Consumer Product Safety Commission

Consumer Product Safety Commission

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (U. S. CPSC) is an independent agency of the U.S. federal government created in 1972 through the Consumer Product Safety Act to protect “against unreasonable risks of injuries associated with consumer products”. As of 2006 its acting chairman is Nancy Nord, a Republican. The other commissioner is Thomas Hill Moore, a Democrat. Normally the board has three commissioners. However, in July 2006, the former chairman, Hal Stratton, a Republican, resigned, leaving one seat vacant. After waiting eight months to make an appointment, in March 2007 President George W. Bush raised controversy after nominating Michael E. Baroody, an industry lobbyist and the former head of the National Association of Manufacturers, as the new chairman. Afterwards, the board was able to operate with a legal quorum for six months with only two commissioners, or until January 2007. The board was unable to adopt new rules, enact penalties, or order recalls until an amendment to a homeland security bill, signed August 3, 2007, allowed the commission to meet for the next six months.

The CPSC has the authority to regulate the sale and manufacture of more than 15,000 different consumer products, from cribs to all-terrain vehicles, and from barbecue grills to swimming pools. Products not under jurisdiction of the CPSC include those specifically named by law as under the jurisdiction of other federal agencies; for example, automobiles are regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), guns are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATFE), and drugs are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recently, the CPSC has taken action against suppliers of chemicals that could be used to manufacture fireworks. Within the scientific and educational communities, there are some who feel these actions have hampered legitimate scientific research (such as research into the use of hydrogen as an automobile fuel), model rocketry, and high school chemistry projects.

CPSC fulfills its mission to protect consumers against unreasonable risk of injury by developing voluntary and mandatory standards, banning dangerous consumer products, issuing recalls of products already on the market, and researching potential hazards associated with consumer products. CPSC learns about unsafe products in several ways. The agency maintains a consumer hotline and website through which consumers may report concerns about unsafe products or injuries associated with products. The agency also operates the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a probability sample of about 100 hospitals with 24-hour emergency rooms. NEISS collects data on consumer product related injuries treated in ERs and can be used to generate national estimates.

In the 1970s the CPSC issued regulations on bicycles, which required a number of reflectors—including a white reflector mounted above the handlebar stem (the usual location for a bicycle headlight) and can only be seen by a motorist if the bicycle is being ridden on the wrong side of the road—as well as auxiliary brake levers (variously known as "safety levers" and "suicide levers.") These regulations were widely criticized by adult cyclists, like John Forester, as stemming from the belief that all bicycles are ridden by children and as providing the illusion of safety but actually creating a new hazard.

Lead-Free Toys Act require the CPSC to ban children´s products containing more than a trace amount of lead.

Industry-sponsored travel controversy

On November 2, 2007, the Washington Post reported that between 2002 and the date of their report, former chairman Hal Stratton and current acting chairman Nancy Nord had taken over 30 trips paid for by manufacturing groups or lobbyists representing industries that are under the supervision of the agency. According to the Post, the groups paid for over $60,000 travel and related expenses during this time.

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