Nancy Beck’s Senate confirmation hearing June 16 turned out badly for her.
Beck was nominated by President Donald Trump to lead the Consumer Products Safety Commission. After a Republican member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation declared opposition, however, it appears that confirmation is unlikely.
“Dr. Nancy Beck’s record as it relates to PFAS chemicals, as well as her responses to my questions and the questions of other Senators at yesterday’s Commerce Committee hearing have led me to conclude that she is not the right person to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said in a statement June 17. “The CPSC chairman should be someone who applies the proper balance between protecting public health and the environment and the needs of our economy. I will vote against Dr. Beck’s confirmation in both the Commerce Committee and on the Senate floor.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is not a member of the committee, offered a similar statement.
Beck would fill an empty seat
If she were confirmed, Beck would fill a seat vacated last year by former Acting Chairwoman Ann Marie Buerkle. The CPSC currently has four commissioners. Acting Chairman Robert S. Adler and Commissioner Elliot Kaye were appointed by President Barack Obama. Commissioners Peter Feldman and Dana Baiocco were nominated by President Trump. That potentially will create deadlocks on important actions – including furniture stability. CPSC staff is developing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address the problem of bedroom chests and dressers tipping over on children. That notice is expected by the end of September, but it’s not known whether it will be more rigorous than the voluntary standard published by ASTM International.
The Home Furnishings Association is a member of ASTM’s Furniture Safety Subcommittee.
In the past year, CPSC has announced several recalls of products – most sold exclusively online – that fail to meet the ASTM standard. HFA and the American Home Furnishings Alliance have both asked CPSC to set a mandatory standard, which would help remove unsafe, unstable bedroom chests and dressers from the market.
Tip-over remains a high priority
HFA urges its members not to sell products that don’t meet the ASTM standard and to encourage customers to anchor bedroom chests and dressers to hard surfaces to prevent tip-overs. Many accidents occur when children try to climb up opened drawers. That can pull an unstable unit over, crushing or trapping the child underneath. Preventing those accidents is an industry and CPSC priority.
Beck, who holds a doctorate in environmental health, acknowledged tip-over as a CPSC priority during the hearing. But she faltered under questioning about how she handled other regulatory matters during her time leading the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention during the Trump administration.
If she withdraws from consideration, as seems likely, HFA encourages the president to quickly submit another nominee. CPSC needs leadership that will promote reasonable and practical product safety.