Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), United States
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent federal agency designed to protect the public against unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths associated with consumer products. Congress established the commission in 1972, as part of the Consumer Product Safety Act. The CPSC regulates more than 15,000 types of consumer products, from coffee pots to toys. The commission's jurisdiction, however, is limited. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles are governed by the U.S. Department of Transportation; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) oversees cosmetics, food and drugs. Alcohol, tobacco, and firearms fall under the domain of the U.S. Treasury Department.
Since its inception, the CPSC has conducted research on potential product hazards and vigorously pursued and enforced mandatory standards on many consumer products. The Consumer Product Safety Act requires manufacturers to report serious product defects in a timely manner. Failure to do so can result in civil penalties. In 2001, the commission fined Fisher-Price $1.1 million on charges that it failed to disclose a fire hazard in a popular toy. The fine was the largest against a toy firm in CPSC's history.
Product recalls are one of the most familiar actions of the CPSC. Recall information is posted on the commission's Web site and circulated throughout the news media. One of the largest recalls in recent history involved 650,000 baby strollers that collapsed while in use. The CPSC and Ohio-based Century Products announced the historical recall after hundreds of children suffered injuries.
The backbone of the CPSC is the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). The system compiles data on consumer product-related injuries occurring in the U.S., as documented by hospital emergency departments. Such data allow the CPSC to make timely national estimates of the number of injuries associated with, although not necessarily caused by, specific consumer products. CPSC analysts study the data for important clues to the cause and potential prevention of injuries.
The Washington, D.C. headquartered agency has an operating budget of approximately $56 million and employs approximately 480 people. In 2002, President George W. Bush nominated attorney Hal Stratton as the eighth chairman of the agency.
█ FURTHER READING:
Consumer Product Safety Commission "Who We Are; What We Do For You." December 12, 2002 < http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/103.html > (December 10, 2002).