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Experts Discuss Consumer Safety Legislation and Eco-Labeling at the ANSI Legal Issues Forum

New York, Oct 15, 2009

On October 6, 2009, nearly 80 legal experts and members of the standards and conformity assessment community came together for the 2009 Legal Issues Forum: Standards for Safety and Sustainability. The forum was held by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as part of the World Standards Week 2009 series of events.

Participants addressed critical legal issues that relate to the standards community through two panel sessions: Examining the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), and Eco-labeling: Helping to Shape the Sustainable Marketplace.

“Both personal safety and environmental impact have become major considerations for consumers making purchasing decisions on a daily basis,” said Patricia Griffin, ANSI vice president and general counsel. “The Legal Issues Forum panelists addressed these issues and made organizations aware of how standards bodies may be affected by legal developments in these areas.”

The first panel, which highlighted the CPSIA and its relevance to the standards community, kicked off with an introduction by Scott Cooper, ANSI vice president of government relations. Attendees heard presentations from three experts:

  • Lauren Reeder of King & Spalding, LLP
  • Nancy A. Nord of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
  • Donald L. Mays of Consumers Union/Consumer Reports

Ms. Reeder gave an overview of the CPSIA, focusing on the important issue of restrictions on the levels of lead in products, specifically children’s products and furniture, and how authorities have broader enforcement power to implement the Act. Ms. Nord addressed several CSPIA-related issues that are still pending, including the proposed “15 month rule” that would mandate continued testing for product compliance. Mr. Mays highlighted the importance of the Act from a consumer perspective and noted that, despite the great leaps made by signing the CPSIA into law, there are still remaining concerns to address.

In the second panel of the forum, speakers discussed the legal issues related to the use of labels that claim products and services are “green” and environmentally friendly. Following an introduction by Mary C. McKiel, Ph.D., of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), three speakers gave their perspectives on the topic of labels in a sustainable marketplace:

  • Robert S. Kaye of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection
  • Jill Wasserman of King & Spalding, LLP
  • Urvashi Rangan of Consumers Union/Consumer Reports

All of the speakers recognized the need and demand for “green” and environmentally friendly products, but emphasized the general lack of consumer awareness surrounding meanings of labels describing products as such. They also discussed the practice of manufacturers placing vague or even unsubstantiated labels on products or services. Participants were surprised to learn that familiar phrases such as “eco-friendly,” “biodegradable,” and even “natural” are not necessarily controlled or verified. While many voluntary consensus standards and the FTC’s Green Guides already exist and are working to help protect consumers, the general consensus by speakers and participants alike was that there is a need to further boost consumer awareness and reduce marketplace confusion regarding eco-labeling.

For more information or to view presentations given during the Legal Issues Forum, please visit the event page. Questions and comments may be directed to Patricia Griffin, ANSI vice president and general counsel (212.642.4954;