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May 28, 2008
McKenna leads state AGs in supporting national safe child product standards

OLYMPIA – Attorney General Rob McKenna today urged members of Congress to adopt legislation that would increase the ability of state attorneys general to protect consumers from lead-tainted products.

“Today my office, along with attorneys general representing 49 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, has submitted a letter to Congress requesting changes to the Consumer Product Safety Act that would enhance our ability to protect consumers from hazardous materials,” McKenna said. “Our letter asks that Congress adopt legislation ensuring that our existing enforcement powers are not diminished but are instead supplemented by H.R. 4040, which would amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to establish caps in lead in children’s products.”

Members of the House and Senate are finalizing the wording of a conference bill that would impose lower lead concentration limits on all parts of children’s products, require that children’s products be tested before sale, and increase the power and resources of the Consumer Product Safety Commission in this area.

Working through the National Association of Attorneys General, McKenna took the lead, along with Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, in rallying the other 48 states and the territories to request that members of Congress approve final wording of   H.R. 4040 that would:

  • Include a clause introduced by the Senate which clarifies that state attorneys general maintain the authority to pursue consumer protection investigations and enforcement actions under state law when dangerous products are offered for sale or use, affirming that federal legislation does not preempt non-conflicting state consumer protection laws. McKenna is concerned that without careful language, judges might erroneously interpret the new law to supersede state laws on the subject.
  • Include fee-shifting language introduced by the Senate which would prevent defendants from collecting court and expert fees from states attempting to enforce the CPSA, which could deter states from pressing meritorious cases for fear of leaving taxpayers liable to fund the defendant’s legal fees.

The Governor this year signed, but partially vetoed, legislation (HB 2647) establishing strict environmental safety standards for children’s products in Washington to be enforced by the state Department of Ecology. Violations of the standards could cost as much as $5,000 for a first offense, and $10,000 for each repeat offense. In her veto message, she recognized concerns that the standards might be so difficult to meet that they could affect the availability of safe toys in Washington.

To address these concerns, she called for an advisory group to work with state agencies to make sure the new law is implemented “with common sense” and to develop needed legislative fixes for 2009 session. She invited both large and small toymakers and children's products retailers, children's health experts, and public interest representatives to work together with state legislators to address concerns. The group will hold its first meeting on June 3.

“While the Legislature has assigned enforcement authority for the new state law to the Department of Ecology, I am working with my fellow AGs to ensure our consumer protection divisions maintain authority to protect families and children if new federal legislation is approved,” McKenna said.



Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

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