With recalls at record levels, Consumers Union cautions about buying tainted goods

Consumer Reports News: December 02, 2008 12:25 PM

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the toy store, a report issued today by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, urges holiday shoppers to use caution. The report analyzed recalls made public by the Consumer Product Safety Commission during its 2008 fiscal year. The key findings of the report, called "Still Not Safe," include these:

  • Recalls were up 19 percent over last year, reaching 563 total recalls and involving at least 43 million items.
  • 97 percent of all products recalled were imported; 81 percent were made in China.
  • Two-thirds of all products recalled were children’s products including toys, nursery items and clothing.
  • 121 recalls, involving more than 12.2 million toys, pieces of children’s jewelry and other products, were due to high levels of lead. (Including the bookends pictured here.)
  • Three dollar-store chains collectively recalled almost 3 million products, accounting for 6.5 percent of the recalls during the 12-month period.

Large toy manufacturers had far fewer recalls this year than last, and some retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us, have already stepped up their testing programs. But the report calls for more vigilant surveillance of the marketplace by all retailers as well as the CPSC. Since the vast majority of recalled products were imported, it’s a clear indication that the CPSC has been ineffective in preventing unsafe goods from crossing our borders and getting into the hands of unsuspecting consumers.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act signed into law in August promises to remedy many of the problems we’ve seen in the past. Most of the provisions of the new law have yet to take effect, however. Until the law is in full force many months from now, consumers need to be cautious when buying low-cost, no-name goods from dollar stores or used products from consignment shops and through Web sites such as eBay and Craigslist. It’s important to make sure that you don’t buy products, either new or used, that have been recalled. Although the CPSIA forbids the sale of recalled products, it’s too early to tell whether the CPSC will be able to enforce that regulation.

You can check recalls and sign up for e-mail notifications at www.recalls.gov.

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