By  on April 2, 2009

WASHINGTON — Saying the costly requirements of a new consumer product safety law are forcing them out of business, hundreds of business executives rallied on Capitol Hill Wednesday and urged lawmakers to make changes in the measure.

The business owners argue the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which went into effect last year, has had a devastating financial impact because it mandates strict standards on lead and testing requirements on a broad range of children’s and tween products.

The legislation requires significant reductions in lead standards in all children’s apparel, jewelry, footwear and toys, increasing the age level that defines children’s products to 12 years from eight years and raising fines for violations to a maximum of $15 million from $1.8 million. The penalty for individual violations, assessed per product, went to $100,000 from $5,000.

Congressional proponents of the measure said they wanted to improve product safety and strengthen the understaffed Consumer Product Safety Commission, giving it more personnel and increased funding after a string of contaminated imports from China last year.

Rep. Joe Barton (R., Tex.) and 16 House Republicans introduced a bill on Tuesday to make changes to the law, including setting specific dates for products to meet the standards and allowing retailers to sell inventory for one year after the manufacturing standards go into effect. But Democratic leaders, who control the agendas in both the House and Senate, supported the bill last year and any attempts to change it face stiff opposition.

Carrying buttons, T-shirts and stickers emblazoned with “Amend the CPSIA,” the executives rallied with several Republican lawmakers and then fanned out across the Capitol to push their case with lawmakers.

“Our industry has seen companies go out of business as a result of this act,” said Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer at the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “Our industry members are laying off people, and our industry has incurred severe financial losses.”

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