With the importation of many cheap goods, along with the weakness of the nation’s regulatory system, millions of products were recalled last year. In the past, the Bush administration has had little motivation in trying to make regulation industries, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), up to date, ignoring the shrinking staff and out of date technology. Now, however, with the surge in tainted products, the administration and Congress are finally trying to ensure the safety of imports to consumers of all ages. For the first time, the CPSC will have full-time inspectors posted at all major U.S. ports. Congress is also close to approving a comprehensive reform of the commission, its first in almost two decades. These new port inspectors, expected to number about fifty in all, will be able to study sophisticated customs data and also be able to examine suspicious cargo. Although they will be inspecting thousands of products, inspectors would never be able to sift through the millions of products that come into the country each year. Manufacturers, individual retailers, and industries are still responsible for making sure their products are safe.
The House passed a bill to reform the CPSC and in early March the Senate passed its own bill, strengthening and improving the effort. The Senate is suggesting a requirement for a public database and website where consumers can go to register complaints and immediately find out which products are harmful. Both of the bills would raise the CPSC’s funding from $63 million to $100 million annually, and increase the fines for reselling tainted products from $1.8 million to $10 million. It has also been mentioned that the bill should include protection for whistleblowers, ban lead in toys completely, give states more authority to enforce federal laws, and include a requirement that all children’s products must be certified by commission-approved laboratories.