Product Liability

New product safety database a success, but still under attack

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s new Saferproducts database has been operating for little more than four months, but it is already a successful and valuable tool for consumers and manufacturers alike, says Consumer Reports. “There have been hundreds of thousands of visits to the new website, and people are reporting safety problems as intended,” Consumer Reports says. Some manufacturers had even found the database helpful to them in identifying potential hazards in their products and addressing them as needed.

Still, a powerful anti-consumer lobby wants the database shut down, and it is using politics to achieve that. While the database costs the CPSC $3 million to maintain – a bargain price considering its usefulness and its power to help make consumer products safer – it is on the chopping block again in current budget and debt-ceiling negotiations.

According to Consumer Reports, the House may soon vote to defund the Saferproducts database by slashing $3 million from the CPCS’s budget.

The threat lingers despite a recent study that shows how much the database has achieved in its first 12 weeks of operation. An analysis of the database conducted for Representative Henry Waxman found:

  • More than 1,600 incidents concerning product safety were reported, including 11 incidents involving fatalities, 483 reports involving product injuries, and many more reporting a product’s potential for injury.
  • One-third of the incident reports involved kitchen products. Incident reports involving home maintenance products, nursery equipment, nursery furniture and furnishings, and toys followed in that order.
  • Consumers provided almost all of the safety-incident reports. A small number were reported by state and local agencies, public safety officers, health care professionals, and childcare providers.
  • The website registered more than 305,000 visits and 1.8 million product searches.

For years, consumers have been able to access car and tire safety information through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Safercars database. Consumers can also look up safety information about food, cosmetics, prescription drugs, and medical devices on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.

But for all of the other products under the CPSC’s domain, there has been no such publicly accessible safety database until was created.

“Prior to launching the new database, the public would have to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and wait months or sometimes years to get product-specific safety information,” Consumer Reports said. “Now the information is available readily at your fingertips.”

Opponents of the new database said that the database could be easily abused and filled with false information. However, analyses have found no signs of malicious activity on the database and Consumer Reports says it has not seen any evidence that the database has been harmful to businesses.