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ASTM Promotes Consumer Protection
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 December 2007
From the Editor's Desk

Maryann Gorman
Email Maryann Gorman

ASTM Promotes Consumer Protection

This month, the holiday news cycle is rife with stories that are creating anxiety among consumers. Worries about toy safety, after a six-month period that has seen an unusual number of recalls, has made the holiday shopping season seem like an obstacle course to people buying gifts for young family members and friends. Many consumers are newly aware of the network of government agencies, industry and consumer advocates that has worked to ensure the safety of products manufactured, exported and imported in the global marketplace.

Standards developers such as ASTM International may not be well-known among many consumers, but they play an important part in that network. Two articles in this issue show how ASTM and its Committee F15 on Consumer Products have worked in concert with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and industry over the course of many years to identify and mitigate potential and known hazards in products for consumer use. This has been accomplished not only through Committee F15’s timely development of standards, but also through ASTM International’s global cooperation program.

Since its formation in the early 1970s, Committee F15 has served as common ground for stakeholders with a shared interest in making consumer products as safe as possible. The framework of the consensus standards development process has given these groups a way to overcome differences and work toward the common good. The structure of ASTM International’s process in particular, with its tools for rapid document development, allows for this work to take place in compressed time frames as well. This was borne out recently when a small-magnet hazard was identified in toys and Committee F15 responded in just nine months with a revision to its major toy standard addressing the magnet issue.

In order to manufacture safe products, it goes without saying that industries around the world must have access to the regulations and standards of their export markets. Toward this end, ASTM International engages governments and industries in
developing nations through its memorandum of understanding program. ASTM provides access to its standards development process and to the standards themselves, many of which are cited in regulations worldwide, to 54 developing nations, giving them the tools they need to trade successfully in the global marketplace. In addition, ASTM has an outreach program specific to China, where we have created an office that works with government officials and industry to help ensure awareness of ASTM standards and encourage greater Chinese involvement in their development.

2007 has been a challenging year for toy manufacturers and consumers alike, but ASTM International and its Committee F15 are working hard, as they have been for many years, to create safer products and ease consumer concerns. As we close out
another year, I wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief