By Lynn L. Bergeson , Lisa M. Campbell, and Carla N. Hutton
Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, wrote to Amazon Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chair Jeff Bezos on October 7, 2020, requesting that he launch an investigation into the safety of Amazon’s product line, AmazonBasics, and answer a series of questions pertaining to the company’s product safety and recall practices. The Committee’s October 7, 2020, press release notes that the request comes after a CNN investigation found that many of AmazonBasics’ electronic products “have exploded, caught fire, sparked, melted, or otherwise created hazardous situations at rates well above comparable products.” According to the press release, many of these products were never recalled and continue to be sold.
In addition to their request that Bezos initiate an investigation into the safety of AmazonBasics products, Pallone and Schakowsky also seek answers to a series of questions, including:
- What Amazon-owned products are no longer for sale due at least in part to safety concerns?
- What products -- both Amazon-owned and third party -- have been officially recalled?
- What notification does Amazon provide to customers who have purchased products that are later recalled or found to be unsafe?
- In addition to direct notification, what other kinds of consumer or public outreach does Amazon conduct to ensure consumers properly dispose of, repair, or replace an unsafe product?
- How can consumers find information regarding recalled products? If information is not readily available, why not, and what plans exist to make it available?
- How can consumers report product safety issues to Amazon?
- How many staff does Amazon have devoted to ensuring that products sold on its platform follow all applicable laws and regulations, and that Amazon is in compliance with obligations to notify the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) when a product is suspected of being unsafe?
The letter requests a response no later than October 21, 2020.
The letter and request for answers to the questions noted above are another indication of the pressure certain Members in Congress are putting on Amazon to ensure the safety of the products the platform hosts. Amazon is under increasing scrutiny by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in this regard, as reported in our February 16, 2018, and June 17, 2020, blog items, and this Congressional inquiry seems more of the same. These efforts will almost certainly cause more pressure on product manufacturers to ensure the products they offer for sale on Amazon are compliant.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham
On August 7, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release stating that it has eliminated the new chemical backlog of over 600 chemicals: “[t]he current caseload is back at the baseline and now in line with the typical active workload.” The press release also announces improvements to new chemical safety reviews, which include operating principles, improvement of EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) new chemicals program, and further transparency, as detailed below.
EPA states it is committing to the following operating principles in its review of new chemicals:
- Where the intended uses in premanufacture notices (PMN) or other TSCA Section 5 notices (such as low volume exemption (LVE) requests) raise risk concerns, EPA will work with submitters, and, if the submitters submit timely amended PMNs addressing those concerns, EPA will generally make determinations based on those amended submissions.
- Where EPA has concerns with reasonably foreseen uses, but not with the intended uses as described in a PMN or LVE application, as a general matter, those concerns can be addressed through significant new use rules.
- As described in the risk evaluation rule released on June 22, 2017, identification of reasonably foreseen conditions of use will be fact-specific. It is reasonable to foresee a condition of use, for example, where facts suggest the activity is not only possible, but, over time under proper conditions, probable.
- The purpose of testing in a Section 5 order is to reduce uncertainty in regard to risk. Specifically, it is to address risk concerns that gave rise to a finding of “may present unreasonable risk” or another Section 5 finding other than “not likely to present unreasonable risk.” In addition, consistent with the statute, any request for testing by EPA will be structured to reduce and replace animal testing as appropriate.
EPA states it will continue to improve of its TSCA new chemicals program in the following ways:
- Redeploying staff to increase the number of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff working on new chemicals;
- Initiating a LEAN exercise (via EPA’s new time-saving and cost-effective tools) to streamline work processes around new chemicals review; and
- Institutionalizing a voluntary pre-submission consultation process so that submitters have a clear understanding of what information will be most useful for EPA’s review of their new chemical submission, and of what they can expect from EPA during the review process. While such engagement prior to submission is an additional up-front time and resource commitment by submitters and EPA, it should more than pay for itself with faster, better-informed EPA reviews.
EPA states it needs to be more transparent in how it makes decisions on new chemicals under TSCA, and will be instituting the following to implement that goal:
- In Fall 2017, EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT) intends to release, for public comment and stakeholder engagement, draft documents that will provide the public with more certainty and clarity regarding how EPA makes new chemical determinations and what external information will help facilitate these determinations;
- EPA will facilitate a public dialogue on its goal of continued improvement in the new chemicals review program; and
- EPA will continue posting weekly web updates of program statistics, so that manufacturers and the public can determine the disposition of cases as quickly as possible.
The American Chemical Society (ACS), together with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) and Honorary Co-Hosts Representatives Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), through ACS’ Science & the Congress Project have announced that they will be hosting a panel on “Alternatives to Animal Testing: Emerging Uses and Policy Implications” on Tuesday, September 13, 2016, from Noon - 1:30 p.m. on Capitol Hill at the Cannon House Office Building in Room 340. The panel will cover new and evolving non-animal based technologies and science that are being used to advance toxicology and safety testing and improve prospects in biomedical research, and will discuss how to robustly develop and incentivize adoption of these new methods, followed by an audience Q&A. Lunch will be provided. The moderator and panelists include:
- Pamela Frasch, J.D., Lewis & Clark Law School (Moderator);
- Warren Casey, Ph.D., National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program;
- Amy Clippinger, Ph.D., PETA International Science Consortium Ltd.;
- Paul A. Locke, J.D., Dr. P.H., JHSPH;
- Pamela J. Spencer, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., Scientific Director of Toxicology and Environmental Research & Consulting, The Dow Chemical Company.
Registration for the panel is available online.
An Environmental Law Institute Seminar and Webinar, Complimentary for members, $50 for non-members.
On June 22, 2016 President Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, amending the Toxic Substances Control Act for the first time since its passage in 1976. While environmental organizations, public health advocates, the regulated community, and EPA have all supported updating the law since at least 2009, political challenges seemed destined to prevent comprehensive reform. Nonetheless, dedicated advocates from various stakeholder groups and committed members of Congress and their staffs overcame the hurdles and passed the most significant federal environmental law in a quarter century.
How did stakeholders and elected officials negotiate the political gridlock surrounding most recent attempts at environmental legislation? How were major issues such as the preemption of state law and financing addressed? What other roadblocks were overcome, and what can environmental, public health, and industry advocates learn from the experience?
Join us to examine the unique history of TSCA reform, and hear from people and organizations critical to its ultimate success. Speakers will share insight from the road to reform and field questions from the audience.
John Pendergrass, VP of Programs & Publications, Environmental Law Institute (moderator)
Lynn Bergeson, Managing Partner, Bergeson & Campbell PC
Sarah Brozena, Senior Director of Regulatory & Technical Affairs, American Chemistry Council
Richard Denison, Lead Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund
David Goldston, Director of Government Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council (invited)
Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator, Office of Chemical Safety & Pollution Prevention, US EPA
David J. McCarthy, Chief Counsel, Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Senator Tom Udall, US Senate (D-NM)
July 14, 2016
2:30 PM to 4:00 PM ET
Environmental Law Institute
1730 M Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
And via webinar
Environmental Law Institute | 1730 M Street NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036 | 1.202.939.3800 | http://www.eli.org