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CHICAGO — The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which is tasked with keeping American consumers safe from dangerous products, announced 219 product recalls in 2021 that hurt or sickened more than 6,000 Americans. Some of the most popular products included Peloton Tread+ Treadmills, Zen and Neoball Magnets and Boppy Company Newborn Loungers. A new analysis from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Product Recalls: Often Too Little Too Late, looks at last year’s recalls and suggests how to strengthen this crucial agency to better prevent hazardous products from ending up in our homes.
One jolting finding: Of the 23 deaths reported in connection with products recalled in 2021, 19 actually occurred before last year. Likewise, many of the 6,000-plus injuries occurred in previous years.
“The best protection for Americans is information, but because of a legal loophole, too often the CPSC and product manufacturers don’t divulge potentially life-saving information in a timely fashion,” said Hannah Rhodes, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Consumer Watchdog Associate and author of the report. “Consumers should not be able to buy a dangerous product or have it in their homes for weeks or months after the CPSC learns that those items are dangerous. We need to make sure that when the CPSC sees something, it can say something.”
Recalls are a vital step in protecting consumers. However, too often companies delay issuing recalls for weeks or months after injuries and deaths have been linked to their products. Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) allows recalling companies to negotiate with the CPSC about what information is publicly released. These negotiations delay public announcements, so consumers don’t know that a product they are considering buying or already may have in their home poses a threat. That’s a potentially fatal flaw in the process. In 2019, former CPSC Commissioner Elliot Kaye said, “People die because of Section 6(b). It is that simple.”
“Section 6(b) hinders the commission’s ability to do its job and educate the public about unsafe products,'' said Rhodes. “Until Section 6(b) is removed, Americans must protect themselves the best they can. They can sign up for safety notifications on the cpsc.gov or use saferproducts.gov when shopping online to see if a product has been recalled or to report a bad incident with a product. But the burden shouldn’t be on the buyer.”
U.S. PIRG Education Fund supports the Sunshine in Product Safety Act, introduced last year, that would repeal Section 6(b) of the CPSA and would allow for more transparency between the agency and consumers.
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