The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is a federal agency that protects the public from dangerous and deadly products.
“I know from talking with people that they think because it’s on shelves, it has been pre-approved government,” Alexander Hoehn Saric, Chair of the CPSC, told CBS MoneyWatch.
It is literally a matter for life and death that the agency has to accomplish its mission. The CPSC’s mission is to protect the public from injuries and death as well as property damage that can be linked to thousands of products. According to the agency, such incidents cost the United States more than $1 trillion annually.
The CPSC’s limited authority only adds to the difficulty. While there are safety standards and regulations in place, they are often voluntary. Manufacturers can choose to follow the recommendations for a variety of products, including bedrails and amusement park rides.
Unsafe products are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries in the United States each year, ranging from toys for children to portable gas generators and toasters. According to the CPSC, toys alone are responsible for sending tens of thousands children to emergency rooms. The CPSC estimates that 198,000 toys-related injuries were treated in America in 2020. Nineteen deaths occurred in children 12 years and under from choking on small pieces.
Turkey fryers, such as those made from random ingredients, pose a risk during holidays. The agency has cited the bird cookers in November as being responsible for more than 200 instances of scalding and burning since 1998. This caused 83 injuries and $9.7million in property damage. The CPSC has recalled a variety of turkey and deep fryers throughout the years in addition to periodic warnings.
Hoehn–Saric was confirmed as the CPSC Chair by the Senate in October. He and his 540 staff oversee thousands of consumer products that are used in homes, schools, and recreational areas. He hopes to raise the agency’s profile in order to better inform and protect the public.
He stated, “It is important that consumers know who we are so they can get help when they have problems or questions.”
Hoehn Saric advised consumers to do their research before purchasing. Hoehn-Saric stated that it is easy and quick to search for recalls and get product safety information. He pointed to saferproducts.gov, and cpsc.gov, as reliable sources.
Around 25% of the CPSC staff are in the field inspecting import shipments and stores for harmful products identification. The agency also has more than 30 members who test and evaluate products.
In its product investigations, the CPSC relies on consumer reports, hospitals and companies. The agency works with companies to recall dangerous products when they are discovered. Hoehn Saric stated that this is the most efficient way to get dangerous products out of the hands and fingers of consumers.
He noted that legally requiring companies for recalls can take years of litigation. During this time, the product may remain on the market.
What happens when companies stop playing ball?
The CPSC can warn consumers if a company refuses to recall. After one child’s death, and many injuries, the agency issued a warning to people with small pets and children about Peloton Interactive’s Tread+ treadmills in April. A month later, the company agreed to recall all Tread+ treadmills.
Recently, the CPSC cautioned against Leachco’s Podster infant loungers.
Hoehn Saric, who spoke out about the 2015 and 2018 fatalities said that Leachco had identified this product as dangerous due to the possibility of suffocation.
Peloton was not convinced by the Ada, Oklahoma-based firm. Leachco, which sold almost 180,000 baby loungers in 2009, called the death of an infant “truly tragic”, but it defended the product saying that it was not meant for unsupervised sleep.
The company was criticized by consumer advocates and received support from an industry trade organization.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association claimed that the CPSC engaged in “regulatory overload,” and the trade group argued that the agency should be educating parents about “only using baby product as intended.”
Kids in Danger, an advocacy group, called for Leachco’s stance to change. “Currently, too many products are made that appear to be for sleeping, but don’t provide safe sleeping environments,” it stated in a statement. We urge Leachco not to recall potentially dangerous products and to work hard to reach all customers.
Parents have been advised by the CPSC for years that a crib with a bare floor is the best place to sleep. However, it is difficult for an agency that is often hidden from the public to get the message across.
“We are talking about babies and infants, the most vulnerable. They can’t protect their own bodies so it’s up for all of us to ensure that products are safe. Hoehn Saric said that another level was getting the information out,” CBS MoneyWatch.
Last week, the CPSC approved a federal safety rule for crib mattresses. It was related to 139 deaths between January 2010 and April 2020. In order to lower the risk of suffocation, the new rule will take effect in the fall 2022. ,
Companies that violate the rules of the CPSC can be penalized by the CPSC, but they are limited to $16 million. This is a fair amount considering some of the larger corporations out there, he stated.