Monday, October 8, 2007

The Consumer Product Safety Commission

While it appears the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) has been busy pulling toys from shelves, it appears as if the Commission has failed to be as vigilant in pulling other reportedly dangerous products off of store shelves. According to a New York Times article today, the CPSC had been previously notified of the fact that a waterproofing product may be hazardous to the health of those who purchased it; however, even after months after such warnings, the product remains available for sale.

As stated in the article, “The task of getting dangerous products out of consumers’ reach is perhaps the most pressing challenge the Consumer Product Safety Commission faces in this era of surging recalls, particularly of products from China.” However, as evidenced by the facts presented in this story, the CPSC has failed to live up to this challenge in a case where they were reportedly warned of potential dangers months in advance.

Perhaps, as the article proposes, the CPSC “is too overwhelmed with reports of injuries and with new hazards to comprehensively investigate or follow up on many complaints”, especially in the current environment with the recent discovery of dangerous levels of lead paint in so many products being marketed to children. Additionally, the article proposes that the CPSC’s laboratories are too outdated to prove effective. Congress is in fact apparently discussing measures that would attempt to increase the CPSC’s budget to ensure the Commission remains effective in its mission, indicating that one or both of these propositions may be true.

Unfortunately, it seems that it takes a widespread outbreak of complaints and/or illness to occur to bring attention to problems such as this. Without the rash of recalls of imported toys, today’s story of warnings having gone unheeded by the CPSC may not have received such publicity. However, this toy recall has seemingly put everybody on guard against hazardous products and has caused the public to pay more attention to such dangers. Hopefully, this will draw attention not only to the need to keep the CPSC adequately funded, but also draw attention to other such organizations that may have been neglected and as such may not be operating as efficiently as they could be. No matter, something obviously needs to be done that will allow the CPSC to improve their effectiveness in order to ensure consumers are not being unnecessarily exposed to hazardous products.

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