The approach of the August congressional recess has apparently spurred compromise on the Consumer Product Safety Commission bill. The House passed its CPSC reform bill in December, 2007, and the Senate passed its version, the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act of 2008, in March.  MassTortDefense has posted on the process here and here. And here.

The conference committee has reached an agreement, and will present the new compromise CPSC Improvement Act of 2008 to both houses for a vote, probably late this week.  The House Conference Report is found here.

One sticking issue had been language concerning phthalates, which have been used to soften plastic in children’s toys. The original Senate version included a stringent assertedly non-preemptive version of a California law banning toxic phthalates in children’s products. But, of course, not all phthalates are created equal. Phthalates are a broad class of chemicals, and each phthalate has distinct properties and safety profiles. The European Union Risk Assessment organization has concluded that one form (DINP) is safe for use in toys, for example. The new bill would ban phthalates from toys and other child-care items.

The compromise bill would name the ASTM international standard No. F963-07 as the temporary safety standard for toys, pending work on a permanent regulation (to take place within a year).  Ideally, this would mean that product safety decisions will be made by experts at the appropriate federal agencies, rather than allow creation of a hodge-podge of varying state standards. But the bill “grandfathers” in, as not preempted, any existing overlapping state regulations on child product safety, and permits states to apply for exemption from preemption for future proposed safety standards.  The CPSC is to consider whether the state standard offers significantly higher protection, the technological and economic feasibility of the standard, and the need for a uniform national standard.

The bill also contains the controversial “whistle-blower” protection provision, and requires third-party testing of certain children’s products.  And it would create the consumer product safety database from the original House bill.