What Is the Role of the Consumer Product Safety Commission

When you purchase a product, you trust that it is safe to use. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is a federal organization that creates and enforces standards to keep American products safe. It continuously monitors consumer product injuries and deaths to pinpoint areas of concern and product safety risks. 

What Is the Consumer Product Safety Commission?

Congress created the CPSC on October 27, 1972, when it passed the Consumer Product Safety Act. The CPSC comprises five commissioners appointed by the President and approved by the Senate for a seven-year term.

As an independent regulatory agency within the federal government, the CPSC monitors consumer products sold in the U.S. Its purpose is to:

  • Protect consumers against unreasonable risk of injury due to consumer products
  • Help consumers determine the comparative safety of products
  • Establish uniform safety standards for consumer products across the country
  • Minimize regulatory conflicts on the state and local levels
  • Research and investigate product-related deaths and injuries 
  • Conduct recalls of dangerous products
  • Establish regulations to reduce or prevent product-related deaths and injuries

Which Laws Does the CPSC Enforce?

As a federal regulatory agency, the CPSC is responsible for maintaining and enforcing the following acts of Congress:

The Consumer Product Safety Act 

The Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) was established in 1972 because Congress found that an unreasonable number of unsafe products were being distributed to consumers across the country. Since state and local regulations varied widely, Congress determined that it was in the best interests of the public to provide safety standards at a federal level. 

The CPSA defines consumer products as any item or component that is produced or distributed in the U.S. for personal or household use. The Act specifically excludes:

  • Items not produced or distributed for sale, use, or enjoyment
  • Tobacco and tobacco products
  • Motor vehicles or equipment
  • Pesticides
  • Guns, firearms, shells, and cartridges
  • Aircraft, aircraft engines, and components
  • Boats
  • Drugs, medical devices, and cosmetics
  • Food and beverage products

Products the CPSC does not regulate are typically subject to safety standards under other regulatory organizations like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). 

The Flammable Fabrics Act

The Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA) establishes standards for flammable fabrics in clothes, interior furnishings, paper, plastic foam, clothing textiles, vinyl plastic film for clothes, carpets, rugs, mattresses, and mattress pads.

Flammability standards in the FFA are designed to limit the use of highly flammable materials that could catch fire when exposed to heat.

The Federal Hazardous Substances Act

The Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) provides guidelines for hazardous substances. Hazardous substances under FHSA are categorized as follows:

  • Toxic substances, like certain pesticides and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • Corrosive substances, like sulfuric acid, bromine, and hydrogen peroxide
  • Irritants, including solvents, cleaning products, and dyes
  • Strong sensitizers such as epoxy resin and formaldehyde
  • Flammable or combustible materials, like kerosene or diesel
  • Explosive products, like aerosols and fireworks

The FHSA applies to household products that people are likely to be exposed to in and around their living spaces. The law creates standards for labeling and warnings to protect consumers from potential substantial injury or illness. 

The Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970

The Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) aims to reduce unintentional poisoning by requiring child-resistant packaging for household products and medications.

The Act was established in 1970 to make it more difficult for children to access hazardous products like prescription and OTC medications, cleaning products, and other products that could cause harm if ingested or handled.

Some common product packaging the PPPA governs includes aspirin, furniture polish, controlled drugs, turpentine, methyl alcohol, lighter fluid, and ethylene glycol.

The Refrigerator Safety Act of 1956

The Refrigerator Safety Act of 1956 was created to prevent young children from being trapped in refrigerators. The Act creates strict regulations for refrigerator door closing mechanisms. Regulations require that refrigerators manufactured and sold after 1956 include a mechanism to open refrigerator doors from the inside. 

If you or a loved one were injured as a result of a CPSC violation, you could pursue justice through a product liability lawsuit or mass torts claim.

How Does the Consumer Product Safety Commission Enforce Regulations?

To ensure that consumer product manufacturers and distributors adhere to standards and regulations, the CPSC creates voluntary and mandatory standards for specific products and industries. If companies do not meet those standards, the CPSC may:

  • Ban a product if standards cannot be established to protect the public from that product’s potential hazards
  • Recall a product from the market if it does not meet safety standards, including calling for repairs, replacements, or refunds
  • Research the risks and hazards associated with a product to determine whether a recall or ban is necessary

The CPSC also works to keep consumers informed and educated about potential hazards. They accept reports of unsafe consumer products and answer questions from the public regarding product safety standards within their purview.

Recent Recalls Involving the Consumer Product Safety Commission

If a CPSC investigation shows that a product violates mandatory standards, the Commission issues a Notice of Violation (NOV) to advise of the violation and how the company should correct it. If it is not corrected, the Commission may recall or ban the product. Recent CPSC recalls for standards violations include:

  • Bentex Children’s Clothing: In November 2022, the CPSC recalled approximately 87,000 Bentex brand children’s clothes sets due to high levels of lead. 
  • Polaris Snowmobiles: Approximately 138,000 Polaris snowmobiles were recalled in November 2022 due to fuel tank fire hazards.
  • Mockingbird Single-to-Double Strollers: The CPSC issued a recall in November 2022 for Mockingbird Single-to-Double Strollers for a faulty stroller frame that creates a fall risk.
  • Generac Portable Generators: About 321,160 Generac portable generators were recalled in November 2022 for potential finger amputation and crushing hazards.

Can I File a Mass Torts Claim for CPSC Violations?

If you suffered injuries because a company failed to meet CPSC standards, you could seek compensation for medical costs, lost income, and other losses in a mass torts lawsuit. A mass tort claim is a consolidated legal action comprising multiple injured consumers against the product manufacturer, distributor, or another responsible party. 

A mass torts lawyer who understands the role of the Consumer Product Safety Commission can help you determine whether you have grounds to file a lawsuit or join an existing mass torts claim. Complete our online contact form to connect with a lawyer for mass tort lawsuits in your area.