U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Consumer Product Safety Commission seal
Agency overview
Formed 1972
Employees 500[1]
Agency executive Inez Moore Tenenbaum, Chairman

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent agency of the United States government created in 1972 through the Consumer Product Safety Act to protect "against unreasonable risks of injuries associated with consumer products." The CPSC is an independent agency that does not report to nor is part of any other department or agency in the federal government.[2] The CPSC is generally headed by three commissioners nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate for staggered seven year terms.[2] The commissioners set policy for the CPSC. Although the CPSC usually has three commissioners, it currently has five. The CPSC is located in Bethesda, Maryland.[1]



The CPSC has the authority to regulate the sale and manufacture of more than 15,000 different consumer products, from cribs to all-terrain vehicles, and from barbecue grills to swimming pools.The CSPC is a a regulator of products. Products not under jurisdiction of the CPSC include those specifically named by law as under the jurisdiction of other federal agencies; for example, automobiles are regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, guns are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and drugs are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. In recent years, the CPSC has taken action against suppliers of chemicals that could be used to manufacture fireworks. Within the scientific and educational communities, there are some who feel these actions have hampered legitimate scientific research (such as research into the use of hydrogen as an automobile fuel), model rocketry, and high school chemistry projects.[3][4]

CPSC fulfills its mission by banning dangerous consumer products, issuing recalls of products already on the market, and researching potential hazards associated with consumer products. CPSC learns about unsafe products in several ways. The agency maintains a consumer hot line and website through which consumers may report concerns about unsafe products or injuries associated with products. The agency also operates the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), a probability sample of about 100 hospitals with 24-hour emergency rooms. NEISS collects data on consumer product related injuries treated in ERs and can be used to generate national estimates.

In the 1970s the CPSC issued regulations on bicycles, which required a number of reflectors—including a white reflector mounted above the handlebar stem (the usual location for a bicycle headlight) and can only be seen by a motorist if the bicycle is being ridden on the wrong side of the road—as well as auxiliary brake levers (variously known as "safety levers" and "suicide levers.") These regulations were widely criticized by adult cyclists, like John Forester, as stemming from the belief that all bicycles are ridden by children and as providing the illusion of safety but actually creating a new hazard.

Current commissioners

The current commissioners as of November 24, 2009 are as follows[5]:

Inez Tenenbaum : Chairman. Confirmed June 19, 2009. Current Term: June 29, 2009 - October 2013

Thomas Hill Moore : Acting Chairman (June 1, 2009 - June 29, 2009). Original term began on May 1, 1995. Reappointed for the October 1996 - October 2003 term. Current Term: March 3, 2004 - October 2010.

Nancy Nord : Acting Chairman (July 16, 2006 - May 31, 2009). Confirmed April 28, 2005. Original term was May 12, 2005 - October 2005. Current Term: 2005 - October 2012.

Anne Northup : Confirmed August 7, 2009. Current Term: August 18, 2009 - October 2011

Robert S. Adler  : Confirmed August 7, 2009. Current Term August 18, 2009 - October 2014

Industry-sponsored travel controversy

On November 2, 2007, the Washington Post reported that between 2002 and the date of their report, former chairman Hal Stratton and current commissioner and former acting chairman Nancy Nord had taken more than 30 trips paid for by manufacturing groups or lobbyists representing industries that are under the supervision of the agency. According to the Post, the groups paid for over $60,000 travel and related expenses during this time.[6]

Funding and staff

In 1972 when the agency was created, it had a budget of $34.7 million dollars and 786 staff members. By 2008 it had 401 employees on a budget of $43 million, but the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed in 2008 increases funding $136.4 million in 2014 with over 500 new employees by 2013.[7]

2008 reform following the "Year of the Recall"

2007 has been called the "Year of the Recall" in the United States, and the CPSC alone imposed 473 recalls in 2007, a record.[7] This notably included many incidents with lead in toys and other children's products. These issues led to the legislative interest in the reform of the agency, and the final result of these efforts was the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in 2008. The bill increased funding and staffing for the CSPC, placed stricter limits on lead levels in children's products (redefined from products intended for children age seven and under to children age twelve and under), restricted certain phthalates in children's toys and child care articles, required mandatory testing and certification of applicable products, and required the CPSC to create a public database of their products.[7]

The public database (saferproducts.gov), constructed at a cost of around $3 million USD and launched in March 2011, "publicizes complaints from virtually anyone who can provide details about a safety problem connected with any of the 15,000 kinds of consumer goods regulated by the" CSPC.[8] While being lauded by consumer advocates for making previously hidden information available, manufacturers have expressed their concern "that most of the complaints are not first vetted by the CPSC before they are made public", meaning it could be abused and potentially used to ruin specific brands.[8] As of mid-April 2011, the database was accruing about 30 safety complaints per day.[8]

See also

US-GreatSeal-Obverse.svg Government of the United States portal


External links

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