Has Consumer Product Safety Commission Gone from Doing Too Little to Doing Too Much?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012
For nearly a decade during the George W. Bush administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was routinely criticized for not carrying out its mandate to protect consumers. Since the election of President Barack Obama, the commission has made some strides. But even some consumer advocates say there is the risk of the CPSC becoming too active, although they’re not ready to say that’s the problem yet.
 
During the administration of President George W. Bush, the commission deteriorated to a bare-bones operation that was ineffective when it came to protecting the public. While thousands of toys were sold each year, the CPSC had only one employee testing suspected defective toys. Safety initiatives were stalled or dropped after dozens of jobs were eliminated in budget cutbacks. Some workers quit in frustration. The head of the poison prevention unit, for example, resigned when efforts to require inexpensive child-resistant caps on hair care products that had burned toddlers were delayed so that industry costs could be weighed against the potential benefit to children.
 
In March 2005, the commission called together the nation’s top safety experts to confront an alarming statistic: 44,000 children riding all-terrain vehicles were injured the previous year, nearly 150 of them fatally. National associations of pediatricians, consumer advocates and emergency room doctors urged the commission to ban sales of adult-size ATVs for use by children under 16 because the machines were too big and fast for young drivers to control. But when it came time to consider such a step, John Gibson Mullan, a former industry lawyer working for the CPSC said the situation wasn’t that serious and that the commission should be “very careful about making any changes.”
 
Under President Obama, the commission launched SaferProducts.gov, a new government database that stores consumer complaints of harm related to the use of products. The website also provides a separate form for businesses to enter reports of product hazards.
 
As for product recalls, one advocate recently acknowledged that while the commission needs to be vigilant in ordering unsafe goods off the market, it needs to be aware that too many recalls could be bad for consumers.
 
Stacy Genovese, who oversees testing at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, a consumer advocacy organization since 1900, said, “that if the public is inundated with news about product recalls, some of which are for items that are only minimally harmful or dangerous, consumers will start tuning them out and miss those [recalls] that are most important.”
 
An example Genovese cited was the recall of Disney watches because they could cause skin irritation in people with nickel allergies. “If every item that has a potential to cause an allergic reaction is recalled, consumers would be prevented from enjoying lots of food and products.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
The Controversy over Product Recalls (by Stacy Genovese, Good Housekeeping)

Safety Agency Faces Scrutiny Amid Changes (by Eric Lipton, New York Times) 

Comments

Quin Dodd 6 years ago
having never even heard of this obscure "allgov" web site before, i was initially intrigued by the salacious and patently misinformed attacks of mr. brinkerhoff on the cpsc and it's commissioners. now, after reading two of his silly "articles," on the agency, i must admit that i am more intrigued by the site's "browse singles now," from which i'm confident i can find more authoritative information on product safety.
Joseph Mraz 6 years ago
not doing enough as it pertains to americans being sickened by domestic drywall....no health findings...really ? mr.cohen told the senator that his own investigators could not stay in these homes without their eyes burning, etc.. so, that begs the question, why not order a health study like you did in another case (case law) a six year study to be exact? you know of the chemicals, you know your own employees/investigators eyes are burning etc., but no health findings....really contradicted yourselves on that one. the safer products.gov is more for the corporations and less for the consumer. even having evidence to refute statements made by corporation and letting the corporation misquote the cpsc's own finding , written findings is not doing too much....it is not doing enough. americans need to be safe in their homes and the truth needs to be published . the homeowners facts.

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