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 January 2007
Washington Notebook
Jeffrey Grove is ASTM International’s director of government and industry affairs.

Legislators Count on ASTM International Standards to Protect Children and Preserve the Environment

Legislators at the federal and state levels continue to recognize the quality and relevance of ASTM International standards by choosing to reference them to accomplish their legislative and regulatory agendas. At the federal level, the omnipresent role of ASTM in the U.S. regulatory system is well documented by the 3,350 references to ASTM standards contained in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. At the state level, the most recent session of legislative activity resulted in several state legislatures enacting legislation referencing various ASTM standards in areas including swimming pool safety, the performance of cribs and juvenile products, the flammability of cigarettes, the safety of playground equipment, the tamper resistance of gas cans, and the environmental impact of plastic food and beverage containers.

Swimming Pool Safety

In 2006 testimony before Congress, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that over 200 children under five years of age drown in swimming pools every year and more than 2,000 children visit hospital emergency rooms after submersion in pools. CPSC staff have joined technical experts from industry and child safety advocates to work within ASTM technical committees in developing and strengthening voluntary safety standards for such pool-related products as fencing, alarms, drain covers and suction vacuum release systems. While ASTM’s safety standards for swimming pools and spas are widely recognized and used throughout the U.S. and in other countries around the world, important work is ongoing to assure the highest level of safety for children and families.

Demonstrating bipartisan interest and support in swimming pool and spa safety, certain states have chosen to mandate compliance with current voluntary safety standards. In the summer of 2006, the California legislature enacted into law AB 2977, requiring each newly constructed or remolded swimming pool or spa at a single-family home to be equipped with a mix of approved drowning prevention safety features. The list of California’s approved safety requirements includes conformance to ASTM F 2286, Design and Performance Specification for Removable Mesh Fencing for Swimming Pools, Hot Tubs, and Spas; F 1346, Performance Specification for Safety Covers and Labeling Requirements for All Covers for Swimming Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs; and F 2208, Specification for Pool Alarms.

Playground Equipment Standards

Each year, more than 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground-related injuries. In September 2006, California’s governor signed AB 1144, relating to playground safety standards, and enrolled it in the state’s Health and Safety Code. Beginning in January 2008, the new California law will require that all new publicly accessible playgrounds meet current ASTM International standards for playground safety and other specified standards that relate to the design, installation, inspection, and maintenance of a playground and playground equipment. Equipment or the modification of components inside existing playgrounds would also have to conform to ASTM playground-related standards and guidelines set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The enactment of AB 1144 “provides California with the most protective standards in the nation,” concluded California State Senator Tom Harman upon the bill’s enactment into law.

Child-Resistant Gas Cans

Nearly 50 children have been injured or killed in the past five years in the U.S. from gas can-related accidents. To address this threat to child safety, the California State Legislature enacted AB 2022 into law in 2006, prohibiting portable gasoline containers that are not designed according to specified child-resistant standards and approved and listed by the state fire marshal. ASTM F 2517, Specification for Determination of Child Resistance of Portable Fuel Containers for Consumer Use (or any successor standard issued by ASTM International) is identified as the primary criterion established for approval for use. California’s action adds gas cans to the list of other products such as pesticides, prescription drugs, aspirin bottles, and mouthwash that must be resistant to tampering by young children.

Reducing the Flammability of Cigarettes

In 2004, the state of New York was the first to require that cigarettes sold in the state be less flammable by testing in accordance with ASTM E 2187, Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes. In 2005 and 2006, Vermont, California, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts adopted similar cigarette legislation and compliance with the ASTM test method. As a result, nearly 26 percent of the U.S. population is now or soon will be better protected from cigarette fires thanks to state passage of cigarette legislation and adoption of the ASTM test method. Internationally, Canada has also required cigarette manufacturers to comply with the ASTM test method.

Integrity and Safety of Baby Cribs

Last year, the State of Illinois enacted into state law the Children’s Products Safety Act, placing a number of new regulations on the manufacture, distribution and sale of specific juvenile products such as baby cribs. The new law requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to develop and maintain a list of products that it deems as meeting stringent standards for the structural integrity of baby cribs and the safety of crib corner posts. ASTM baby cribs standards including F 966, Consumer Safety Specification for Full-Size and Non-Full-Size Baby Crib Corner Post Extensions; F 1169, Specification for Full Size Baby Crib; and F 406, Consumer Safety Specification for Non-Full-Size Baby Cribs/Play Yards, are specifically referenced by the new law. //

Environmental Impact of Plastic Products

The California state legislature has enacted new legislation regarding the labeling of plastic packaging containers. For the last couple of years, the California State Public Resources Code has required plastic packaging containers sold in the state and labeled as “biodegradable,” “compostable,” or “degradable” to meet ASTM D 6400-04, Specification for Compostable Plastics.

In an effort to provide consumers with accurate and useful information regarding the environmental impact of related plastic products, the legislature expanded the state code in 2006 to require that compostable plastic food or beverage containers — including food or drink items and utensils — that are labeled or marketed as biodegradable, compostable, or degradable conform to ASTM D 6400-04. This ASTM specification is the result of several years of intensive work by researchers, product manufacturers, composters, and resin producers to identify plastic and paper products, which disintegrate and biodegrade completely and safely when properly composted.

Conclusion

While ASTM International standards are globally recognized and used to advance a variety of commercial purposes, legislators and regulatory agencies are increasingly relying on voluntary consensus standards developed through ASTM International to accomplish their legislative and regulatory goal of enhancing the safety of children and the public in everyday life and in preserving the environment. It is vital that all interested stakeholders participate and have a voice in the development of ASTM voluntary consensus standards, particularly since they often become referenced in federal and state laws and regulations. While ASTM has had great success in working cooperatively with industry, regulators, consumers and other interested stakeholders to develop ASTM standards, enhanced cooperation and deeper participation will be key in meeting the challenges of the future. //

At the federal level, ASTM standards are referenced in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations over 3,300 times, establishing ASTM International as the single most referenced standards developing organization. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed an interactive Standards Incorporated by Reference Database that includes voluntary consensus standards, government unique standards, private industry standards, and international standards referenced in the CFR and those used by U.S. federal government agencies in their procurement activities. The SBIR database is an excellent source for standards and federal regulatory information and can be reviewed and searched by accessing the Web site.

 
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