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In Congress next week, the familiar routine

A hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday by the Senate Commerce Committee, the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee, "Formaldehyde in Consumer Products/Textiles." This is the subcommittee chaired by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) that oversaw consideration of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act last year.

Last year, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman held accusatory hearings about formaldehyde in travel trailers supplied by FEMA to Katrina victims. The industry is concentrated around Elkhart, Ind., where the economy has since collapsed, turning it into a stage for President Obama to promote his stimulus policies.

The travel trailer hearings came amid lots of litigation against the industry, although a federal judge refused to certify a Katrina-related class action suit against the industry. (Interesting. FEMA says opening the windows is a big help.)

(UPDATE: The plaintiff's lawyers have hired a D.C. lobbyist to lobby for a health care fund for "families exposed to formaldehyde.")

As for the hearing on formaldehyde in clothing, one factor is lingerie litigation. From AP, April 8:

NEW ORLEANS -- Women in several states claim Victoria's Secret bras gave them rashes and other skin problems, and a group of lawyers sought Wednesday to consolidate their cases against the lingerie chain.

Federal lawsuits filed in Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey and New York accuse Victoria's Secret and its parent company, Limited Brands Inc., of negligently designing undergarments and misrepresenting the safety of their products.

This will be a well-covered hearing.

Yes, yes, not a joking matter. But neither are Congressional hearings that serve to further speculative litigation over overreaching legislation targeting an industry. We'll count on there being a good, substantive discussion of all the important issues.

Incidentally, two bills have been introduced in the current Congress to address the FEMA travel trailer issue:

H.R.1661 : To establish a health registry to ensure that certain individuals who may have been exposed to formaldehyde in a travel trailer have an opportunity to register for such registry and receive medical treatment for such exposure, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Barrow, John [GA-12] (introduced 3/23/2009) Cosponsors (None)
Committees: House Energy and Commerce
Latest Major Action: 3/23/2009 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

S.713 : A bill to require the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to quickly and fairly address the abundance of surplus manufactured housing units stored by the Federal Government around the country at taxpayer expense.
Sponsor: Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR] (introduced 3/26/2009) Cosponsors (None)
Committees: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Latest Major Action: 4/1/2009 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Ordered to be reported with an amendment favorably.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.