impact of regulation.
"Dollar for dollar comparisons may be one tool in this examination," Pittle said, "but they will be useful only so long as we keep firmly in mind their limited value.
"No one's life is priceless," he added. "We must continue to examine closely the question of the benefits that flow from regulation and the methods by which society judges that those benefits are worth the cost."
Pittle said that government regulations "generally have advanced the public interest," and added that "I cannot believe that the solution to the economic problems facing the United States in 1978 lies either in abolishing health and safety agencies or in sharply curtailing their powers."
Citing recent surveys that indicate the American public wants regulation in health and safety areas, Pittle said "government regulations and the government regulator have become a scapegoat for the country's inability to control inflation."
Pittle said the real issue "is not whether a product safety improvement is inflationary, but whether that improvement will be effective in saving lives and reducing injuries at a reasonable cost."
He said safety regulations have led to a 40 percent drop in ingestions of poisons by children over the past four years, a 50 percent drop in crib deaths by strangulation, the saving of 28,000 lives over an eight-year period on the highways because of federal safety regulations, and the virtual elimination of burn injuries involving sleepwear.