Product Safety

The place to discuss issues being debated in the 2009-2010 school year -- briefs, legislation and debate.

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Product Safety

Postby galukal » Tue Feb 02, 2010 1:15 pm

Some hopefully helpful links for Aman and Jack and all the others, since our favorite Mentor has once again chosen not to do his briefs. Eric and I believe that we will go ahead with Animal Testing if the bill is not up by tomorrow, so be warned.

US Consumer Product Safety Commission

http://www.safetylink.com/

firemashals.org

Civil vs. Criminal Law

Possible monopolization through regulation

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Re: Product Safety

Postby JCasto » Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:36 pm

Take a chill pill.

PRODUCT SAFETY BRIEF

Product safety has its roots in food safety. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt pushed for the successful passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, thereby acknowledging the truth of the reports of muckrakers (e.g. Upton Sincilar’s The Jungle) and taking federal responsibility for control of businesses’ products.

After a period of laissez faire economics, our next progressive president was Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, because of the Nazis and the Depression, most reforms were concerned generally with protecting life itself. We then entered another period of relative conservatism, until LBJ dealt with civil rights. In 1968, finally, a severely underrated president would be elected – Richard Nixon – who would shape reform legislation dealing with civil rights, the environment, and of course product safety.

Therefore, in 1972, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Act, which created the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC’s mission was to protect the public “against unreasonable risks of injuries associated with consumer products.” As an independent agency, the CPSC didn’t (and doesn’t) report to any federal department or agency. Three commissioners, nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate head CPSC, each serving seven-year terms. The President designates one as Chairman.

Uniformity of standards was one of several reasons that Congress created the CPSC in 1972. Prior to the CPSC, which became active in 1973, consumer product safety was regulated at the state level. Needless to say, fifty individual sets of regulations resulted in a wide discrepancy in standards. These were not only numerous, but also frequently conflicted with one another, creating additional problems as manufacturers tried to keep costs down, and improve safety as defined by different states through contradictory regulations. This law and the creation of the CPSC, effectively, standardized safety regulations imposed on manufacturers to common federal sets of standards.

Additionally, the 1972 law was intended to eliminate conflicting requirements and prevent states from regulating any product covered by CPSC jurisdiction, as well as to regulate certain factors omitted by previous state level regulations. Among the new law’s features absent at the state level, CPSC was entrusted with the responsibility of balancing the cost of meeting these standards with the intended gains in safety, promotion of public good and minimal disruptions to the economy.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over about 15,000 types of consumer products that fall into school or household use, sports, and recreation categories. These can be small and large appliances, toys, furniture, fixtures, outdoor products like grills and pools, and even fireworks.

While CPSC doesn’t test, certify or recommend products or brands for safety, they do tell consumers what safety features to look for, and cooperates with manufacturers in announcing recalls.l Manufacturers recall products that present a significant risk to consumers. Reasons include defects as well as violations of CPSC standards.

The year 2007 was the “year of the recall.” With 2007 recalls topping 25 million toys, not to mention cribs, household goods and other products, CPSC claims that consumer products, including toys, “are safer than they have ever been.” The fact that products are recalled and recalls are announced testifies to the success of the agency’s effectiveness. Still, some household fixtures and consumer products pose dangers; lead levels are often found to be too high; fire retardant exposure puts children at risk; and choking hazards are still a major cause of toy recalls.

Recalls don’t always mean those products are no longer useful. Usually, the recommendation is to stop using the product and to dispose of it, but it may be exchangeable, or simply need a replacement part. But, it’s best not to guess. When a product is recalled follow the CPSC’s announced recommendations on what to do with that product, even if you learn about the recall long after it was announced. There are no expiration dates to recalls. If a solution to the problem is available from the manufacturer, contact the company’s number. A toll-free number is usually given in the CPSC news release.

In the wake of these recalls, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. It is targeted mostly toward "children's products", which are defined as any consumer product designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger. The law increases the CPSC budget authorization from $80 million in 2008 to $136 million in 2014. It also increases staffing to at least 500 personnel by 2013. Overall, the goal is to issue new regulations on children's products.

However, like all too many laws passed in the wake of media panics, there is evidence that the CPSIA may have overreached. The most problematic section deals with lead standards. The legislation reduces the limit of lead allowed in surface coatings or paint to 90 ppm (from the current limit of 600 ppm). What’s onerous is that the deadline for this requirement was February 10, 2009. Some businesses have had to stop selling certain toys, hurting sales and even driving some out of business.

Now, of course, in this troubled economy, we have two choices. On the one hand, we can ignore the past and look forward by addressing some standing deficiencies in our regulation of products, especially imports, of which only 1% are checked. On the other hand, we can attempt to amend the previous legislation in order to give businesses an edge in the market, not having to regulate and doing whatever crazy stuff George wants. See his links for that.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby galukal » Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:37 pm

Public Service Announcement: The idea that the 1920s was laissez-faire is a ridiculous straw man argument. The 1920s featured protectionist tariffs that aided the overabundant optimism and made industry seem better than it really was. Meanwhile, overseas, governments were plundering the German economy through reparations and destabilizing international trade. This was not directly an American action, but America had helped create the Treaty of Versailles and had signed it. Also, labor unions were generally suppressed, often through corrupt governmental aid to well-connected big businessmen. (The same pattern of abusing workers and beating competitors through government favors was rife in the Gilded Age.)

"To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble."- Paul Krugman, Aug. 2, 2002.

Oh... well, we got that housing bubble... let's keep government officials unable to create bubbles, yes? Then and now, governments are good at hurting the economy through unforeseen consequences. (In Milton Friedman's book Money Mischief, he devotes quite a bit of space as to how tampering with the money supply and using more silver for money harmed China economically and pushed that nation into Mao's hands and into the subsequent human rights abuses, famine,e tc.)

For all the silliness of his earlier flub ("pre-FRD was laissez-faire") Josh's brief made a good point about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Overreaching acts like these destroy small businesses (but not the big ones), compel consolidation, challenge personal freedom and, through the lack of financial independence, imperil upward social mobility. We're creating oligopolies by wiping out the little guy, and we need to remedy that.

Perhaps we should make it easier for citizens and consumer advocates to file suit against companies which sell defective products and compel any necessary restitution. This would also make it easier for companies to produce without being smashed out of the market through regulation they can't survive but megacorporations can.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby JCasto » Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:14 pm

It wasn't a flub; it was an oversimplification. In the domestic market, it was, at surface level, laissez-faire. The one point often brought up is that Coolidge did not take any action on child labor laws or other regulatory bills. Yes, in relation to the international economy we were protectionist, but at a local level, no one cared.

About your last point... I don't think making class action lawsuits easier is a very good idea. That would easily lead to many frivolous lawsuits.

And one point: "This would also make it easier for companies to produce without being smashed out of the market through regulation they can't survive but megacorporations can." I think you meant, "but megacorporations can... afford to skirt." Because they do just suck it up, pay the penalty, but make a much bigger profit. I think the punishment should be progressive -- the bigger companies should have a higher responsibility (and thus pay higher fines) because the consumers expect more from them and as a way to balance out the competition. Like progressive taxation, but with companies. Just a thought.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby galukal » Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:33 pm

It was a dangerous oversimplification which misrepresents an issue and leaves out some complexities.

As to your second point: Well, I chose a terrible time to return one book I was reading to the library! There were some statistics in there about how smaller businesses are actually hurt more by regulations even when the larger companies follow them as well, simply because larger companies have the facilities and lobbyists needed to obtain favorable results and fine print. Look at it this way: If Megacorporation A and Small Business B are both heavily regulated, both will suffer but Small Business B may be forced to drastically reduce or go out of business, thereby increasing Megacorporation A's market share. In one blow this both redistributes wealth to the already wealthy and hurts the poor and middle class.

Your system could perhaps work. A better way, I believe, would be to make any incoming subsidies reliant on compliance with regulations, thereby increasing compliance and inevitably trimming subsidies and corporate welfare.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby JCasto » Tue Feb 02, 2010 6:37 pm

I don't see why you couldn't do both.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby JWerner » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:46 pm

Bill is underway, It will be up by tomorrow.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby galukal » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:02 pm

JCasto wrote:I don't see why you couldn't do both.


Principle of equality under the law. People ought to be punished equally.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby JWerner » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:59 pm

It definitely needs work, but you can see the basics.

An Act to Reform the Safety of Products

Sponsored by Senators Thakker and Werner

Whereas the safety products has come into question over the past decade with the 2007 outbreaks;

Be it hereby Enacted by the House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled:

Section 1: The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is hereby amended:
a. The August 14, 2009 deadline for lead concentrations of 300 ppm (parts-per-million) is extended to January 14, 2011.
b. The August 14, 2011 deadline for lead concentrations of 100 ppm (parts-per-million) is extended to August 14, 2012.

Section 2: Unit Testing shall be defined as the examination of a finished product.

Section 3: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board annual budget of $10 million dollars is increased to $20 million dollars for creating new prevention methods and further investigations.

Section 4: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will reexamine popular products and decide which products should be further investigated. The FDA will then commence an investigation on all items selected as having a possible risk and introduce new alternatives for these products.

Section 5: The CPSC will file a formal report with the Federal Government after each month or following any significant event and/or discovery.

Section 6. The CPSC shall enter negotiations with its foreign counterparts with the purpose of standardizing product safety standards.

Section 7: This bill will go into effect in 91 days.

Tell me what you think.
Last edited by JWerner on Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:01 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby EWang » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:45 pm

JWerner wrote:Section 2: Unit Testing shall be defined as the examination of completed a finished product.


What does "the examination of completed a finished product" mean?

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Re: Product Safety

Postby JWerner » Wed Feb 03, 2010 7:02 pm

It means that finished products will be examined or tested to see if they meet up to standards set by the CPSC. For example, their are certain concentrations of lead allowed, and other potentially dangerous substances.

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Re: Product Safety

Postby galukal » Wed Feb 03, 2010 7:15 pm

Every single product, or one of a set? What kind of sets?

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Re: Product Safety

Postby JWerner » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:11 am

Its very ambiguous which is a fault, I'll admit, but the idea is that a Unit Test will randomly go through a certain number of finished products in order to make sure that they are safe in their entirely. We obviously can not check every product, as that is not a viable option, however we can check a small amount (still undecided on that amount).

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Re: Product Safety

Postby Cmccloskey » Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:02 am

How does PVC pose a risk to public health?

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Re: Product Safety

Postby bromano » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:45 am

Though this bill does start to address the issue, I feel that it is far too specific for the problems that we face. In the bill, it actually addresses specific products. I think that we should leave the decision of what products to test up to the Chemical Safety Board, as this is what we are doubling their budget for in the first place.


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