TOPIC: Consumer Product Safety Commission

That old saw about business opposing regulation

In a radio story that would be just perfect on television, NPR’s Chris Arnold explores the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s decision to draft new safety regulations for table saws. Table saws injure more than 4000 people per year — meaning fingers and even hands getting cut off. Now an inventor has come up with a great new way to stop saw blades within 5/1000 of a second that they come into contact with human skin. It’s a great idea, and a great example of American ingenuity. But predictably, as Arnold reports, the power saw industry is opposing the CPSC’s decision to “a new regulation package which is likely to be released for public comment by the end of September.”

Crazy Idea Dept.: make things safe before you sell them

That’s what Dominique Browning is proposing in the New York Times.  She explains why “the system is broken” when it comes to product safety, and the surest evidence is in baby’s bottles.

CPSC consumer-driven database goes public, but faces uncertain future

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s new on-line database,, which allows consumers to post “reports” about defective products went into operation March 11th, and the first postings are now available to the public (as of April 1st).  But some members of Congress are still trying to shut it down.

Freshman legislator Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), an ardent budget-buster, authored an amendment to the 2011 budget bill to de-fund the database, and he continues to call for its demise.  The cost of creating the database came to $3 million out of the CPSC’s $29 million budget for upgrading its entire information technology operation. (more…)

Crib deaths and the progress of CPSC

The Chicago Tribune’s Ellen Gabler comes down hard on the Consumer Product Safety Commission for apparently not investigating 17 deaths over the last 20 years that have involved crib bumper pads. Gabler shows serious flaws and limitations with CPSC, but her reporting requires more context as to where the agency is and where it’s going.

Gabler finds that there are seventeen cases in CPSC reports where a crib bumper pad was involved in a child’s death, but the death wasn’t fully investigated. This lack of information, Gabler reports, is particularly glaring since CPSC is considering banning the bumper pads. (more…)

Business to CPSC: Let’s handle this offline

One of the signature reforms to the product safety system in America may be in danger, according to reporting by Andrew Martin in the New York Times.  The 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act meant more inspectors testing toys and a range of other products and overseas inspections of factories shipping goods to our shores (such as drywall from China).  It also meant the creation of an online public database where people can report problems they’ve had with different products they’re already using.  Martin notes on an amendment passed in the House of Representatives that would  “strip financing for the consumer products database.”  How about we trust the people and try this out?  (Rather than stating, as one member of Congress skeptically did, “I know what people put online.”)

Monday: Big news day for consumer safety

The public affairs officers at the Consumer Product Safety Commission must have had a busy weekend.  The CPSC has news on two initiatives today, both of them ambitious and both potentially game-changing in the sphere of product safety.  First, as Lyndsey Layton reports in the Washington Post, CPSC has formally announced plans to open up a public online database of safety complaints Americans submit about products they have purchased.  (more…)

CPSC finally bans deadly cribs

Inez Tennenbaum

The Chicago Tribune patted itself on the back today as the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned all cribs with a drop-side rail. Over the past three years, CPSC recalled more than 11 million cribs and received reports of 35 crib-related fatalities. “The new rules are a major victory for CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, who made crib safety one of her top priorities when she assumed her post in 2009,” write Patricia Callahan and Ellen Gebler. “Tennenbaum set out to remake an agency that had long been captive of industry.”

The Tribune also said it has played a part in promoting the new standards. (more…)

On poisonous drywall, Chinese companies stonewall CPSC

Consumer Product Safety Commission officials trying to find out the true source of hazardous materials, including sulfur, in drywall imported from China (a problem we’ve reported on previously) were subject to misinformation, disinformation, and just plain intimidation when they tried to find out where Chinese drywall might have been contaminated.  That story emerges in almost “handheld documentary” fashion in reporting from Joaquin Sapien and Aaron Kessler (of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune)  in ProPublica.  Their story shows why the U.S. government is going to have to be very creative if it wants to track hazardous products back to their source in today’s globalized economy.  (more…)

Toying with toymakers at the CPSC?

Any government reform is going to take time and effort, and the expansion of the Consumer Products Safety Commission to make sure unsafe products stay off store shelves is no exception.  When we most recently looked into the CPSC’s problems (before its 2008 revamping), it was clear that the independent agency was underfunded and understaffed, and that manufacturers were able to push their own agendas, often at the expense of the public safety. (more…)

Too much to recall: busy consumers don’t return dangerous items

Instead of just product recalls, how about a new approach to consumer safety that provides incentives and penalties to companies based on how well they protect the public safety?

Getting people to return defective and dangerous products takes much more than simply issuing a recall notice, reports Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post.   The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration, two agencies that are involved with product recalls, face a significant problem: thousands of Americans buy everything (more…)