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Monday March 12, 2018

Industry Benefits and Costs plus Safety Pull at Each Other in Fireworks Debate

Which industry faction made the best case to commissioners March 7 could determine the fate of CPSC's NPR to update its fireworks regulations. At the core, the hours of input from stakeholders boiled down to the benefits to industry versus the costs to industry.


On the former, led by the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL), assertions included alignment with voluntary standards and other agency's regulations as well as – with audible effects – removal of subjectivity.


As for costs, the National Fireworks Association (NFA) warned about burdens associated with the expenses of both ensuring compliance and being found in violation. NFA said those would fall disproportionately on its members, which tend to be smaller. Failures could go up under proposed testing methods, it warned.


Nonetheless, the issue of consumer safety was intertwined in the debate, both in NFA's and other presenters' concerns about whether a focus on metallic powder and break charges truly serves safety as well as in commissioners' question about the safety of currently available fireworks and companies compliance efforts.


This safety focus included commissioners probing an issue raised by NFA at recent meetings with commissioners (PSL, 3/5/18) – loopholes involving alternative formulations being used to get around the tests to detect metallic powders. Pro-NPR industry representatives did acknowledge the possibility and pointed out that there is ongoing standards activity to address the problem.


CPSC launched the rulemaking following a late 2016 staff report (PSL, 1/2/17) that urged changes. CPSC extended the comment period, and after an initial trickle of positive comments (PSL, 4/24/17), it got thousands of remarks, many critical (PSL, 7/24/17). The point of the metallic powder test is to update the "ear test" for audible effects, deemed by some to be overly subjective, although others point out that connected testing makes it less so.