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Consumer Product Safety Commission is a little agency with a big job

The CPSC works to protect consumers by banning dangerous products

Published: July 2013

The CPSC has investigated consumer complaints about exploding bakeware.

This summer, when you start up your lawn mower, dive into a swimming pool, or crank up the gas grill, you want the peace of mind of knowing that those products are safe.

There’s a small government agency with the very big job of overseeing those items—and about 15,000 other kinds of products—to make sure they’re safe.

It’s the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and despite its limited staff and resources, the CPSC has made a real difference in reducing the number of product-related injuries and deaths over the last four decades. The agency bans dangerous products, issues recalls, investigates potential hazards, and provides a wealth of free tips and advice.

Product safety is one of the biggest priorities for Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, so our advocates spend a lot of time working with regulators at the CPSC to help keep harmful items off the store shelves.

Last week, the CPSC held a public meeting (PDF) for consumer groups and industry organizations to sound off on what Consumers Union thinks are some of the biggest safety concerns facing consumers right now and in the year ahead.

Read "Microwave Mystery," our investigation into when wayward appliances warrant a recall.

Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, testified on behalf of our organization, and she brought up a wide range of issues, including:

  • Keeping colorful detergent pods, some of which resemble candy, out of the hands of children, in order to prevent the horrible injuries caused by ingesting the highly concentrated liquid in the pods.
  • Making sure the CPSC keeps moving forward to enforce and implement an important 2008 law to improve the safety of consumer products such as high chairs and strollers.
  • Ensuring that you can find out whether other consumers had dangerous experiences with household products on the SaferProducts.gov database.
  • Investigating consumer complaints about exploding glass bakeware.
  •  Improving standards for bike helmets.
  • Cracking down on possible health risks from flame-retardant chemicals used on baby products, mattresses, and upholstered furniture.

This meeting has become a sort of annual tradition at the CPSC in recent years, and we tip our hat to the dedicated people who carry out their safety mission every day. We share many of the same goals at Consumers Union, to promote safer products and educate the public.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the public-policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.



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