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Trump is decimating the Consumer Product Safety Commission

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We’ve all seen it — and been moved. It’s that commercial cutting from one gaunt, tethered dog to another, their sad eyes looking directly into our living room.

“Just sixty-three cents a day,” the woman tells us, “to keep a dog alive for one day.” 

{mosads}How can we resist? I can’t. As Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission back in the ’90s, I spent years making a similar appeal.


My appeal was for kids, though. The toddler who strangled when the cord from her jacket wrapped around her neck as she went down a slide.

The young man who held onto a firecracker a second too long — and lost an eye. The infant put face down on a soft mattress in her crib and suffocated because she didn’t yet know how to turn over.

This month, President Trump resubmitted almost a hundred names of people he would like as agency heads.

Many of those agencies badly need direction. But of them all, only my old agency works day in day out to save our children. So I admit, when I saw the president’s nominee for CPSC Chair, Ann Marie Buerkle, tell a reporter the agency is, “not supposed to be emotional” I got pretty emotional myself.

My old agency is not alone. Trump is decimating all the regulatory agencies. He’s rescinding regulation — even one that banned the use of a pesticide linked to Parkinson’s disease. The argument that emotions should not play a role evokes another emotion — outrage.

Does anyone believe we protect children simply by a cold-blooded examination of the data?

Ask the families destroyed by just four dangers common in almost any home.

Remember: children love to climb on furniture on which a TV is placed. When one tips over on them a writer compared it to the force generated by two colliding NFL linemen. A child dies from furniture or TV tip-overs every two weeks.

The laundry or detergent pod: Yes, they seem convenient. But children think they are meant to eat — or in the liquid pods, to drink.

In 2013-2014 such incidents occurred often in United States.  

The result: coma, respiratory arrest, and even deaths. There’s a bill in Congress demanding safety standards. It hasn’t passed yet. And in this case, the danger isn’t just to kids.

Since 2012, most deaths from laundry pods were of “adults with dementia.” High-powered magnets: Manufacturers claim they are only dangerous if “misused.”

Well, one-year olds misuse them. They love to put the tiny things in their mouths. Between 2009-2013 about 600 children each year swallowed them— and wound up in the emergency room.

Those nominated to lead the CPSC over the next four years would tell you its work must be “data driven.” 

There is no contradiction between using data and showing emotion. During my years at CPSC we acted only when we had rigorous data to back us up.

They’ll also argue that they have acted on many of these issues, trying to get companies to volunteer cooperation — they have.

But not every company is so eager to do the right thing. In 2016 there were still thousands of tip over injuries.

Voluntary agreements aren’t always enough. I have no doubt that the administration nominee is sincere when she says her top priority is “safety.”

The point is not what Buerkle says but what she does. As commissioner, she voted on 21 civil penalty settlements between CPSC and the companies who allegedly failed to report product safety problems which is a violation of the law; she voted against 16. Mind you, the companies had agreed to the penalty amounts. She thought they were too high.

“Too close to industries,” one headline has called her. That’s dangerous. For what sticks with me most from my days at CPSC are those families — and the children they lost.

I remember the boys who climbed atop a soccer goal that wasn’t anchored in place. It toppled on them and one boy died. And I am haunted by the memory of the parents who put their son down for a nap on a bunk bed — and returned to find him dead, caught between the mattress and frame.   

At first, I was reluctant to call parents. I didn’t want to intrude. But then I got up the nerve to call Thelma Sibley. Her one year old had strangled going down a slide at her daycare center when the cord dangling from the hood of her red sweatshirt caught in a crevice. Thelma did not see my call as an intrusion.

She wanted to help. And with her help we got manufacturers to remove those cords from all toddler jackets.  

As the Senate moves to install those who will lead CPSC for the years ahead, it should remember: We don’t need a leader industry sees as the enemy. But we need one families see as a friend.

Nobody should be heartless enough to begrudge those who want to keep their pets alive.  We just want the same concern for our children If that’s not worth showing emotion — what is?

Ann Brown is a former chair of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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