IN OTHER WORDS: Safety first

With the recent reports about toxic toys from China, the public is right to be alarmed by the withering of the government’s consumer product safety protections. Congress has been moving ahead on reform bills, but Congressional leaders will have to act deftly to prevent rivalry between the House and Senate from hampering passage of a truly effective final measure. Industry lobbyists are working hard to promote gridlock and stop the tough changes consumers need.

The House has been working on a strong bill to overhaul the Consumer Protection Safety Commission. The legislation wisely focuses on child safety, in light of the agency’s gross failures in spotting dangerous toys. It would tighten lead standards, renovate test labs and require independent third-party testing of all children’s products, both domestic and imported. Children’s crib and car safety standards would be strengthened.

The Senate’s reforms — which are also moving ahead, over objections from the Bush administration — would mandate more safety inspectors, a doubling of the agency budget to $141 million over seven years and the assignment of more consumer safety agents to ports of entry. Congress has to resist the industry lobbyists and the administration and pass a strong reform law that puts consumer safety first.