Product Safety: New Threats and the Biggest Problem Today
One of the main challenges of product safety is keeping up with the continuous flow of new information. The science and laws on the subject are always changing, developing and moving on to new things, so to best protect your business you need to make every effort to stay current. To make that struggle a little easier for you, I was able to get some insights on current and future product safety issues facing the industry from Larry Whitney, manager trade compliance for Leed's. Though brief, our conversation covered a bunch of new upcoming safety concerns, such as triclosan and lithium batteries, as well as the biggest safety issue facing the industry today.
Promo Marketing: What do you think the next big product safety issue for this industry will be, and why?
Larry Whitney: Take your pick of any number of issues:
- Microban/Triclosan* is used as an antibacterial treatment in many consumer products and products in our industry, and it is under study by the FDA and EPA as an endocrine disruptor—similar to what we saw with BPA. There have been reports that new regulations might be forthcoming by the end of this year.
- Fabric treatments for flammability are starting to get publicity over their health dangers.
- Lithium batteries in consumer products have lead to several fires—and two cargo airliner crashes in the past year. The DOT is considering regulations to ban shipments by air of products with lithium batteries.
- BPA will continue to keep popping up because the press just figured out that it is common in cash register receipts, epoxy dental fillings and canned food.
- Vinyl. Some large end-users are starting to indicate that they are phasing out purchases of any products made with vinyl. Since vinyl used in so many products in our industry, this could be earth-shattering for many companies.
*Mike's note: I had no idea what Microban and triclosan were, so I had to look them up. According to the FDA, "Triclosan is an ingredient added to many consumer products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination. It may be found in products such as clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys. It also may be added to antibacterial soaps and body washes, toothpastes, and some cosmetics." Microban is a corporate chemical brand that is also an antibacterial and antifungal/anti-algae additive, similar in purpose to Triclosan though it's actually a collection of technologies designed to prevent bacteria and mold (see its own website description), rather than a single antibacterial chemical like triclosan.
PM: Currently, what do you think is the biggest product safety hurdle currently facing the industry, and why is this the case?