The Consumer Product Safety Commission's three members have submitted their responses to legislation introduced by Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.) that would speed up the commission's efforts to regulate the home insulation industry. And as is often the case in the federal government, all three have completely different viewpoints.
While CPSC chairman S. John Byington agrees with Ford's proposal that existing General Service Administration standards for federal contractors be made mandatory for the home insulation industry, commission member Barbara Franklin disagrees, and member David Pittle is somewhere in the middle.
"The commission's own Denver office proposed in June of 1975 that the commission study the safety of home insulation," Ford said in recent congressional hearings. "I find it difficult to believe that the commission did not do anything about it until November of 1977."
Because of the lack of action by the CPSC, Ford decided that Congress would have to provide the push to set some kind of safety standard in the rapidly growing industry.
Home insulation has been in great demand in recent years because of the rising cost of energy and, in some states, as a response to government-legislated incentives such as tax breaks.
The inability if manufacturers to keep up with the demand for the most popular and safest forms of insulation, such as fuberglass, have led to the increased demand for cellulose insulation. Cellulose is actually shredded paper, treated with boric acid to make it flame-resistant.
But because if the lack of safety standards in the cellulose insulation field, many fly-by-night producers have been turning out an unsafe product. In his letter to Ford and the Commerce Committee, which is considering Ford's plan, Byington said that normal procedures mandated for the commission by Congress would, indeed, take a considerable amount of time.
Thus, Byington said, "the bill would provide a more expedition means of providing a mandatory safety standard for the flammability and corrosiveness of cellulose home insulation than the rulemaking provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Act would allow."
Franklin disagreed completely. She said that the standard set by the GSA was unworkable, because it didn't provide for a realistic test of the insulation. She said the GSA was now considering adapting another test method suggested by the National Bureau of Standards.
"I think we can only make the situation more complicated by mandating a standard that doesn't work," she said in an interview. She also said she felt that the commission could do the job a lot faster than had been projected.
Franklin acknowledged-that a "management problem" was part of the reason a petition for insulation standards was left "sitting around." She added, "Since that time we have made a decision to go forward on the cellulose situation and things have moved. Within six months we can get things in place. You can't always pass a law to solve a problem."
Commissioner David Pittle took the middle ground.
"The thrust of Ford's bill is to get a standard, and I agree with that," Pittle said in an interview. "I applaud his introducing legislation to deal with a critical issue."
But Pittle also said that the testing proposed in the bill "was not closely related to the problem. The present test involves a flame below the insulation, but he problem isn't a flame. The Bureau of Standards has a new test that includes a very important smoldering test, which goes to the problems associated with cellulose insulation."
According to Pittle, Ford said the commission should adopt the present legislation, and then adopt any new tests that come along. "But," Pittle said, "that's not an efficient way to do things."