In The Public Interest: The House Votes to Deny Consumers Information About Dangerous Products

02/25/2011 10:30 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In its continuing resolution, the U.S. House of Representatives included a measure to prohibit funding for a database of consumer injuries caused by dangerous products, as required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008. That's the law that passed overwhelmingly in response to millions of dangerous products having to be recalled.

Congress established the publicly-accessible database - which was supposed to go live in just a few weeks -- to allow consumers and doctors to report harms (or risks of harms) associated with consumer products. Why? So other consumers could research risks associated with products they were considering purchasing.

This information exchange will prevent injuries and save lives. For example, the CPSC reports that at least thirty-two children have died and hundreds more have been injured because of drop-side cribs made by various manufacturers in the last ten years. Because current law effectively prohibits the CPSC from sharing information about these incidents until after a product has been the subject of a recall under disclosure conditions negotiated with the manufacturer, most of those cribs remained in stores and in our homes for years before they were recalled. In the past five years, these recalls have involved seven million cribs. In one of those recalls, the CPSC was only able to act after it had received sixty-seven incident reports including four infant deaths.

The goal of the database is simple. Give consumers information about safety incidents, so that they can make informed choices, instead of making some of the most important purchases for their babies with no knowledge of the potential dangers. And, once it's in use, the database will also help the CPSC identify trends in product hazards much more quickly and efficiently.

We're terribly disappointed that the House voted to deny funding for this important product safety tool just as it is about to be available to consumers. The Senate should right this grievous wrong before the CR, or budget bill, goes to the President's desk.

Keeping consumers in the dark about product hazards is just one of the troubling "reforms" to the product safety law gaining traction on Capitol Hill.

One proposal would eviscerate the law's requirement that toys and other children's products be tested by an independent third party before they are sold, leaving consumers just wishing and hoping and praying that they can trust in the products they buy.

Another proposal will vastly reduce the number of children who are protected from hazardous lead by lowering the age of kids who are protected from "twelve and under" to kids under six or seven years old. Is it really okay to expose your third-grader to a dangerous neurotoxin?
We've already begun to see positive effects of the 2008 product safety law on the toy safety landscape. We can't turn back the clock. Day-by-day, we see more scientific evidence that our children's health is being harmed by the toxic chemicals all around them. This is no time to take away the few protections the law affords them. Further, hiding safety information from the public doesn't serve the public interest and doesn't discourage the manufacture of dangerous products.