oversight

Consumer Product Safety Commission: Agency Faces Challenges in Responding to New Product Risks

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-12-20.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States Government Accountability Office

GAO             Report to Congressional Committees




                CONSUMER
December 2012



                PRODUCT SAFETY
                COMMISSION

                Agency Faces
                Challenges in
                Responding to New
                Product Risks




GAO-13-150
                                               December 2012

                                               CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION
                                               Agency Faces Challenges in Responding to New
                                               Product Risks
Highlights of GAO-13-150, a report to
congressional committees




Why GAO Did This Study                         What GAO Found
Growing numbers of consumer product            The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has broad authority to
recalls in 2007 and 2008, particularly of      identify, assess, and address product risks, but faces some challenges in
imported toys and children’s products,         identifying and responding to new risks in a timely manner. CPSC uses various
focused increased attention on CPSC.           means to stay informed about risks that may be associated with new or existing
In the 2012 Consolidated                       products. These methods include (1) market surveillance activities for imported
Appropriations Act, Congress directed          products, retail stores, and Internet sales; and (2) formal agreements and various
GAO to analyze the potential safety            activities with other agencies. However, certain legal restrictions may hamper
risks associated with new and                  CPSC’s ability to stay informed about new product hazards to public health and
emerging consumer products. CPSC’s
                                               safety. Specifically, because of certain restrictions in the Consumer Product
approach focuses on new hazards,
                                               Safety Act (CPSA), CPSC cannot agree to allow foreign agencies to disclose
which could be risks associated with
both new and existing products.
                                               nonpublic information they receive from CPSC. While the Consumer Product
Therefore, this report evaluates the           Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) allows CPSC greater freedom to disclose
authority and ability of CPSC to (1) stay      information to U.S. courts, Congress, and state and local agencies, CPSC has
generally informed about new risks             been unable to complete information-sharing agreements with foreign
associated with consumer products and          counterparts as envisioned because it cannot offer its counterparts reciprocal
use available information to identify          terms on disclosure of nonpublic information. Due to the growing number of
product hazards, and (2) assess and            imported consumer products, this restriction on sharing information may hinder
address new risks posed by consumer            CPSC’s ability to identify risks from new products in a timely manner, possibly
products in a timely manner.                   leading to injury and death if unsafe products enter the U.S. market. CPSC also
                                               faces challenges in collecting and analyzing large quantities of data in order to
GAO reviewed CPSC’s statutory and
                                               identify potential product risks. Some sources CPSC uses to identify injuries or
regulatory authorities to respond to
product hazards; reviewed agency               death are dated—for example, death certificates can be 2 or more years old—or
documents on risk assessment;                  contain limited information about the product involved in the incident. To respond
reviewed CPSC corrective actions; and          to these challenges, the agency has key efforts under way. First, CPSC is
met with agency officials and                  upgrading its data management system. According to CPSC, the upgrades are
representatives from national                  designed to enhance CPSC’s efficiency and effectiveness, enable a more rapid
consumer, industry, and legal                  dissemination of information, and allow consumers to search the database
organizations with expertise in                through a publicly available Internet portal. CPSC officials expect the upgrades to
consumer product safety and risk               be completed in fiscal year 2013 and fully operational in fiscal year 2014.
assessment. GAO observed CPSC’s                Second, in response to a CPSIA requirement, CPSC is working with Customs
testing facility and demonstrations of         and Border Protection to test a new approach for identifying unsafe consumer
its information system upgrades.               products at the ports. CPSC port investigators have found this approach to be
                                               effective and have prevented hundreds of consumer products that were in
What GAO Recommends                            violation of U.S. safety rules or found to be hazardous from entering commerce.
To better enable CPSC to target                Timeliness of CPSC’s actions to assess and address new risks depends on the
unsafe consumer products, Congress             specific product or hazard. For example, the simplest assessments may only
may wish to amend section 29(f) of             take a few days, such as testing a product for lead content. More complex
CPSA to allow CPSC greater ability to          assessments can take years to complete, such as tracking potential chronic
enter into information-sharing                 hazards from certain chemicals and nanotechnology (which involves the ability to
agreements with its foreign                    control matter at the scale of one billionth of a meter) because no standard
counterparts that permit reciprocal            method for measuring toxicity associated with nanotechnology currently exists.
terms on disclosure of nonpublic               CPSC uses various approaches to address product hazards, including
information. CPSC supported this               conducting compliance activities, developing mandatory safety standards, and
matter.                                        educating the public about safety hazards and safe practices. CPSC can take
View GAO-13-150. For more information,         action to address a product hazard more quickly if it is addressing a known
contact Alicia Puente Cackley, 202-512-8678,   hazard. However, addressing a new or emerging risk can take CPSC years
cackleya@gao.gov
                                               because it may need to develop new standards or approaches.
                                                                                       United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                     1
               Background                                                                  3
               CPSC Uses Several Mechanisms to Stay Informed about New
                 Product Hazards, but Statutory Provisions Constrain Its Ability
                 to Identify Risks                                                       10
               Timeliness of CPSC’s Actions to Assess and Address New Risks
                 Depends on the Specific Product or Hazard                               30
               Conclusion                                                                45
               Matter for Congressional Consideration                                    45
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                        46

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                        47



Appendix II    CPSC’s and Other Agencies’ Coordinated Responses to
               Hazards Posed by Defective Chinese Drywall                                49



Appendix III   Comments from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
               Commission                                                                51



Appendix IV    GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                     52



Tables
               Table 1: Key CPSC Information Sources to Facilitate Timely
                        Identification of Consumer Product Hazards, Fiscal
                        Year 2011                                                        21
               Table 2: Examples of Different Types of Products Tested and
                        Typical Time Frames to Perform Testing                           34


Figures
               Figure 1: CPSC Incident Intake/Screening Process                          25
               Figure 2: CPSC Review and Assessment Process                              32
               Figure 3: Timeline of CPSC Actions Related to Fire pots and Gel
                        Fuel, 2001 to 2012                                               39


               Page i                           GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Figure 4: Timeline of CPSC Actions Related to Magnets, 2006 to
         2012                                                                             44
Figure 5: Timeline of CPSC Actions Related to Problem Drywall,
         2008 to 2011                                                                     50




Abbreviations
ANPR            Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
CBP             U.S. Customs and Border Protection
CCA             chromated copper arsenate
CDC             Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CHAP            Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel
CPSA            Consumer Product Safety Act
CPSC            Consumer Product Safety Commission
CPSIA           Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act
CPSRMS          Consumer Product Safety Risk Management System
EPA             Environmental Protection Agency
FDA             Food and Drug Administration
HUD             Department of Housing and Urban Development
IT              information technology
MOU             memorandum of understanding
NEISS           National Electronic Injury Surveillance System
NIH             National Institutes of Health
NIST            National Institute of Standards and Technology
OMB             Office of Management and Budget
State           Department of State


This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the
United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety
without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain
copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be
necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately.




Page ii                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   December 20, 2012

                                   The Honorable Richard Durbin
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Jerry Moran
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Subcommittee on Financial Services
                                     and General Government
                                   Committee on Appropriations
                                   United States Senate

                                   The Honorable Jo Ann Emerson
                                   Chairwoman
                                   The Honorable José E. Serrano
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Subcommittee on Financial Services
                                     and General Government
                                   Committee on Appropriations
                                   House of Representatives

                                   Growing numbers of consumer product recalls in 2007 and 2008,
                                   particularly of toys and other children’s products, focused increased
                                   attention on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). As
                                   globalization and technological advances expand the range of products
                                   on the market, the challenge of overseeing and regulating the thousands
                                   of product types becomes all the more complex. Some risks include the
                                   growth of global supply chains that assemble products across a vast web
                                   of interconnected geographies as well as the difficulty of identifying
                                   product hazards among hundreds of containers entering U.S. ports.
                                   According to CPSC, the value of U.S. imports under its jurisdiction
                                   reached about $637 billion in 2010 and about four out of five consumer
                                   product recalls involved imported products, making imports a critical focus
                                   of the agency. These challenges are likely to grow in the future. In
                                   response to the growing concerns about unsafe consumer products, on
                                   August 14, 2008, Congress enacted the Consumer Product Safety
                                   Improvement Act (CPSIA) to reform CPSC and strengthen its authority to
                                   enforce consumer product safety standards. 1



                                   1
                                    Pub. L. No. 110-314, 122 Stat. 3016 (2008).




                                   Page 1                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
CPSC continues to face significant public scrutiny about its ability to
properly assess risks related to consumer products and take appropriate
action in a timely manner. CPSC’s risk management process includes
obtaining information about consumer products from various sources,
identifying risks, assessing those risks, and taking actions to address them.
The process focuses on risks associated with both new and existing
products. How quickly CPSC identifies, assesses, and addresses a
particular product hazard depends on several factors, including whether or
not a particular product risk is within their authority and ability to address.

In the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress directed us to
analyze the potential safety risks associated with new and emerging
consumer products, including chemicals and other materials used in their
manufacture, taking into account CPSC’s ability and authority to identify,
assess, and address such risks in a timely manner and keep abreast of
the effects of new and emerging consumer products on public health and
safety. 2 This report evaluates the authority and ability of CPSC to (1) stay
generally informed about new risks associated with consumer products
and use available information to identify product hazards, and (2) assess
and address new risks posed by consumer products in a timely manner.

To address these objectives, we reviewed CPSC’s statutory and
regulatory authority related to identifying, assessing, and addressing new
risks associated with consumer products. We reviewed CPSC’s policy on
establishing priorities, procedures, strategic plan, performance and
accountability reports, budget operating plans, and incident and
compliance data, as well as relevant prior GAO reports. We reviewed
existing information about CPSC data systems and interviewed agency
officials knowledgeable about the data. Based on our review of
documentation, we believe the data are reliable for our purposes. To
assess CPSC’s authority to obtain and share information that could help
identify new hazards posed by consumer products, we reviewed our prior
work on CPSC’s authorities and legislation related to the agency. 3 We


2
 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Division C - Financial Services and General
Government Appropriations Act, 2012, Title V, Pub. L. No. 112-74, § 503, 125 Stat. 786,
908 (2011). CPSC defines a new product as a redesign of an already existing product or a
product entering commerce for the first time.
3
 We previously have reported on CPSC’s authorities, and we discuss specific authorities
as appropriate throughout this report. See GAO, Consumer Safety: Better Information and
Planning Would Strengthen CPSC’s Oversight of Imported Products, GAO-09-803
(Washington, D.C.: Aug. 14, 2009).




Page 2                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                         met with CPSC officials to discuss their authorities and their ability to
                         identify, assess, and address risk, including all of CPSC’s current
                         commissioners and the Chairman. 4 To assess certain measures of
                         timeliness, we reviewed CPSC’s performance goals and obtained
                         information on time frames for risk assessments. We toured CPSC’s
                         testing laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, and observed various tests
                         conducted as part of CPSC’s risk assessment process. Additionally, we
                         interviewed national consumer and industry organizations and legal
                         professionals that have expertise in consumer product safety. See
                         appendix I for additional information on our scope and methodology.

                         We conducted this performance audit from January 2012 through
                         December 2012 in accordance with generally accepted government
                         auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the
                         audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable
                         basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We
                         believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our
                         findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.



Background

CPSC’s Authorities and   CPSC was created in 1972 under the Consumer Product Safety Act to
Mission                  regulate certain consumer products and address those that pose an
                         unreasonable risk of injury; assist consumers in evaluating the
                         comparative safety of consumer products; and promote research and
                         investigation into the causes and prevention of product-related deaths,
                         injuries, and illnesses. CPSC’s jurisdiction is broad, covering thousands
                         of types of manufacturers and consumer products used in and around the
                         home and in sports, recreation, and schools. CPSC does not have
                         jurisdiction over some categories of products, including automobiles and
                         other on-road vehicles, tires, boats, alcohol, tobacco, firearms, food,
                         drugs, cosmetics, medical devices, and pesticides. Other federal


                         4
                          The Consumer Product Safety Act established CPSC as an independent regulatory
                         commission. The act provides for the appointment by the President of five commissioners
                         for staggered 7-year terms. One of these commissioners may be designated the
                         Chairman, who directs all the executive and administrative functions of the agency. See
                         generally 15 U.S.C. § 2053. As of November 2012, CPSC was led by three
                         commissioners.




                         Page 3                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
agencies—including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
Coast Guard, Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, Food and
Drug Administration (FDA), and Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA)—have jurisdiction over these products.

CPSC has broad authorities for identifying, assessing, and addressing
risks associated with consumer products. The Consumer Product Safety
Act (CPSA) consolidated federal safety regulatory activity relating to
consumer products within CPSC. As a result, in addition to its
responsibilities for protecting against product hazards in general, CPSC
administers the following laws that authorize various performance
standards for specific consumer products: 5

•   the Flammable Fabrics Act, which among other things, authorizes
    CPSC to prescribe flammability standards for clothing, upholstery, and
    other fabrics; 6

•   the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, which establishes the
    framework for the regulation of substances that are toxic, corrosive,
    combustible, or otherwise hazardous; 7

•   the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, which authorizes
    CPSC to prescribe special packaging requirements to protect children
    from injury resulting from handling, using, or ingesting certain drugs
    and other household substances; 8




5
 See Consumer Product Safety Act § 30, Pub. L. No. 92-573, 86 Stat. 1207, 1231
(classified, as amended, at 15 U.S.C. § 2079); Energy Independence and Security Act of
2007, § 1403, Pub. L. No. 110-140, 121 Stat. 1492, 1795 (classified at U.S.C. § 8003).
6
 Act of June 30, 1953, ch. 164, 67 Stat. 111 (classified, as amended at 15 U.S.C. §§ 1191
et seq.).
7
 Pub. L. No. 86-613, 74 Stat. 372 (July 12, 1960) (classified, as amended, at 15 U.S.C.
§§ 1261 et seq.). Under the Federal Hazardous Substance Act, CPSC is authorized to
declare a substance to be hazardous and to regulate the labeling of substances which are
declared to be hazardous. 15 U.S.C. § 1261(f)(1)(B) and § 1262.
8
 Pub. L. No. 91-601, 84 Stat. 1670 (Dec. 30, 1970) (classified, as amended, at 15 U.S.C.
§§ 1471 et seq.).




Page 4                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
•    the Refrigerator Safety Act of 1956, which mandates CPSC to
     prescribe safety standards for household refrigerators to ensure that
     the doors can be opened easily from the inside; 9

•    the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007, which
     establishes mandatory safety standards for swimming pool and spa
     drain covers, as well as a grant program to provide states with
     incentives to adopt pool and spa safety standards; 10 and

•    the Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act of 2008, which
     establishes safety standards for child-resistant closures on all portable
     gasoline containers. 11

•    the Child Safety Protection Act of 1994, which requires the banning or
     labeling of toys that pose a choking risk to small children and the
     reporting of certain choking incidents to the CPSC. 12

In 2008 CPSIA mandated that CPSC develop an approach, not later than
August 2010, to identify products imported into the United States that are
most likely to violate consumer product safety statutes enforced by the
Commission. CPSIA specifically requires that CPSC develop this
methodology in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection
(CBP) using information from shipment data from the International Trade
Data System and other databases. CPSC was required to incorporate this
approach into its information technology (IT) modernization plan, to move
to a single integrated data system intended to upgrade the data systems
that support CPSC’s regulatory activities. The act also required that
CPSC use this information to examine ways to identify possible
shipments of violative consumer products and share this information with


9
 Act of August 2, 1956, c. 890, 70 Stat. 953 (classified, as amended, at 15 U.S.C. §§ 1211
et seq.). Under the act, it is unlawful for any person to introduce or deliver for introduction
into interstate commerce any household refrigerator, unless it is equipped with a device
enabling the door to be opened from the inside and which conforms with the standards
prescribed by CPSC. 15 U.S.C. § 1211.
10
  Pub. L. No. 110-140, Title XIV, 121 Stat. 1492, 1794 (Dec. 19, 2007) (classified at 15
U.S.C. §§ 8001 et seq.).
11
  Pub. L. No. 110-278, 122 Stat. 2602 (July 17, 2008) (classified as a note to 15 U.S.C.
§ 2056).
12
  Pub. L. No. 103-267, 108 Stat. 722 (June 16, 1994) (classified, as amended, at 15
U.S.C. § 1278).




Page 5                                    GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
CBP to prevent such items from entering the marketplace. CPSC has
subsequently reported on its efforts to develop this approach for import
surveillance. 13 These efforts are discussed in greater detail later in this
report.

While CPSC has statutory authority to regulate many types of products, it
does not have authority to require pre-approval of products before they
enter the U.S. market. 14 Because CPSC regulates consumer products
after they enter the market, identifying new products and any new
hazards that may be associated with new products is difficult. Generally,
CPSC can require every manufacturer of an imported product subject to a
consumer product safety rule to issue a certificate that certifies based on
reasonable laboratory testing that the product complies with all rules,
bans, standards or regulations. 15

Under several of the acts that it administers, CPSC’s primary mission is to
protect consumers from unreasonable risk of injury or death from
consumer products under its jurisdiction. To achieve its mission, CPSC
uses various approaches captured under five strategic goals: (1) to
provide leadership in safety; (2) to reinforce a commitment to prevention;
(3) to engage in rigorous hazard identification; (4) to provide a decisive
response to identified product hazards; and (5) to raise awareness of
safety issues and CPSC capabilities.

Under the Consumer Product Safety Act, CPSC is authorized to evaluate
a consumer product to determine whether the product creates what the
act calls a “substantial product hazard” or whether the Commission
should issue a consumer product safety standard or ban by regulation to



13
 CPSC, Staff Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 222 of the Consumer Product
Safety Improvement Act of 2008 Risk Assessment Methodology (Bethesda, MD.:
Sept. 9, 2011).

14
  See, CPSC Nanomaterial Statement (“the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) does
not require the premarket registration or approval.”); CPSC Drywall Information Center,
http://www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/faqs.html (“CPSC does not have the legal authority to
perform premarket testing and approval of products.”) Although, CPSC does not have
premarket approval authority it does have the authority to stop items from entering the
U.S. customs territory if the product, among other requirements, fails to meet applicable
consumer product safety rules. 15 U.S.C. § 2066(a).
15
     CPSA, 15 U.S.C. § 2063(a).




Page 6                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
prevent or reduce an unreasonable risk. 16 CPSC considers the risks
associated with a consumer product and assesses whether a particular
risk is known or is a new or emerging hazard. New hazards can be
associated with either a new or existing product. For example, a new
hazard could materialize in the form of new material used to manufacture
a type of product already in existence. To address product hazards,
CPSC can issue regulations that establish performance or labeling
standards for consumer products, often referred to as mandatory
standards. CPSC refers to products subject to such mandatory standards
as regulated products. Those regulated products that do not comply with
mandatory standards are referred to as violative products. In contrast,
many consumer products that are under CPSC’s jurisdiction are subject
to voluntary standards, which are generally determined by standard-
setting organizations, with input from government representatives and
industry groups, and are also referred to as consensus standards.
Unregulated products are those products not subject to any mandatory
standards and may include those covered by voluntary standards, which
do not have the force of law. However, many voluntary standards are
widely accepted by industry. 17 The 1981 amendments to the Consumer
Product Safety Act require CPSC to defer to a voluntary standard—rather
than issue a mandatory standard—if CPSC determines that the voluntary
standard adequately addresses the hazard and that there is likely to be
substantial compliance with the voluntary standard. As a result, voluntary
standard development is an important tool in CPSC’s hazard-reduction
efforts. In some cases, Congress has enacted a specific statutory
requirement for CPSC to create a mandatory standard, or convert a
voluntary standard to a mandatory standard. For instance, CPSA, as
amended by CPSIA, mandated the conversion of voluntary standards for


16
  CPSA defines a substantial product hazard as a failure to comply with an applicable
consumer product rule that creates a substantial risk of injury to the public, or a product
defect, which (because of the pattern of defect, the number of defective products
distributed in commerce, the severity of the risk, or other circumstances) creates
substantial risk of injury to the public.
17
  See GAO, Consumer Product Safety Commission: A More Active Role in Voluntary
Standards Development Should Be Considered, GAO-12-582 (Washington, D.C.: May 21,
2012). We previously have reported that voluntary standards may benefit manufacturers
by giving consumers added confidence in a product, providing some degree of protection
from product liability, and allowing manufacturers to benefit from the safety expertise
developed by voluntary standards groups. In addition, although federal law does not
compel manufacturers to comply with voluntary standards, state or local regulations may
incorporate some voluntary standards regarding consumer products, and some retailers
prefer to carry only those goods that comply with the applicable voluntary standards.




Page 7                                    GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                      durable infant and toddler products, all-terrain vehicles, and children’s
                      toys to mandatory standards. 18


CPSC’s Criteria for   CPSC has established criteria for setting agency priorities and selecting
Establishing Agency   potential hazards to address. 19 These criteria, which are incorporated into
Priorities            the agency regulations, include the following:

                      •     the frequency and severity of injuries resulting from the hazard;

                      •     the cause of the hazard, which should be analyzed to help determine
                            the extent to which injuries can reasonably be expected to be reduced
                            or eliminated through CPSC action;

                      •     the number of chronic illnesses and future injuries predicted to
                            result from the hazard;

                      •     preliminary estimates of costs and benefits to society resulting
                            from CPSC action;

                      •     unforeseen nature of the risk, which refers to the degree to which
                            consumers are aware of the hazard and its consequences;

                      •     vulnerability of the population at risk (such as children and the
                            elderly);

                      •     probability of consumer exposure to the product hazard; and

                      •     other additional criteria to be considered at the discretion of CPSC.

                      CPSC’s regulations do not specify whether any particular criterion should
                      be given more weight than the others or that all criteria must be applied to
                      every potential hazard. However, CPSC officials have noted that a
                      product hazard that could result in death is typically granted the highest
                      priority.




                      18
                          15 U.S.C. §§ 2056a, 2056b, and 2089.
                      19
                          16 C.F.R. § 1009.8 (2012).




                      Page 8                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
CPSC’s Organizational    Risk management is a primary function throughout the Commission, but
Structure for Managing   certain offices have specific responsibilities for identifying, assessing, and
Risks                    addressing product hazards. CPSC’s Office of Hazard Identification and
                         Reduction is tasked with responsibility for identifying emerging hazards
                         that can be addressed by agency projects, warnings, mandatory or
                         voluntary standards, and public awareness campaigns. This office also
                         provides technical support to the Office of Compliance and Field
                         Operations, which is responsible for capturing information about regulated
                         products and substantial product hazards and conducts compliance and
                         administrative enforcement activities under the acts that CPSC
                         administers. 20 The Office of Compliance and Field Operations has
                         responsibility for identifying and addressing safety hazards for consumer
                         products already in commerce, promoting industry compliance with
                         existing safety rules, and conducting administrative litigation seeking
                         remedies that may include public notice and refund. The office receives
                         information about potential product hazards through industry reporting
                         requirements and through its own investigation of defective products. 21


CPSC’s Information       The CPSIA required that CPSC establish and maintain a database on the
System Modernization     safety of consumer products and other products or substances regulated
                         by the Commission and that it improve its IT architecture. In response,
                         CPSC created a public database, which is accessible through the Internet
                         at SaferProducts.gov and allows consumers to directly report product-
                         related incidents. SaferProducts.gov was launched in March 2011 and is
                         integrated with CPSC’s larger, internal Consumer Product Safety Risk
                         Management System (CPSRMS). To address the requirement to upgrade
                         its IT architecture, CPSC is currently implementing improvements to
                         CPSRMS. CPSC officials have described this system as a centralized,
                         integrated data environment that upgrades its legacy systems to support
                         multiple efforts at the agency, such as its case management and




                         20
                           The Office of Hazard Identification and Reduction and the Office of Compliance and
                         Field Operations report to CPSC’s Office of Executive Director for Safety.
                         21
                           The Consumer Product Safety Act requires manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of
                         a consumer product to inform the Commission if they obtain information that reasonably
                         supports the conclusion that the product contains a defect that could create a substantial
                         product hazard. CPSA, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2051-2089.




                         Page 9                                   GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                          investigative processes. 22 When fully integrated, CPSRMS will replace
                          CPSC’s historically segmented data systems with a unified information
                          technology system. The updated system is intended to allow CPSC to
                          analyze data from multiple sources in a centralized location to identify
                          emerging consumer product safety hazards. The purpose of this
                          centralization component of CPSC’s IT modernization effort is to improve
                          its ability to collect and analyze the hazard information it receives from
                          consumers and other data sources. CPSC has reported that modernizing
                          its IT systems will improve efficiency by connecting separate data
                          systems, reducing or eliminating manual and redundant processing, and
                          eliminating redundant and inefficient steps required to code the
                          information and to share the information with businesses. In addition to
                          this modernization effort, CPSC is developing an automated system to
                          improve its ability to target imported products by integrating data from
                          both CPSC and CBP. This system will also be integrated into CPSRMS.


                          CPSC gathers information about new and emerging risks through several
CPSC Uses Several         means, such as surveiling retail markets and coordinating with other
Mechanisms to Stay        agencies. CPSC could also potentially obtain nonpublic information on
                          product-related hazards from its foreign counterparts, but its legal
Informed about New        restrictions on public disclosure of information have hampered its ability to
Product Hazards, but      establish information-sharing agreements. Further, CPSC collects data on
                          product-related injuries and deaths from a variety of sources, such as
Statutory Provisions      consumer reports and death certificates, and as discussed above is
Constrain Its Ability     currently working to improve the system it uses to manage these data.
                          Finally, CPSC has another effort under way to improve its surveillance of
to Identify Risks         imported products, which could prevent violative products from entering
                          the U.S. markets.


CPSC Uses Various Means   CPSC uses multiple mechanisms to stay informed about new and
to Stay Informed about    emerging risks from consumer products, especially new products entering
New Product Risks         the market. CPSC’s market surveillance activities are one primary
                          mechanism staff use to track new products entering the markets,



                          22
                            CPSC’s legacy systems and databases are currently comprised of multiple
                          disconnected databases that are not linked so investigations are not integrated.
                          Additionally, these systems do not have a case management function to track the
                          progress of an investigation throughout the agency.




                          Page 10                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
including surveillance of imported products entering the United States,
retail stores, and the Internet:

•    Import surveillance, which is discussed in greater detail later in this
     report, targets products before they enter the market and is CPSC’s
     stated key activity to address the challenge of overseeing and
     regulating the thousands of product types under its jurisdiction. Import
     surveillance activities include scrutiny of import documentation and
     physical screening of products at the ports.

•    CPSC field program surveillance includes compliance monitoring of
     specified products with CPSC requirement to ensure conformance.
     Surveillance and inspections are done at the manufacturer, importer,
     and retail locations.

•    CPSC’s retail surveillance includes targeted activities to identify
     potentially unsafe products, such as children’s products with unsafe
     lead content and unsafe electrical products, as well as some products
     subject to mandatory standards. This retail surveillance includes in-
     store screening of products to ensure they are appropriately labeled
     and are contained in proper child-resistant packaging when required.
     At times, such as for holiday sales, CPSC field staff also screen
     certain products to find out if they meet generally accepted industry
     voluntary standards.

•    CPSC compliance staff also conduct searches of the Internet, to
     monitor the compliance of certain product sales. Since many firms sell
     their products exclusively from Internet websites, this surveillance
     functions as the primary CPSC oversight of these sellers.

Staff also attend trade shows to target possible products of interest by
observing what new products are coming to market. These visits may be
announced or unannounced.

Another mechanism CPSC has relied on for keeping informed about new
and emerging risks is its agreements with other federal and state
agencies to research various emerging issues. 23 For example, CPSC



23
  Section 27(g) of the Consumer Product Safety Act, (15 U.S.C. § 2076(g)).The
Commission is authorized to enter into contracts with governmental entities, private
organizations, or individuals for the conduct of activities authorized under this act.




Page 11                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
participates in a federal effort to leverage its limited staff resources with
larger research efforts under way on nanomaterials, as part of the
National Nanotechnology Initiative. 24 CPSC has a joint agreement with
EPA to research the health effects of nanotechnology in consumer
products. 25 This effort is part of a larger international research project
intended to provide a systematic, multidisciplinary approach, including
both experimental and computational tools and projects, for predicting
potential human and environmental risks associated with a range of
nanomaterials (i.e., silver and titanium dioxide).

CPSC is also working with the National Science Foundation and EPA,
which has funded and supported the development of two university-based
Centers for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology. CPSC staff
support this research to use new techniques to characterize
nanomaterials in selected consumer products and quantify exposures to
humans. 26 Under a CPSC interagency agreement with the National
Science Foundation and EPA, a related project is under way that is
designed to synthesize data to develop a risk assessment framework for
nanomaterials used in consumer products. CPSC also has a collaborative
research effort with the National Institute of Standards and Technology


24
  Launched in 2001, the Nanotechnology Initiative is an interagency research effort
involving 25 federal agencies, including CPSC. This initiative is intended to bring together
the expertise needed to advance the broad and complex field of nanotechnology and to
create a framework for common research goals and to leverage agencies’ resources. See
GAO, Nanotechnology: Improved Performance Information Needed for Environmental,
Health and Safety Research, GAO-12-427 (Washington, D.C.: May 21, 2012) and Food
Safety: FDA Should Strengthen Its Oversight of Food Ingredients Determined to Be
Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), GAO-10-246 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 3, 2010).
25
  There is a growing use of compounds and materials that have been produced using
nanotechnologies, which directly manipulate matter at the atomic level and fabricate
molecules and materials that could not have been produced in the past. Nanomaterials
are defined as materials/particles that range from 1 to 100 nanometers in length. Although
they may have the same name as a material currently in use, because of their small size,
these new materials may demonstrate different physical and chemical properties. Some of
these new nanomaterials are being used in consumer products with the stated purpose of
improving the performance and durability.
26
  Nanomaterials represent a wide range of compounds that may vary significantly in their
structural, physical, and chemical properties, and potentially in their behavior in the
environment and in the human body. Because of the wide variation in potential health
effects and the lack of data on exposure and toxicity of specific nanomaterials, CPSC has
been unable to make any general statements about the potential consumer exposures to
or the health effects that may result from exposure to nanomaterials during consumer use
and disposal.




Page 12                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
(NIST). CPSC signed an interagency agreement with NIST in 2011 to
develop protocols to assess the potential release of nanoparticles into the
indoor air from various consumer products and determine the potential
exposure to people. Measurement protocols do not exist yet to
characterize these particle emissions or to assess the properties of the
emitted particles that may relate to any health impacts. Under this
agreement, NIST will begin testing to assess the properties of nano-sized
particles. At the completion of this project, CPSC staff expect to complete
a status report on the measurement protocols developed for laboratory
testing for the release of nanoparticles from consumer products, as well
as for testing in actual residences. Additionally, CPSC is working with the
National Library of Medicine to identify approaches to expand and
improve a database to provide information on nanomaterials in consumer
products. 27 One researcher emphasized that this database is quite
important to further research efforts because companies are not required
to report whether nanomaterials are used in their products.

Staff also use other channels to exchange information about consumer
products with other federal agencies, including the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and
FDA, within the Department of Health and Human Services, the
Department of Labor-Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
EPA, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
CPSC staff participate in product safety committees with these agencies.
For example, staff serve on the Chemical Selection Working Group
sponsored by NIH/National Cancer Institute, as well as the Federal
Liaison Group on Asthma and the National Cancer Advisory Board. Staff
also participate in multiple working groups sponsored by the National
Institute for Environmental Health and Safety and the National Toxicology




27
  Founded in 1836, the National Library of Medicine, located on the campus of the
National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, is considered to have the world’s
largest biomedical library. The National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of
Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide information
online for thousands of consumer products in the Household Products Database
(http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov). This database provides information to consumers,
scientists, and other stakeholders on the chemicals contained in brand-name products
and the potential health effects of these chemicals.




Page 13                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Program. 28 CPSC staff co-chair the Interagency Lead-based Paint Task
Force, working with EPA and HUD on human exposure to lead. CPSC
staff also serve on the Core Committee at the Center for Evaluation of
Risks to Human Reproduction under the National Toxicology Program.
Staff participate in interagency committees that develop U.S. positions for
international harmonization on test guidelines developed by the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, guidance
documents, and the globally harmonized system for the classification and
labeling of chemicals. 29 Staff also use their professional connections,
subscribe to professional journals, and attend scientific and consumer
product safety conferences. For example, CPSC staff maintain contacts
with individual scientists at FDA on multiple issues, such as phthalates,
lead, and nanotechnology. 30

Furthermore, CPSC has authority to establish advisory committees to
assist in advising it on new and emerging risks. Such advisory
committees can be appointed to advise the agency on chronic hazards
that may contribute to cancer, birth defects, and gene mutations
associated with consumer products. As required by CPSIA, in 2010
CPSC appointed a Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) to review the
potential effects on children’s health of phthalates and phthalate




28
  The National Toxicology Program is an interagency program whose mission is to
evaluate chemical agents of public health concern by developing and applying tools of
modern toxicology and molecular biology. The program was established because of
increasing scientific, regulatory, and congressional concerns about the human health
effects of chemical agents in the environment.
29
  The mission of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is to
promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the
world. The origins date to the 1960s when 18 European countries plus the United States
and Canada joined forces to create an organization dedicated to global development. In
2012, there were 34 member countries.
30
   The term “phthalate” is used to refer to certain chemicals used as plasticizers for
products such as floor tiles, wire and cable insulation, and other applications where there
is a need for a flexible plastic that is tough and durable. Section 108 of CPSIA
permanently prohibits the sale of any children’s toy or child care article containing more
than 0.1 percent of each of three specified phthalates: Di-(2-ethyhexyl) phthalate (DEHP),
dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP). Section 108 of CPSIA also
prohibits, on an interim basis, the sale of any children’s toy that can be placed in a child’s
mouth or child care article containing more than 0.1 percent of each of three additional
phthalates: diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), and di-n-octyl
phthalate (DnOP).




Page 14                                   GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                         alternatives in children’s toys and child care articles. 31 The CHAP is
                         currently the only operating advisory committee to CPSC. The CHAP is to
                         consider the cumulative effects of exposure to multiple phthalates from all
                         sources, including personal care products. The CHAP was required by
                         CPSIA to submit a final report based on its examination by April 2012.
                         The CHAP examination is still ongoing and the report is expected to be
                         completed in fiscal year 2013. The CHAP must recommend to the
                         Commission whether any additional phthalates or phthalate alternatives
                         should be declared banned hazardous substances. Within 180 days after
                         this recommendation is made, CPSIA requires CPSC to promulgate a
                         final rule based on the report. Pending completion of the report, staff are
                         to provide a briefing package to the Commission for its consideration of
                         whether to continue the interim ban that CPSIA established (effective
                         Feb. 10, 2009) for certain phthalates, or whether to regulate other
                         phthalates or phthalate substitutes.


Statutory Restrictions   Several of CPSC’s strategic goals emphasize working with other federal
Hamper CPSC’s            agencies, as well as agencies of state and foreign governments. This
Information-Sharing      cooperation is important to the Commission’s effectiveness, particularly in
                         light of the large volume of imported products that enter the United States
Efforts with Foreign     each year. One key aspect of interagency cooperation is sharing
Counterparts             information with CPSC’s counterparts in other countries. CPSC has
                         memorandums of understanding (MOU) with several foreign counterparts
                         to share publicly available information about unsafe consumer products.
                         These agreements provide a formal mechanism for general exchanges of
                         information on consumer product safety, and in some cases include plans
                         for informational seminars and training programs. For example, CPSC
                         has taken the lead with several MOU partners on an international initiative
                         to work towards harmonizing global consumer product standards or
                         developing similar mechanisms to enhance product safety, known as the
                         Pilot Alignment Initiative. This initiative involves staff from the central
                         consumer product safety authorities of Australia, Canada, the European




                         31
                           Under section 108 of CPSIA, CPSC was required to appoint a Chronic Hazard Advisory
                         Panel not earlier than 180 days after enactment, that is, after February 10, 2009. CPSIA
                         was enacted on Aug. 14, 2008. CPSC appointed scientists to the committee in early 2010
                         and the first meeting was held in April 2010.




                         Page 15                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Union, and the United States. 32 The initiative seeks to reach consensus
positions among the participants on the hazards to children and potential
solutions for three products: corded window coverings (i.e., window
blinds), chair-top booster seats, and baby slings.

CPSC’s existing MOUs do not permit the exchange of nonpublic
information because of specific statutory limitations. When we reported on
CPSC’s authorities in August 2009, we concluded that CPSC had
adequate authorities to perform its mission and we made no
recommendations to change its authorities. 33 CPSC concurred with our
conclusion. CPSIA amended section 29 of CPSA to allow the
Commission to make publicly available information to any federal, state,
local, or foreign government agency upon prior certification or agreement
that the information will be maintained in confidence, as defined in the
act. 34 At that time, CPSC was working with its foreign counterparts to
implement its new authorities under CPSIA that allow it to share
nonpublic information with foreign counterparts. In the course of this
review, however, we found that when attempting to implement these
authorities, CPSC has faced certain legal constraints in sharing
information with its foreign counterparts and has not completed any new
agreements concerning the exchange of nonpublic information, as they
had expected at the time of our 2009 report.

CPSC’s ability to share information that identifies a specific product or
manufacturer is subject to several complex statutory provisions. For
example, section 6 of CPSA imposes significant restrictions on CPSC’s
ability to publicly disclose information. 35 Section 6(a) generally prohibits
the disclosure of trade secrets and other confidential commercial and
financial information. 36 Before publicly disclosing information that would



32
  CPSC is also a member of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety
Organization, a global organization of health and safety professionals. Founded in 1993,
this organization meets annually to exchange ideas, share information, and address
health and safety concerns affecting all consumers. CPSC participates in various
committees and is part of the international caucus.
33
 GAO-09-803.
34
 15 U.S.C. § 2078.
35
 15 U.S.C. § 2055.
36
 Subject to 18 U.S.C. § 1905 or 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4).




Page 16                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
readily identify a manufacturer, CPSC must afford the manufacturer the
opportunity to designate the information as business confidential—that is,
information a company considers and designates to be proprietary or
confidential—and barred from disclosure. 37 The CPSA contains an
additional restriction on the public disclosure of certain regulatory
information, such as information that identifies a product manufacturer or
private labeler. Specifically, section 6(b)(1) generally prohibits CPSC from
publicly disclosing information that would readily identify the product
manufacturer unless it first takes reasonable steps to assure that the
information is accurate and that the disclosure is fair in the circumstances
and reasonably related to carrying out CPSC’s purposes under its
jurisdiction. The inclusion of section 6(b) grew out of concern about
damage that manufacturers would incur if the agency released inaccurate
information about the manufacturers’ products. Before publicly disclosing
the information, CPSC must give the manufacturer advance notice and
the opportunity to comment on the disclosure of the information, which
adds more time before CPSC can publicly respond to a potential product
hazard. If CPSC decides to disclose information that the manufacturer
claims to be inaccurate, it generally must provide 5 days advance notice
of the disclosure, and the manufacturer may bring suit to prevent the
disclosure. 38 CPSC has issued a rule that interprets the public disclosure
restrictions of section 6(b) as covering disclosures to any person unless
specified exceptions apply. 39

Section 29(e) of CPSA permits CPSC to disclose accident or investigation
reports to officials of other federal, state, and local agencies engaged in



37
  “Confidential information” means information that contains or relates to a trade secret or
other matter referred to in 18 U.S.C. §1905 or that is subject to 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(4). If
CPSC disagrees with such a designation and determines that the information is not
business confidential, the manufacturer has the right to contest the Commission’s
determination. A private labeler has similar rights. ”Private labeler” is a legal reference to a
company that licenses or sells products under their private label but does not manufacture
the product.
38
  Private labelers have similar rights under this section.
39
   See CPSA Sec. 6(b)(4) (15 U.S.C. § 2055(b)(4)). See also 16 C.F.R. § 1101.12. There
are several exceptions to the section 6 disclosure restrictions. Section 6 excludes
disclosures to Commission officials, employees, agents, representatives, and contractors.
It also excludes disclosures in connection with judicial or administrative proceedings under
CPSA or with respect to products CPSC has reasonable cause to believe violate a
consumer product safety rule or similar rule or a provision of CPSA or other CPSC-
enforced statute.




Page 17                                    GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
health, safety, or consumer protection activities, but only if business-
confidential information is removed and the recipient agency agrees to
maintain certain confidentiality restrictions. Section 29(f) of CPSA, as
amended by CPSIA, authorizes CPSC to disclose certain information to
foreign government agencies in addition to federal, state, and local
government if the recipient agency certifies in writing in advance that the
information will be kept confidential. 40 In addition, it provides that CPSC
generally is not required to disclose under the Freedom of Information Act
or other law confidential information it has received from a foreign agency
(although this provision does not authorize withholding of information from
Congress or a court in an action commenced by the United States or
CPSC).

Both Senate and House of Representatives committee reports on CPSIA
legislation provided the rationale and expectation underlying the
provisions enacted as section 29(f). Specifically, the Senate report noted
that goods made overseas are sold not only in the United States but also
in Europe, Africa, and other continents. Additionally, the Senate report
noted, “To the extent that the European Union bans an unsafe product
and the United States does not, shipments to Europe may well be
diverted to American shores. Once in the United States, the products may
move from state to state.” 41 Both the Senate and House committees’
reports noted expectations that CPSC would work closely with any other
federal, state, local, or foreign governments to share information, so long
as those entities have established the ability to protect such information
from premature public disclosure. The House report further noted that
“The Committee expects that the CPSC will revisit and renegotiate, where
necessary, existing memoranda of understanding with foreign
governments and negotiate new agreements with other governments as
necessary.” 42



40
  Section 207 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (commonly
known as section 29(f)) provides that notwithstanding the requirements of sections 6(a)(3)
and 6(b) relating to public disclosure of information, CPSC may disclose section 6
information to federal, state, local, or foreign government agencies if the recipient agency
certifies in writing in advance that such material will be maintained in confidence and used
only for official law enforcement or consumer protection purposes and if certain other
conditions are met. Among other things, the agency must provide a bona fide legal basis
for its authority to maintain the confidentiality of the information.
41
  S. Rep. No. 110-265, 16 (2008).
42
  H.R. Rep. No. 110-501, 44 (2007).




Page 18                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Although the addition of section 29(f) was intended to encourage
information sharing, in our discussions with CPSC staff, they expressed
concern that restrictive language in section 29(f) has hindered their ability
to share information. Specifically, CPSC explained that during the
interagency review process to address this new authority, the Department
of State (State) reviewed CPSC’s suggested language for an agreement
to implement information sharing under section 29(f). According to CPSC,
State identified that, because of certain language in section 29(f), CPSC
could not agree to allow a foreign agency to further disclose information it
had received under a confidentiality agreement, even under tightly
controlled circumstances. As a result, CPSC cannot approve text in the
information-sharing agreement that allows for further disclosures. For
example, CPSC could not permit Health Canada to disclose information it
received from CPSC under a section 29(f) agreement to a sister agency
or provincial-level safety agency. Likewise, CPSC cannot grant approval
to the European Commission to disclose such information to member
states. In contrast, the confidentiality restrictions section 29(f) imposes on
information CPSC receives from a foreign agency are less severe than
those that apply when a foreign agency receives information from
CPSC—that is, CPSC has greater freedom to disclose information than it
may grant to its foreign counterparts. CPSC is required to make available
to Congress and the courts information it receives, but its foreign
counterparts would not be allowed to make similar disclosures to their
own governing bodies or court systems. According to CPSC staff, this
lack of reciprocity has made foreign agencies unwilling to enter into
agreements with the United States to share nonpublic information. In
August 2012, CPSC staff told us that the Commission has been unable to
enter into any international agreements pursuant to section 29(f) because
CPSC’s foreign counterparts will only share information if the terms are
reciprocal. In contrast to this difficulty in completing agreements with
foreign counterparts, CPSC has on occasion been able to share
information it has gathered with U.S. state and local agencies. For
example, in dealing with hazards associated with defective Chinese
drywall, CPSC was able to share information from the investigation
involving the Chinese government with U.S. state and local agencies,
which is discussed in greater detail in appendix II.

According to CPSC staff and our further analysis of the statute, section
29(f) has not achieved the results expected by Congress when it enacted
this provision, as expressed in the previously cited committee reports.
The primary reason for this, according to CPSC staff, is that section 29(f)
does not contain a provision allowing foreign agencies to further disclose
the information CPSC provides to a foreign agency pursuant to a section


Page 19                            GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                           29(f) agreement—even disclosures required by the foreign agency’s laws
                           or to other agencies within the same nation or administrative area. This
                           inability to establish information-sharing agreements may hinder CPSC’s
                           ability to respond to a potential hazard in a timely manner because of the
                           delay that might occur between when a foreign counterpart decides to
                           take action in response to a product hazard and when that action
                           becomes public. This delay may allow injuries and deaths to occur from
                           the unsafe product’s use in the United States.


CPSC Faces Challenges in   CPSC uses information from a number of sources to identify specific risks
Identifying Risks          associated with both new and existing products. However, many of these
Associated with New        sources have limitations, such as missing details. CPSC’s Emerging
                           Hazards Team and Integrated Teams review the collected data to identify
Products, but Is Taking    patterns of new hazards, but analyzing large quantities of information
Steps to Improve Data      presents challenges. To address these challenges, CPSC is currently
Systems                    implementing upgrades to CPSRMS, its data management system, as
                           required by CPSIA.

Information Sources        CPSC has authority to identify and act on a wide range of consumer
                           product hazards. However, obtaining useful and timely information about
                           products involved in injuries and fatalities is an ongoing challenge for
                           CPSC. 43 Additionally, according to CPSC officials, it faces challenges in
                           identifying risks from new and emerging products largely because
                           statutorily CPSC was established to respond to risks after products have
                           been introduced into market. To fulfill its mission of protecting the public
                           against unreasonable risks of injuries associated with consumer products,
                           CPSC collects, reviews, and analyzes information on consumer-product-
                           related injuries and deaths from many sources, such as the National
                           Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), consumer incident




                           43
                             See GAO, Consumer Product Safety Commission: Action Needed to Strengthen
                           Identification of Potentially Unsafe Products, GAO-12-30 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 12,
                           2011), Consumer Product Safety Commission: Better Data Collection and Assessment of
                           Consumer Information Efforts Could Help Protect Minority Children, GAO-09-731
                           (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 5, 2009), and Consumer Product Safety Commission: Better
                           Data Needed to Help Identify and Analyze Potential Hazards, GAO/HEHS-97-147
                           (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 1997).




                           Page 20                               GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
reports, death reports, and reports from manufacturers (see table 1). 44
CPSC uses this information to identify a hazard or hazard pattern.

Table 1: Key CPSC Information Sources to Facilitate Timely Identification of
Consumer Product Hazards, Fiscal Year 2011

                                                                                      Approximate
                                                                                 number of reports
                                                                                  received in fiscal
    Information source                  Purpose                                          year 2011
    NEISS                               Provides statistically valid national               400,000
                                        estimates of product-related injuries
                                        from a probability sample of hospital
                                        emergency rooms.
    Consumer incident                   Permit consumers, health care                        13,000
    reports                             professionals, public safety entities,
                                        and others to submit reports of harm
                                        involving consumer products.
    Death certificates                  Provide information on unintentional                   8,000
                                        product-related deaths.
    Reports from                        Require businesses to immediately                        467
    manufacturers (i.e., CPSA           report to the Commission when they
    section 15(b) reports)              obtain information which reasonably
                                        supports the conclusion that a product
                                        (1) fails to comply with a voluntary
                                        standard upon which the Commission
                                        has relied under section 9 of CPSA or
                                        (2) creates an unreasonable risk of
                                        serious injury or death.a
    News clips                          Fill gaps in reporting from other                      6,207
                                        sources and provide a source of
                                        incidents to investigate in support of
                                        hazard identification and analysis
                                        activities.
Source: GAO analysis of CPSC information.
a
 For purpose of this section, CPSC has defined immediately as within 24 hours of businesses
obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect that could
create a substantial product hazard or an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death. Businesses
include manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers.




44
  NEISS, an emergency department system for collecting injury and death information,
gathers information from a nationally representative sample of about 96 hospital
emergency rooms. Each hospital reports information on emergency treatments related to
the use of consumer products to CPSC. NEISS provides national estimates of the
number and severity of emergency room-treated injuries associated with, although not
necessarily caused by, consumer products in the United States.




Page 21                                            GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
CPSC obtains most of its injury information from NEISS reports.
According to CPSC staff, this information is timely and useful in projecting
national injury estimates and monitoring historical trends in product-
related injuries and is immediately accessible to CPSC staff once hospital
staff input information into the database. 45 However, staff told us that the
information contained in the reports has limitations. As noted in CPSC’s
2011 annual report, while the reports may indicate that a consumer
product was involved in an incident, a product may not necessarily have
caused the incident. Nonetheless, the reports provide an important
source of information concerning the nature of the incidents and injuries
and the product associated with the incident. To obtain more specific
information, CPSC sometimes supplements the NEISS information by
conducting further investigations.

CPSC also identifies risks through incident reports received from
consumers and others, such as health care professionals and child
service providers, through its websites, telephone hotline, e-mail, fax, or
postal service. 46 According to CPSC officials, information in the incident
reports is not always complete. Furthermore, the reports may not identify
the risk associated with the incident, thus CPSC may conduct a more in-
depth review of the incident.

According to its 2011 annual report, CPSC also collects mortality data
from each state. CPSC purchases death certificates that have a high
probability of consumer product involvement. However, CPSC reported
that because it does not purchase all death certificates, and because
those it purchases do not always identify the products involved, the total
number of actual product-related deaths may be higher than the number
represented in the death certificates CPSC purchases. CPSC reported in
its annual report that, similar to the NEISS reports, the death certificates
do not necessarily indicate that the product involved caused the death.
CPSC staff also told us that while death certificates are a good source of
information on fatalities, they generally do not contain any specific
product or manufacturer information. Moreover, there is often a 2 to 3


45
  According to CPSC, in 2011, of the 400,000 records collected in NEISS, 50 percent of
the records are received within 5 days of when the injured person was treated in the
hospital emergency department, 75 percent within 10 days, and 95 percent within
31 days.
46
  Every incident report CPSC receives does not necessarily involve a hazardous incident.
In some instances, consumers report concern that a potential hazard might exist.




Page 22                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                             year lag before the mortality data become available. CPSC supplements
                             information from the NEISS system, death certificates, and reports from
                             individual consumers with reports from medical examiners and coroners.
                             These reports are also limited because they do not typically contain
                             information that specifically identifies the product (such as brand name,
                             model or serial number) or manufacturer.

                             CPSC also receives information from manufacturers, distributors, and
                             retailers about products distributed in commerce that the manufacturers
                             conclude are potential substantial product hazards. Manufacturers of
                             consumer products must notify the Commission immediately if they obtain
                             information that reasonably supports the conclusion that a product fails to
                             comply with a product safety standard the Commission has relied upon;
                             fails to comply with any rule, regulation, standard, or ban under CPSA or
                             any other act enforced by the Commission; contains a defect that could
                             create a substantial product hazard; or creates an unreasonable risk of
                             serious injury or death. 47 However, CPSC does not rely solely on
                             manufacturers to report a product defect in order to identify and address
                             hazards because CPSC sometimes obtains information on a product
                             defect before the manufacturer becomes aware of the problem. For
                             example, according to CPSC staff, retailers may provide CPSC with
                             reports of safety-related information and CPSC uses this retailer
                             information in identifying and assessing risks.

Incident Report Coding and   Before the information previously discussed can be reviewed and
Screening Process            analyzed, it must be coded and entered into CPSC’s data management
                             system—CPSRMS. Based on our review of CPSC’s documentation, staff
                             must enter, for example, a short summary from the narrative of the incident
                             and assign a product code and the primary hazard category for the
                             product. 48 According to CPSC staff, applying a product code allows for
                             standardization of incidents involving similar products to help staff identify
                             and monitor the frequency of the occurrence and the hazard types by
                             product category. CPSC’s public database—SaferProducts.gov—which
                             was launched in March 2011 as required by CPSIA, allows consumers to
                             directly enter incident information online. Previously, CPSC staff had to
                             manually enter and code these reports. While staff must still code some


                             47
                               CPSA, 15 U.S.C § 2064(b).
                             48
                               The hazard type or category classifies the general nature of the actual or potential
                             hazard presented by the incident, such as a chemical or mechanical hazard.




                             Page 23                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
data, such as submitter’s information and relationship to the victim, reports
consumers submit through the public database reduce some of the manual
tasks, such as rekeying of incident data. 49 According to CPSC staff, for
reports received through the hotline, staff use a template to enter
information directly into the database. Other reports continue to be
manually coded by staff. 50 According to CPSC officials, staff must review
incident reports daily to identify pertinent information to “code” the reports in
the database. This work requires staff to read the narrative and extract the
information, such as a description of the incident, location where the
incident occurred, number of victims, severity of the injury, the source of
the incident report, and a description of the product involved in the incident.

After the coding is completed, the incident reports advance to the Emerging
Hazards Team. The Emerging Hazards Team is composed of statisticians,
whose responsibilities include reviewing incident reports to identify new and
emerging product-associated hazards, performing product safety
assessments, directing new reports to appropriate Integrated Product
Teams, and sending out daily death notifications. The Emerging Hazards
Team’s review is CPSC’s first step in identifying a hazard and determining
whether the hazard is new and emerging. According to CPSC staff, the
Emerging Hazards Team reviews all incident reports daily, including those
stored in the data management system, to identify trends and patterns.
They said that this review is intended to determine whether reports should
be forwarded to one of six Integrated Product Teams, which are composed
of subject-matter experts from the Office of Hazard Identification and
Reduction, the Office of Compliance and Field Operations, and staff from
other CPSC offices and are organized by type of hazard. 51 (We discuss the




49
  Specifically, for reports submitted through www.SaferProducts.gov, staff accept the
information the submitter entered and verified online such as the product description, how
the product was being used, and any injuries that were sustained.
50
 Unlike other data sources, NEISS reports are entered by CPSC contractors from
medical records and are not a part of CPSC’s general coding process.
51
   In 2011, CPSC adopted the Integrated Product Team approach, which is modeled after
its Early Warning System. CPSC’s six integrated teams are children’s, mechanical,
chemical, combustion, fire, and electrical hazard. These teams are comprised of staff from
the Office of General Counsel, Office of Communications, Office of Import Surveillance,
and subject-matter experts such as engineers, human factors experts, and health
scientists from the Office of Hazard Identification and Hazard Reduction and Office of
Compliance and Field Operations.




Page 24                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                                        Integrated Product Teams’ role in CPSC’s assessment of risk in greater
                                        detail later in this report.)

                                        CPSC officials told us that in making their determination, the Emerging
                                        Hazards Team considers the criteria set forth in 16 CFR 1009.8, such as
                                        the frequency and severity of the injury and the vulnerability of the
                                        population at risk. These criteria are considered at each step of the risk
                                        process and in setting agency priorities. CPSC officials also told us that
                                        the Emerging Hazards Team uses criteria provided to them by the
                                        Integrated Product Teams to classify reports within the system as
                                        needing no further review. Reports requiring no further review are stored
                                        in the database (see fig. 1). According to CPSC officials, incidents
                                        involving a death, particularly if it involves a vulnerable population, are
                                        granted the highest priority and are immediately forwarded to the
                                        appropriate Integrated Product Team for action.

Figure 1: CPSC Incident Intake/Screening Process




                                        In performing its review, the Emerging Hazards Team said it uses the
                                        historical data to identify trends and patterns of potentially new and
                                        emerging hazards while at the same time forwarding the reports to the
                                        appropriate Integrated Product Team. Specifically, incidents that are
                                        unusual or that appear to be similar to previously reported incidents are
                                        analyzed more closely to determine whether they need to be assessed by
                                        both the Emerging Hazards and Integrated Product Teams. For instance,
                                        according to the staff, in April 2012 CPSC received a news clip that



                                        Page 25                           GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
detailed an incident involving a toy with a mirror that was attached but
protected by a plastic cover. The staff conducted a search of CPSC’s
database and identified a similar incident in August 2011. In both cases,
the child was able to remove the cover and gain access to the hazardous
component within it. Based on this finding, the team determined that the
toy was a choking hazard and the reports were forwarded to the
appropriate Integrated Product Team for a more in-depth review.

According to an agency official, identifying patterns of risk is particularly
challenging in situations involving many different makes and models of a
particular product category. For example, CPSC staff completed a
comprehensive review of crib-related infant fatalities reported to the
agency between January 2000 and May 2010 involving drop-side crib
hazards. During that period, staff was aware of 32 fatalities and hundreds
of incidents that were caused by or related to brackets that detached from
the drop-side cribs made by various manufacturers. According to the
CPSC official, because the fatalities occurred across several different
makes and models of cribs, it was difficult for CPSC to identify a pattern.
In 2007 CPSC launched its Early Warning System to look for patterns in
order to identify emerging hazards in a specific group of children’s
products—including bassinets, cribs, and play yards—quickly and
efficiently. This system relied on the integration of timely input from
technical experts and technology to rapidly identify emerging hazards and
led to millions of products being recalled. According to a CPSC news
release issued October 2008, since the creation of its Early Warning
System, the agency has conducted five crib recalls. Because of the
success of the Early Warning System in identifying hazards in these
children’s products, CPSC expanded the use of new technologies to
address hazards in other product areas through its system upgrade and
the Integrated Product Team concept.

In fiscal year 2011, staff within the Office of Hazard Identification and
Hazard Reduction implemented a new business process building upon
the existing NEISS coding system. The new process required that all
incident reports be reviewed and screened by the Emerging Hazards
Team and that all incident reports associated with certain product codes
be reviewed and analyzed by the appropriate Integrated Product Teams.
However, according to agency officials, before they can fully implement
this process, more automation of the screening process in the data-
management system remains to be completed to allow the technical
experts time to focus their attention on those incidents that could indicate
a potential new hazard that needs further analysis.



Page 26                           GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Data System Improvements   To improve the processing of the voluminous data it receives, CPSC is
                           upgrading its data-management system—CPSRMS—as previously
                           discussed. According to CPSC, the upgraded system is designed to
                           enhance CPSC’s efficiency and effectiveness, enable a more rapid
                           dissemination of information, and allow consumers to search the
                           database through a publicly available portal. CPSC officials expect the
                           system upgrades to be completed in fiscal year 2013 and fully operational
                           in fiscal year 2014. Further, CPSC anticipates that staff will be able to
                           create electronic files of related incidents, investigations, assessments,
                           and other information to manage the high volume of incident reports the
                           agency receives in order to identify emerging hazards more quickly.
                           Finally, as part of the data system upgrade, CPSC expects to automate
                           the process to determine which incident reports will be assigned for
                           investigation.

                           As previously noted, CPSC’s incident reports contain information that
                           CPSC enters into the data system using standardized codes. However,
                           CPSC officials told us that in order to be more efficient in identifying
                           patterns and trends, the Integrated Product Teams need additional
                           standardized codes built into the system for identifying product hazards.
                           According to CPSC staff, they are in the process of developing additional
                           standardized codes and eventually algorithms to conduct searches using
                           key words, such as product manufacturer or country of origin. While the
                           officials said it will take 3 to 5 years to develop the standardized language
                           for the system, they added that the goal of this new capability is to help
                           the agency achieve consistency as it loses institutional knowledge due to
                           attrition and retirement. Ultimately, they expect the upgraded system to
                           expedite the process for identifying emerging hazards.

                           CPSC officials told us that before this upgraded database system, staff
                           turnover had a more dramatic impact on CPSC’s ability to identify
                           patterns or trends in the incident information it analyzed. In addition, the
                           Commission did not have the capability to monitor the incidents in such a
                           way that one person could see all the historical data, which interrupted
                           the continuity in staff analysis. Furthermore, reviewing incident reports
                           requires individual judgment, and automating the screening process is
                           expected to allow the technical experts the opportunity to focus their
                           efforts on specific records. As a result of the upgrade to CPSC’s
                           information infrastructure, manufacturers are also able to enter
                           information about substantial product hazards directly into CPSRMS,
                           allowing the information to go through the coding and screening process
                           more quickly. Furthermore, CPSC is in the process of developing case-
                           management software for the Office of Compliance and Field Operations


                           Page 27                           GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                            that will integrate the various databases to provide efficiency to all staff
                            working on the compliance cases. The case management system is
                            intended to allow staff to track the progress of an investigation throughout
                            the agency and is scheduled to be completed in fiscal year 2013.


CPSC Is Taking Actions to   As we have previously reported, CPSC has had limited ability to identify
Improve Its Ability to      unsafe products at the ports. 52 In our 2009 report, we recommended that
Identify Unsafe Imported    the Chairman and commissioners of CPSC take several actions to
                            improve the agency’s ability to target shipments for further screening and
Products before They        review at U.S. ports of entry as follows:
Enter the Marketplace
                            1. To ensure that it has appropriate data and procedures to prevent
                               entry of unsafe products into the United States, we recommended that
                               CPSC update agreements with CBP to clarify each agency’s roles
                               and to resolve issues for obtaining access to advance shipment data.

                            2. To improve its targeting decisions and build its risk-analysis capability,
                               we recommended that CPSC (a) work with CBP, as directed under
                               CPSIA, through the planned targeting center for health and safety
                               issues, to develop the capacity to analyze advance shipment data;
                               and (b) link data CPSC gathers from surveillance activities and from
                               international education and outreach activities to further target
                               incoming shipments.

                            CPSC views its import surveillance activities as a preventative strategy,
                            intended to stop unlawful products before they are received into the
                            United States. CPSC considers this strategy more proactive than relying
                            on traditional compliance and recall efforts to remove violative products
                            from the marketplace after harm may have occurred. In response to
                            CPSIA, CPSC has developed and is pilot testing an approach for
                            identifying and targeting unsafe consumer products at U.S. ports. 53 CPSC
                            is designing this approach to evaluate products entering the United States
                            based on a predetermined set of rules (i.e., to target specific hazardous
                            products or importers) intended to identify imports with the highest risks to



                            52
                              GAO-09-803.
                            53
                              Section 222 of CPSIA requires CPSC to formulate a risk assessment methodology to
                            identify products imported into the United States that are most likely to violate consumer
                            product safety statutes and regulations enforced by the Commission.




                            Page 28                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
consumers. CPSC has reported that given its low staffing levels and
limited coverage at the ports (as of November 2012, CPSC had 20 port
investigators stationed full-time at 15 of the largest U.S. ports),
developing an automated process for identifying violative products was
essential to increasing its ability to target unsafe products before they
enter commerce.

As detailed in CPSIA and based on our prior recommendation, CPSC is
designing its approach to integrate its information with import data from
CBP. CPSC has completed its agreement with CBP and obtained the
shipment data as we recommended. CPSC is in the process of moving to
a computer-based, systematic approach for targeting imports from its
prior process for screening imported products. Under its prior process,
established in 2007, CPSC staff manually screened importers’
documentation and telephoned CBP staff at the ports to detain shipments
for inspection. CPSC is designing the new targeting approach to provide
a framework that permits rules to be added and modified easily to
accommodate new risk factors and changes in operations. For example,
its approach is designed to allow CPSC staff to rank or risk-score
incoming shipments in order to prioritize the Commission’s responses to
product hazards that can be addressed at the ports.

CPSC’s initial activities are focused on import compliance, such as
screening children’s imported products for lead content. CPSC reported
that in 2011, it conducted an analysis of children’s product importers that
have had a history of noncompliance with safety standards and continues
to target these importers for safety assessment. In a CPSC staff
demonstration of this new targeting approach, we observed the use of
their rule sets and the integration of import data used to make
determinations for which shipments to target. When this import targeting
system is fully implemented, CPSC expects to be able to systematically
analyze 100 percent of shipments within CPSC jurisdiction to ensure that
adequate resources are dedicated to the highest risk shipments, as
indicated by its targeting rules. CPSC reported that it began limited
testing of its targeting concept in fall 2011.

According to its 2013 Performance Budget, in 2011, CPSC port
investigators, working with CBP agents, screened almost 10,000 import
samples at U.S. ports of entry and collected more than 1,800 import
samples for testing at the CPSC laboratory. CPSC projects that the full
implementation of this new system will take about 4 to 7 years, depending
on resources devoted to this effort. CPSC’s detailed proposal on this
import-targeting approach reported the need for additional staff for


Page 29                           GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                             strengthening their coverage at the ports and for additional laboratory
                             staff. 54 In its report to Congress, CPSC also recommended certain legal
                             changes to better align the Commission’s authorities with those of CBP
                             and other health and safety agencies for targeting and addressing unsafe
                             products at import. In addition, to complete the technology piece of the
                             import targeting system, CPSC estimated the costs to be $40 million from
                             fiscal years 2013 through 2019. CPSC’s planned next step in this effort is
                             to reduce the duplication of effort between cases initiated by the Office of
                             Compliance and Field Operations and those initiated by the Office of
                             Import Surveillance by creating a case management system, as part of
                             upgrading its information system.


                             CPSC assesses product risks on a case-by-case basis using information
Timeliness of CPSC’s         it collects from various sources. Once it has assessed the risk and
Actions to Assess and        determined the need to address a product hazard, CPSC can take a
                             number of actions to reduce the risks of product-related injuries to
Address New Risks            consumers.
Depends on the
Specific Product or
Hazard

CPSC’s Risk Assessment       Once CPSC identifies product risks, it assesses those risks on a case-by-
Varies with the Particular   case basis. 55 According to CPSC staff, an assessment could pertain to a
Product or Hazard Being      particular model of a product or to a class of products, such as drop-side
                             cribs, or it may be specific to a type of hazard, such as fire hazards
Assessed                     associated with appliances. In addition, according to CPSC officials, the
                             types of information CPSC collects to assess product risk depend on the
                             product and the type of assessment being conducted. In general, CPSC
                             requires information on the severity of an injury, the probability of the
                             hazard occurring, consumers’ ability to recognize hazardous conditions,
                             and how the consumer uses the product. In addition, officials stated that


                             54
                              See CPSC, Staff Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 222 of the Consumer Product
                             Safety Improvement Act of 2008 Risk Assessment Methodology.
                             55
                               CPSC staff defines risk assessment as a four-step process that encompasses hazard
                             identification, dose-response assessment (determining the magnitude of exposure to a
                             contaminant and the probability and severity of adverse effects), exposure assessment,
                             and risk characterization.




                             Page 30                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
manufacturer, model, serial number, number of products sold, life-cycle of
the product, and safety incidents involving the products are all useful
information. As noted earlier, most of CPSC’s information sources are
limited in the information available. Additionally, CPSC officials told us
that most information on sales of a particular product is not readily
available, and surveys to establish use and exposure information are
costly and often take up to a year to get approval (from the
commissioners and the Office of Management and Budget) to conduct.
As a result, CPSC often tries to estimate consumers’ exposure using
assumptions based on sales data and product life-cycle information.

As part of its assessment, CPSC evaluates consumer products to identify
both acute and chronic hazards. Acute hazards are conditions that create
the potential for injury or damage to consumers as a result of an accident
or short-duration exposure to a defective product. Chronic hazards are
presented by substances that can damage health over a relatively long
period, after continuous or repeated exposures. Hazards may be either
physical or chemical in nature. The adverse effects from exposure to a
chemical substance can be acute, such as poisonings, or chronic, such
as cancer or reproductive or genetic abnormalities. As stated earlier,
CPSC relies on its criteria for establishing priorities in assessing risk.
More specifically, CPSC staff can assess a product’s potential health
effects to consumers using well-established chronic hazard guidelines
based on the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

CPSC staff with whom we spoke said CPSC relies on the knowledge and
judgment of its staff to review and analyze incident reports in order to
identify emerging hazards that the agency could address. According to
CPSC’s documentation, as part of their analysis, Integrated Product Team
staff read all the incidents within each product code assigned to them. If a
pattern emerges, they are required to review historical records and update
those records accordingly. These teams are also responsible for other risk-
related activities, such as requesting investigations; recommending new
activities to management as needed, depending on the severity and
addressability of emerging hazards; and monitoring follow-up status on
compliance corrective actions and status of projects for standard
development (see fig. 2). 56 According to CPSC staff, the agency plans to


56
   Each integrated team develops a portfolio of projects, based on their assessments, that
is included in their budget request for the Commission to consider as a part of the
agency’s prioritization process. According to CPSC officials, these projects are ranked
based on CPSC’s criteria under section 1009.8.




Page 31                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                                     develop standard operating procedures tailored to each team and to
                                     establish benchmarks for the teams to use in completing their analyses of
                                     hazards and identifying a strategy to address the hazards.

Figure 2: CPSC Review and Assessment Process




                                     When one of the Integrated Product Teams identifies a potentially new
                                     hazardous product, the team may request an investigation. CPSC staff,
                                     one Commissioner, and product safety experts said that assessing the
                                     risks posed by new products is challenging because hazards from new
                                     products are not readily apparent because historical data are not
                                     available for analysis. An investigation provides staff an opportunity to
                                     obtain additional information about use of the product that could
                                     potentially assist in their assessment. Investigation reports, which are
                                     prepared by the Office of Compliance and Field Operations staff, provide
                                     details about the sequence of events surrounding the incident, human
                                     and environmental factors, and product involvement. 57 The incident
                                     reports generally contain the consumer’s version of what occurred based
                                     on discussion with the incident victim or individual most knowledgeable
                                     about the incident. CPSC staff noted that the investigative activity is an
                                     ongoing process and the Integrated Product Teams decide whether to


                                     57
                                       Staff within the Office of Compliance and Field Operations conduct investigations on
                                     specific cases to gain additional knowledge about injuries or hazards. Staff use this
                                     information to determine where hazards exist and how to address them. Some of these
                                     investigations are conducted entirely by telephone, while others are conducted at the
                                     accident site.




                                     Page 32                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                     continue the investigative process as they evaluate new evidence they
                     receive. Investigations may also include follow-up inspections at retail
                     stores, discussion with fire and police investigators, as well as the
                     inclusion of fire and police reports.

                     CPSC’s guidance for staff involved in risk-assessment activities identifies
                     certain factors based upon the Commission’s criteria for establishing
                     priorities. As discussed earlier, these factors include the frequency and
                     severity of injuries, consumers’ exposure to the risk, causality of injuries,
                     foreseeability of the risk, and the vulnerability of the population at risk.
                     CPSC’s guidance specifically states that staff should consider these
                     factors when deciding whether to investigate hazards or initiate corrective
                     actions. According to CPSC officials, staff consider these factors
                     throughout the risk-assessment process and in prioritizing which product
                     hazards require action by the Commission. As an example, a CPSC
                     official said that in a hypothetical situation involving an appliance that
                     poses a fire hazard, staff may first determine the number of incidents
                     involving this product, the extent of injuries, the level of exposure, and the
                     likelihood that exposure to this appliance will result in death or serious
                     injury. To evaluate the hazard, CPSC would collect samples of the
                     product in order to determine the source of the defect and gather market
                     data, such as the useful life of the product and the number of products in
                     the marketplace. As part of their assessment, CPSC would also consider
                     whether other types of products may be subject to this type of hazard,
                     potentially extending the time needed for the assessment.

Product Evaluation   CPSC evaluates some products, which it has identified through
                     investigation and market surveillance, at CPSC’s National Product
                     Testing and Evaluation Center. 58 Integrated Product Teams’ evaluation
                     and analysis of products being tested is generally geared toward
                     improving standards or initiating rulemaking. 59 The testing center is
                     staffed with engineers and scientists from the Office of Hazard
                     Identification and Hazard Reduction, some of whom are members of the
                     Integrated Product Teams. According to CPSC laboratory staff, many of


                     58
                       Products may include samples of new products on display at trade shows that CPSC
                     staff attend, products detained at the ports for testing, or products involved in an incident.
                     59
                       Based on the results of these and other assessments, the samples are stored because
                     they could become evidentiary items to support CPSC’s position in legal proceedings.
                     CPSC staff emphasized the importance of maintaining the samples’ chain of custody for
                     evidentiary proceedings.




                     Page 33                                   GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
the samples at the testing center were imported products that CPSC
intercepted at the ports before they were distributed into commerce.
During our tour of CPSC’s test facility, we observed, for example, several
bunk beds being tested to ensure they did not pose an entrapment
hazard for children. 60 We also observed an off-road stroller that was
submitted for testing. The staff explained that the Integrated Product
Team was testing this stroller for stability. As designed, the stroller had
three wheels and posed a tip-over hazard. As noted in table 2, according
to CPSC staff, the time needed to complete testing of regulated products
varies. These times reflect typical duration to complete the tests once a
sample is received by laboratory staff.

Table 2: Examples of Different Types of Products Tested and Typical Time Frames
to Perform Testing

 Product                                Regulation/Standard             Typical time frame (days)
 Toys                                   Lead content                                               1-4
                                        Small parts                                                2-3
                                        Phthalates                                                 3-5
 Children’s products                    Lead content                                               1-4
                                        Phthalates                                                 3-5
                                        Bunk bed                                                   5-7
                                        Cribs                                                     5-10
 Mattresses                             Open flame                                                 3-5
 All-terrain vehicles                   Regulation                                              14-21
 Fireworks                              Regulation                                              14-28
 Sleepwear                              Flammability                                             18-21
 Trampolines and enclosures             Consensus Standard                                       30-45
 Pool and spa drain covers              Regulation                                               40-60
 Carbon monoxide alarms                 Consensus Standard                                      40-60
 Electric space heater                  Consensus Standard                                      40-60
Source: CPSC.

Note: The durations listed are typical ranges for the specific product. Actual times may be shorter or
longer depending on the scope of the testing that needs to be done. The time frames do not include
time from collection or when follow-up determinations are executed after testing is completed. A
consensus standard is also referred to as a voluntary standard.




60
  According to CPSC staff, a bunk bed design that allows a child’s torso to pass through
but not the head poses a head and neck entrapment hazard.




Page 34                                       GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                            The Office of Compliance and Field Operations relies on the expertise of
                            the Emerging Hazards Team statisticians and other staff in the Office of
                            Hazard Identification and Hazard Reduction to perform other safety
                            assessments, such as database reviews and engineering file reviews. As
                            part of this process, the Office of Compliance and Field Operations may
                            request that the Emerging Hazards Team conduct a technical evaluation
                            of a specific type of product, such as all gas appliances that showed a
                            pattern of fire or explosion hazard. This assessment entails searching
                            CPSC’s database for all incidents involving certain types of gas
                            appliances with reports of gas leaks or fires using certain selection
                            criteria. The Office of Compliance and Field Operations may also request
                            that engineering staff review the full report from a manufacturer about a
                            product and check the company’s information against CPSC’s database.

Timeliness of Assessments   According to CPSC officials, the timeliness of completing a risk
Varies                      assessment varies. For example, the risk assessment process for a
                            chemical substance may be completed in a matter of days if acceptable
                            and valid toxicity and exposure data are readily available. CPSC is
                            familiar with the hazard posed by lead and has developed a testing
                            method that can be performed quickly. As a result, testing toys for
                            compliance with lead content regulation can be completed within 1 to 4
                            days, depending on whether the product can be tested using X-ray
                            fluorescent equipment or requires traditional chemical analysis. In
                            contrast, the risk assessment process of some chemical substances may
                            take years to complete if CPSC needs to generate toxicity and exposure
                            data through laboratory experiments. For example, in assessing the risk
                            to children from playing on wood playground equipment treated with
                            chromated copper arsenate (CCA), CPSC staff reviewed toxicity data and
                            determined that there were insufficient data available on the exposure to
                            arsenic from CCA-treated wood on which to base a recommendation to
                            the Commission on the risk to children. As a result, CPSC staff designed
                            and performed new laboratory and field studies to obtain exposure data to
                            assess the health risk to children. CPSC began this project in 2001 and
                            presented the results of its study to the Commission in 2003. 61 CPSC’s
                            timeline for conducting other safety assessments varied from 4 hours to
                            perform a consultation by a technical engineer on a hazard classified as a
                            high priority (where the risk of death or grievous injury or illness is likely or


                            61
                              Based on the assumptions used in the risk assessment, the staff concluded that a young
                            child who plays on such a structure during early childhood has an increased risk of 2 to
                            100 per million of developing lung or bladder cancer during his or her lifetime.




                            Page 35                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                         very likely or serious risk of illness is very likely) to 8 weeks to test a
                         product sample for a routine case identified as a hazard that is possible
                         but not likely to occur. 62

                         Furthermore, CPSC faces challenges assessing the risks associated with
                         products manufactured using nanomaterials. In particular, the introduction
                         of consumer products containing nanomaterials into the marketplace may
                         require unique approaches to determine exposure and risk and poses
                         new regulatory challenges for CPSC. According to CPSC’s statement on
                         nanomaterial, the potential safety and health risks of nanomaterials, as
                         well as other compounds that are incorporated into consumer products,
                         can be assessed under existing CPSC statutes, regulations, and
                         guidelines. However, because testing methods are still being developed,
                         conducting its risk assessment of such products will take longer. Neither
                         CPSA nor the Federal Hazardous Substances Act requires the premarket
                         registration or approval of consumer products. Thus, CPSC would usually
                         not evaluate the product’s potential risk to the public until a product
                         containing nanomaterials has been distributed into commerce.


CPSC Uses Various        To address product-related hazards, CPSC uses various approaches
Approaches to Address    designed to reduce injuries and deaths. CPSC’s enforcement role is
Product Hazards, but     based on its statutory authority to address unreasonable risks associated
                         with consumer products. Based on CPSC’s documents, CPSC staff use
Faces Challenges in      investigations and assessments of product hazards to determine (1)
Addressing New Product   whether corrective action is appropriate and (2) what type of actions may
Risks                    be appropriate to address potential risks of injury to the public. Before
                         deciding to take action, CPSC must consider whether the risk is one that
                         the Commission can address. For example, the blade of a kitchen knife
                         can harm a consumer, but the sharpness of the knife, by design, is not a
                         defect and the risk it poses cannot be addressed by CPSC’s actions.
                         However, according to CPSC staff, if the handle of the knife breaks while
                         the knife is in use and injures the consumer, CPSC would consider the
                         product to be defective and the risk to be addressable.




                         62
                          These timelines include testing product samples at the CPSC testing facility.




                         Page 36                                 GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
CPSC’s actions to address and reduce the risks of injury to consumers
include the following.

•    Compliance—conducting compliance activities, such as voluntary
     recalls and corrective actions, product bans, and enforcement of
     existing regulations by seeking civil and criminal penalties, and
     injunctive relief against prohibited acts. 63

•    Standards—developing mandatory safety standards or participating in
     the voluntary standards process.

•    Public Education—notifying the public of safety hazards and
     educating them about safe practices.

According to CPSC, its multifaceted approach is intended to not only
address immediate problems but also future problems. For instance,
CPSC identified fire pots used with gel fuel as an emerging hazard in
June 2011, after a severe injury was reported (see fig. 3). 64 As of
September 2011, CPSC was aware of 76 incidents involving fire pots
used with gel fuel that resulted in two deaths and 86 injuries. CPSC
reported that preliminary testing and evaluation of fire pots and gel fuels
showed that they pose a serious risk of burn injuries to consumers due to
certain features of the fire pot design, the burning and physical
characteristics of the gel fuel, and the packaging of the gel fuel container.
In the short term, CPSC worked with the individual manufacturers to
recall the product. To address longer term concerns with the product, the
agency is also working to develop mandatory standards to address risks
associated with similar and future products. Between June and October
2011, CPSC announced 12 voluntary recalls involving more than 2 million
bottles of gel fuel. In December 2011, the Commission issued an
Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to address the injuries
and deaths associated with this product. As we previously reported,



63
  Under certain conditions cited in its statutes CPSC can apply to a district court to
restrain the distribution of a product that the Commission believes is a substantial product
hazard. 15 U.S.C §2064(g).
64
  Fire pots are portable, decorative lighting accents marketed for indoor and outdoor use.
Gel fuel composed primarily of alcohol was designed to be used as fuel for fire pots. The
gel fuel produced a clean-burning flame with no visible smoke or ash. They are usually
sold as separate products but are often marketed for use together, and some companies
manufacture both products.




Page 37                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
according to CPSC, the time required for mandatory rulemaking varies
depending on the complexity of the product or legal requirements for
enacting the rules, the severity of the hazard, and other agency priorities,
among other factors. 65 For example, a legal expert told us that a
mandatory rulemaking for cigarette lighters took 10 years from the
decision to take action to final rule. CPSC also has been considering a
mandatory rule to address the risk of fire associated with ignitions of
upholstered furniture since 1994.




65
  GAO-12-582. Interested parties generally have 60 days to comment on an ANPR and
75 days to comment on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. CPSIA contains some
provisions designed to shorten the time frame for rulemaking, such as making an ANPR
optional, though it may be issued when CPSC deems it a necessary part of rulemaking.




Page 38                               GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Figure 3: Timeline of CPSC Actions Related to Fire pots and Gel Fuel, 2001 to 2012




                                         a
                                             Gel fuel for fireplaces has been available in single-use cans since the mid-1980s.
                                         b
                                          An incident may include more than one death or injury. According to CPSC briefing to
                                         commissioners, the earliest incident known to staff occurred on April 3, 2010. In some cases, the
                                         incident is reported to CPSC days after it occurred, and in other cases, it has taken more than a year.
                                         Several incidents that occurred in 2010 were reported to CPSC in 2011.
                                         c
                                          The purpose of the ANPR was to determine what voluntary or mandatory standards should be
                                         implemented, what, if any, changes should be made to labeling, and if the products should be banned
                                         or no regulatory action taken.
                                         d
                                          According to CPSC, in fiscal year 2013 staff plan to review comments to the ANPR and develop
                                         performance criteria and test methods for a potential mandatory rule. In fiscal year 2014, CPSC plans
                                         to prepare a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking package for the Commission’s consideration.




                                         Page 39                                          GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Reliance on Voluntary   CPSC’s statutory authority requires the Commission to rely on voluntary
Standards               standards to build safety into consumer products if the Commission
                        determines that compliance with a voluntary standard is likely to result in
                        the elimination or adequate reduction of risk of injury identified and that
                        there will be substantial compliance with the voluntary standard. 66 CPSC
                        officials told us that compliance with applicable voluntary standards would
                        be one of many factors in the decision on whether an unregulated product
                        is defective and poses a risk of injury, thus requiring corrective action. In
                        addition to taking steps to ensure compliance, the agency may address
                        the risk presented by unregulated products—that is, products not subject
                        to mandatory standards—by recommending revisions to voluntary
                        standards. However, having a voluntary standard that does not address
                        the particular defect or hazard that is being examined can slow down the
                        process of getting a corrective action. In some instances, the
                        manufacturer may disagree with CPSC’s finding that a product can meet
                        a voluntary standard but has a defect that creates a serious risk of injury
                        or death. If the strategy to address a risk is to develop a voluntary
                        standard, the Office of Hazard Identification and Reduction will work to
                        develop the standard.

                        If CPSC finds that a manufacturer’s product fails to comply with voluntary
                        standards or presents a substantial product hazard, it can take an
                        enforcement action, such as seeking a public notice or recall. When a
                        recall is deemed necessary, the Office of Compliance and Field
                        Operations negotiates with the responsible firm to seek a “voluntary” or a
                        negotiated recall whenever possible. According to CPSC officials, if the
                        firm does not cooperate, CPSC can seek to (1) issue a unilateral press
                        release asking consumers to discontinue use of the product, (2) ask
                        distributors and retailers to stop selling the unsafe products, (3) obtain
                        injunctive relief, (4) file an administrative complaint before an
                        administrative law judge to affirm its position, although this process can
                        take several months or years to complete, or (5) pursue an action against
                        the product and manufacturer under the imminent hazard provision of
                        CPSA. CPSC staff told us that for each recall, the Office of Compliance
                        and Field Operations works with the Office of Hazard Identification on a
                        case-by-case basis to determine whether standards (voluntary or
                        mandatory) need to be developed to address similar or future products.



                        66
                          Consumer Product Safety Amendments of 1981, Pub. L. No. 97-35, title XII-A, 95 Stat.
                        357, 703 (1981), amending 15 U.S.C. §§ 2056 and 2058 and GAO-12-582.




                        Page 40                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                          In addition, CPSC can assess civil penalties if a manufacturer, distributor,
                          or retailer knowingly fails to report potential substantial product hazards.

Improving Timeliness of   CPSC has established the Fast-Track recall program, which provides
CPSC’s Response           firms the opportunity to streamline the recall process by removing
                          hazardous products from the marketplace immediately. Under section
                          15(b) of CPSA, if a company suspects that a product could be hazardous,
                          the company must report it to CPSC. The Fast-Track recall program
                          allows the company to propose a plan for an expedited recall. If CPSC
                          considers the firm’s plan satisfactory—and finds no other cause for
                          concern in its review—it approves the plan and works with the firm to
                          expedite the recall to begin within 20 days of the initial report to CPSC.
                          This program is intended to remove dangerous products from the
                          marketplace faster and save the company and CPSC both time and
                          money. While some industry representatives have questioned the
                          timeliness of the Fast-Track program, CPSC stated that a number of
                          factors could slow the process, such as delays in receiving information
                          from the firm, delays in completing product safety assessments, or
                          evaluation of the remedy being suggested. CPSC reported that in 2011
                          staff completed technical reviews of hazardous products and initiated
                          corrective actions within 20 days 95 percent of the time, thereby
                          exceeding the Commission’s goals for initiating Fast-Track recalls by 5
                          percent. Since August 1997, CPSC reported that it has used the Fast-
                          Track recall program to conduct 2,000 recalls on over approximately 200
                          million products.

                          The timeliness of CPSC’s response to new and emerging hazards
                          depends, in part, on the extent to which U.S. companies are motivated to
                          quickly institute and enforce stringent product safety standards because
                          selling products that cause injury or death can have negative impacts on
                          their brands. In addition, the tort system in the United States—by
                          exposing companies selling unsafe products to lawsuits—helps ensure
                          that companies are motivated to comply with product safety standards.
                          CPSC faces a trade-off between consumer protection and industry
                          cooperation when deciding what actions to take, such as developing
                          standards or banning a particular product, and whether industry self-
                          regulation can be used to protect consumers. Balancing the interests of
                          both consumers and industry participants adds complexity and affects the
                          timeliness of CPSC’s response. If CPSC does not act quickly enough, a
                          consumer may be harmed by using an unsafe product. However, if CPSC
                          acts too quickly, it can be subject to lawsuits from companies that claim it
                          has not presented sufficient evidence to prove a product hazard, which



                          Page 41                           GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                                 could result in a reversal of its decision and any action taken against a
                                 company.

Other Efforts to Address Risks   Although CPSC has broad regulatory powers, the agency’s efforts to
                                 address product hazards are also carried out using other methods, such
                                 as through consumer and manufacturer outreach. For example, CPSC
                                 can provide information to consumers on safety practices that can help
                                 prevent product-related accidents. These outreach efforts are carried out
                                 by the Office of Education, Global Outreach, and Small Business
                                 Ombudsman. This office’s primary responsibility is to coordinate and
                                 provide education and outreach activities to various domestic and
                                 international stakeholders. The office is also responsible for working with
                                 manufacturers to help build safety into their products to prevent
                                 dangerous products from ever entering the marketplace.

                                 CPSC uses a range of communication strategies to inform the public
                                 about safety issues. This information is intended to help consumers make
                                 informed choices about the products they purchase and to educate
                                 consumers on how to use the products safely and to act quickly if they
                                 own a recalled product. According to CPSC, the Commission has had
                                 success in educating the public through increased use of social media to
                                 communicate safety messages and through targeted campaigns that aim
                                 to reach the most vulnerable populations affected by certain product
                                 hazards. Examples include the “Safe Sleep” and “Pool Safely”
                                 campaigns, which addressed risks associated with baby cribs, baby
                                 monitor cords and sleep positioners, and swimming pools and spas,
                                 respectively. CPSC posts recalls and press releases to its website in a
                                 format that allows television stations and other media to obtain
                                 information from CPSC’s website to post on their own websites.
                                 Consumers also have the option of accessing www.SaferProducts.gov or
                                 calling the CPSC hotline to ask questions about recalls or request safety
                                 information.

Challenges in Addressing New     CPSC finds it challenging to address hazards posed by new products
Product Hazards                  because first, the product defect or hazard must be identified; second, the
                                 associated risk must be assessed; and as noted earlier, it is harder to
                                 identify and assess the risk associated with new products when there is
                                 no historical data to assess. Furthermore, according to one agency
                                 official, because CPSC does not have authority to require pre-approval of
                                 products before they enter the U.S. market, CPSC cannot take action
                                 unless a product creates a risk of harm. Generally, new products are
                                 unregulated—that is, they are not subject to existing mandatory
                                 standards. To illustrate the challenge CPSC faces with addressing risks


                                 Page 42                           GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
associated with new products, an agency official cited an instance where
the agency collected a handful of incident reports involving a new infant
sleep product. They performed a hazard profile on the product but
because there had been no injury associated with the product, CPSC
could not make a good case to have the manufacturer remedy an
identified potential problem. In instances where CPSC may identify a
potential hazard before a product is introduced into commerce, the
agency’s only action is to alert the manufacturer of the potential hazard or
product defect.

Moreover, CPSC may not have prior experience with the potential hazard
from a new consumer product and may need to take a number of actions
to address a specific hazard, which can take years. For example, CPSC
has recognized for several years that the ingestion of small magnets can
pose a hazard for children. After 34 incidents were reported, 1 resulting in
the death of a 20-month old child, and after investigating these incidents,
CPSC issued a recall of children’s toys with magnets in March 2006. After
further incidents of magnet ingestion were reported, CPSC issued an
expanded recall in April 2007. From 2007 to 2008, CPSC worked with the
toy industry and other stakeholders to develop a voluntary standard,
which the Commission made mandatory in August 2009. However, high-
powered magnet sets became available during 2008, with sales
increasing in 2009. In February 2010, CPSC received its first report of an
ingestion of high-powered magnets by a child. Although there was no
injury associated with this magnet ingestion, CPSC noted that the product
was inappropriately labeled for children and did not comply with the
mandatory toy standards. In response, in May 2010, CPSC worked with
one manufacturer to issue a voluntary recall due to the improper labeling.
In December 2010, CPSC received another report of high-powered
magnet ingestion by a child that required surgery. Because the
circumstances differed from those of previous incidents, CPSC continued
to track these incidents and conducted a follow-up investigation. 67 In
November 2011, CPSC and two manufacturers issued a public service
announcement related to ingestion of magnets. CPSC continued to
receive reports of incidents involving the ingestion of high-powered
magnets. In 2012, the majority of manufacturers agreed to stop selling the
product, but two manufacturers, one of which sold more than 70 percent



67
  According to CPSC NEISS data from January 2009 to December 2011, the agency
estimated 1,700 ingestion incidents of high-power magnets.




Page 43                             GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                                        of the magnet sets purchased in the United States, did not. To address
                                        the hazard associated with the products remaining in the market, CPSC
                                        filed administrative actions against the companies in July and August
                                        2012. 68 On September 4, 2012, CPSC took further action and issued a
                                        notice of proposed rulemaking to prohibit high-powered magnet sets. The
                                        public comment period ended on November 19, 2012. See figure 4 for a
                                        timeline of CPSC’s actions in response to hazards associated with
                                        magnets.

Figure 4: Timeline of CPSC Actions Related to Magnets, 2006 to 2012




                                        68
                                          CPSC noted that legal action against a company is rarely taken and that this is the first
                                        administrative complaint filed by the agency since 2001. In October 2012, one of the
                                        companies decided to discontinue importing the high-powered magnet sets.




                                        Page 44                                  GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                CPSC has broad authority for identifying, assessing, and addressing risks
Conclusion      from unsafe consumer products. However, it faces challenges in
                identifying risks from new and emerging products largely because
                statutorily CPSC was established to respond to risks after products have
                been introduced into the U.S. market. Neither CPSA nor any other acts
                administered by CPSC require a premarket registration or approval of
                consumer products. Thus, CPSC does not evaluate a product’s potential
                risk to the public until a product is introduced into commerce. CPSC also
                faces challenges in identifying product risks in a timely manner because
                of the large quantity of information it must gather and manage. CPSC has
                taken steps to improve its responsiveness through better technology for
                identifying risks, more targeted surveillance of imported products, and a
                program for manufacturers to streamline the process for conducting
                recalls. CPSC’s efforts to improve its ability to identify unsafe products
                and target unsafe imported products through IT improvements are still
                under way, and the agency projects that they will be completed in 3 to 7
                years.

                Because CPSC faces challenges in identifying and targeting unsafe
                products at import, it has attempted to update information-sharing
                agreements with its foreign counterparts, as Congress expected when it
                amended CPSA by including section 29(f). However, restrictive language
                in CPSA, as amended by CPSIA, has hindered CPSC’s ability to share
                certain information with its counterparts internationally. Therefore, the
                Commission has been unable to enter into any international agreements
                pursuant to section 29(f) because CPSC’s foreign counterparts will only
                share information under reciprocal terms that permit those foreign
                counterparts to make nonpublic information available to their own
                governing bodies or court systems. Based on our analysis of the statute,
                section 29(f) has not achieved the results expected by Congress when it
                enacted this provision and CPSC may benefit from having more flexibility
                to exchange information with its counterparts in other countries, which
                would help CPSC prevent unsafe products from entering the U.S.
                marketplace.


                To better enable CPSC to target unsafe consumer products, Congress
Matter for      may wish to amend section 29(f) of CPSA to allow CPSC greater ability to
Congressional   enter into information-sharing agreements with its foreign counterparts
                that permit reciprocal terms on disclosure of nonpublic information.
Consideration



                Page 45                          GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                     We provided a draft of this report to CPSC for comment. In their written
Agency Comments      comments, reproduced in appendix III, CPSC supported our matter for
and Our Evaluation   congressional consideration and believed that it would benefit from
                     having more flexibility to exchange information with its counterparts from
                     other countries through agreements that permit reciprocal terms on
                     disclosure of information. CPSC staff also provided technical comments
                     that we incorporated, as appropriate.


                     We are sending copies of this report to appropriate congressional
                     committees and the Chairman and commissioners of CPSC. The report
                     also is available at no charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov.

                     If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
                     me at (202) 512-8678 or cackleya@gao.gov. Contact points for our
                     Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
                     the last page of this report. GAO staff who made major contributions to
                     this report are listed in appendix IV.




                     Alicia Puente Cackley
                     Director
                     Financial Markets and
                       Community Investment




                     Page 46                           GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              The Consolidated Appropriations Act requires GAO to analyze the
              potential safety risks associated with new and emerging consumer
              products, including chemicals and other materials used in their
              manufacture, taking into account the Consumer Product Safety
              Commission’s (CPSC) ability and authority to identify, assess, and
              address the risks of new and emerging consumer products in a timely
              manner and to keep abreast of the effects of these products on public
              health and safety. Our objectives were to evaluate the authority and
              ability of CPSC to (1) stay generally informed about new risks associated
              with consumer products and use available information to identify product
              hazards, and (2) assess and address new risks posed by consumer
              products in a timely manner.

              To address these objectives, we reviewed the statutes and regulations
              that provide the basis for CPSC’s authorities related to protecting
              consumers from unreasonable risk of injury. We also examined guidance
              developed by CPSC that informs their approach to identifying, assessing,
              and addressing new and emerging risks, such as CPSC’s policy on
              establishing priorities for action by the Commission, guidance on risk-
              related activities, and information-quality guidelines. In addition, we
              reviewed CPSC’s operating procedural manuals for coding incident
              reports into its data-management system and for assigning hazard codes
              to these reports, performance and accountability reports, strategic plans,
              budget operating plans, 2013 performance budget request, and annual
              reports. We reviewed existing information about CPSC data systems and
              interviewed agency officials knowledgeable about the data. Based on our
              review of documentation, we believe the data are reliable for our
              purposes. We also reviewed prior GAO reports on CPSC, risk
              assessment in the federal government, and nanotechnology, and
              consulted GAO’s Standards for Internal Control in the Federal
              Government and Internal Control Management and Evaluation Tool to
              assess CPSC’s policies and procedures. We also examined the chronic
              hazard guidelines based on the Federal Hazardous Substance Act that
              CPSC uses to assess a product’s potential health effects. In addition, we
              reviewed data on CPSC corrective actions. To assess CPSC’s timeliness
              in identifying, assessing, and addressing new and emerging risks, we
              examined the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Memorandum
              on Principles for Risk Analysis, OMB’s 2006 Proposed Risk Assessment
              Bulletin, and the National Research Council’s Review of OMB’s Proposed
              Risk Assessment Bulletin. We also reviewed CPSC’s performance goals
              and obtained data on its time frames for performing product safety
              assessments and testing at the National Product Testing and Evaluation
              Center.


              Page 47                              GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




To assess CPSC’s authority to obtain and share information that could
help identify new hazards posed by consumer products, we reviewed our
prior work on CPSC’s authorities and legislation related to the agency. 1 In
addition, we reviewed CPSC’s list of its collaborative efforts with other
federal agencies to remain informed of new and emerging risks. We
reviewed memorandums of understanding between CPSC and some of
its foreign counterparts as well as information on risk management
practices developed by other countries such as the European Union.

In addition to our document review, we interviewed CPSC officials and
staff as well as all of CPSC’s current commissioners and the Chairman to
understand the organizational structure and the roles and responsibilities
of the offices involved in safety operations and data collection, as well as
to gain their perspectives on CPSC’s ability and authority to identify,
assess, and address new and emerging risks in a timely manner. We also
interviewed national consumer and industry organizations and legal
professionals and toured CPSC’s National Product Testing and
Evaluation Center. At the center, we watched staff conduct flammability
testing of a product and learned of other types of testing CPSC conducts
such as chemical, combustion, and durability testing. We also observed,
through CPSC staff’s illustration, the data-management system CPSC
uses to code and screen incident data in order to identify and assess
risks. Finally, through a demonstration of CPSC’s import targeting
system, we viewed the type of information CPSC is using in piloting its
target system to identify unsafe products at the ports.

We conducted this performance audit from January 2012 to December
2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
and conclusions based on our audit objectives.




1
 We previously have reported on CPSC’s authorities, and we discuss specific authorities
as appropriate throughout this report. See GAO, Consumer Safety: Better Information and
Planning Would Strengthen CPSC’s Oversight of Imported Products, GAO-09-803
(Washington, D.C.: Aug. 14, 2009).




Page 48                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Appendix II: CPSC’s and Other Agencies’
              Appendix II: CPSC’s and Other Agencies’
              Coordinated Responses to Hazards Posed by
              Defective Chinese Drywall


Coordinated Responses to Hazards Posed by
Defective Chinese Drywall
             When an emerging risk related to drywall (i.e., sheetrock used in
             construction) was identified in 2008 that crossed the jurisdiction of several
             federal agencies, CPSC took the lead in coordinating what the agency
             reported as the largest investigation in its history. CPSC participated in an
             intergovernmental task force with the Department of Housing and Urban
             Development (HUD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Centers
             for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Department of Homeland
             Security. 1 In 2008, CPSC was informed of a high level of hydrogen sulfide
             emissions in drywall made in China that was imported into the United
             States from 2001 through 2008. The bulk of the almost 4,000 complaints
             involved homes built in 2006 through 2007. 2 A high level of hydrogen
             sulfide emissions is associated with metal corrosion, which can damage
             household appliances and electrical systems. CPSC performed testing
             and found the level of hydrogen sulfide emissions in Chinese drywall to
             be 100 times that of non-Chinese drywall. Some of the Chinese
             manufacturers were aware of the issue in 2006 but did not share the
             information with CPSC, as required. CPSC coordinated with EPA to
             conduct an elemental analysis on the components contained in Chinese
             and non-Chinese drywall, as well as develop a protocol for conducting air-
             quality testing. CDC’s role was to assess health effects and develop a
             public awareness campaign. HUD’s role was to develop guidance for the
             identification and remediation of problem drywall in homes and provide
             grants to help in these efforts. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
             worked to identify any imports of Chinese drywall. CPSC also worked
             closely with the Federal Council on Environmental Quality and the
             Domestic Policy Council. In addition, the Commission worked with state
             partners including state attorneys general and health departments. The
             timeline in figure 5 illustrates how CPSC addressed the emerging risk.




              1
               The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Customs and Border Protection
              (CBP) within the Department of Homeland Security participated in the investigation.
              2
               Complaints were received from 43 states, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, and
              Puerto Rico.




              Page 49                               GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                                        Appendix II: CPSC’s and Other Agencies’
                                        Coordinated Responses to Hazards Posed by
                                        Defective Chinese Drywall




Figure 5: Timeline of CPSC Actions Related to Problem Drywall, 2008 to 2011




                                        Page 50                               GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Appendix III: Comments from the U.S.
              Appendix III: Comments from the U.S.
              Consumer Product Safety Commission



Consumer Product Safety Commission




              Page 51                                GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Alicia Puente Cackley, (202) 512-8678 or cackleya@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Debra Johnson (Assistant
Staff             Director), Tim Bober, Christine Broderick, Marcia Crosse, Philip Curtin,
Acknowledgments   DuEwa Kamara, Yola Lewis, Alexandra Martin-Arseneau, Marc Molino,
                  Nadine Garrick Raidbard, Jessica Sandler, Jennifer Schwartz, Sushil
                  Sharma, Andrew Stavisky, and Henry Wray made key contributions to
                  this report.




(250659)
                  Page 52                              GAO-13-150 Consumer Product Safety Commission
                      The Government Accountability Office, the audit, evaluation, and
GAO’s Mission         investigative arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its
                      constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and
                      accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO
                      examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and
                      policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance
                      to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions.
                      GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of
                      accountability, integrity, and reliability.

                      The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no
Obtaining Copies of   cost is through GAO’s website (http://www.gao.gov). Each weekday
GAO Reports and       afternoon, GAO posts on its website newly released reports, testimony,
                      and correspondence. To have GAO e-mail you a list of newly posted
Testimony             products, go to http://www.gao.gov and select “E-mail Updates.”

Order by Phone        The price of each GAO publication reflects GAO’s actual cost of
                      production and distribution and depends on the number of pages in the
                      publication and whether the publication is printed in color or black and
                      white. Pricing and ordering information is posted on GAO’s website,
                      http://www.gao.gov/ordering.htm.
                      Place orders by calling (202) 512-6000, toll free (866) 801-7077, or
                      TDD (202) 512-2537.
                      Orders may be paid for using American Express, Discover Card,
                      MasterCard, Visa, check, or money order. Call for additional information.
                      Connect with GAO on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.
Connect with GAO      Subscribe to our RSS Feeds or E-mail Updates. Listen to our Podcasts.
                      Visit GAO on the web at www.gao.gov.
                      Contact:
To Report Fraud,
                      Website: http://www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm
Waste, and Abuse in   E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov
Federal Programs      Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470

                      Katherine Siggerud, Managing Director, siggerudk@gao.gov, (202) 512-
Congressional         4400, U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room
Relations             7125, Washington, DC 20548

                      Chuck Young, Managing Director, youngc1@gao.gov, (202) 512-4800
Public Affairs        U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149
                      Washington, DC 20548




                        Please Print on Recycled Paper.