New website helps consumers search for & report dangerous products – and you will want to see this

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By Consumers Union on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Window curtains with chemical odors that consumers say cause nausea and headaches.  Dishwashers that are reported to smoke and catch on fire.  Bursting toy balls that parents say cause chemical burns in their children.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) product safety database at www.saferproducts.gov contains these and other reports from consumers of products that have harmed them and their loved ones.  The website, which went live this March, provides a place for consumers to log complaints of product failures to help alert government officials as well as other potential buyers.  A search function lets consumers see if others have had similar problems, or to look up a product before purchasing it.  The website also allows companies to respond to consumers’ complaints.

The database is also a source of information on products with which consumers might want to take precautions.  Take the bursting toy balls, for example.

Of the six complaints filed on www.saferproducts.gov under the section for toy balls, four of them are for the same product – a soft liquid-filled ball that in each case broke open, dousing the kids with the liquid substance inside.  The consumer complaints further state that all four kids wound up at the emergency room with skin, eye and/or throat burns.

Said one panicked parent
whose daughter wound up ingesting some of the chemicals after the ball burst:

She immediately started complaining and crying that her throat was burning. I got the packaging out of the bag to see the ingredients and/or warnings so I would know exactly what I was dealing with, but there wasn’t much there. There were NO ingredients listed on the package, and the only warning was to not give to children under the age of 3. I googled the product […]The only web site I could find the ingredients listed was from this very same site that I am posting this on now from a person that had a child that had basically the same thing happen except it went in to their childs eyes, and they suffered greatly from it.

This little girl’s parent found the list of ingredients on a report posted by another parent whose son was injured by the same product.  Lacking any information on the product’s packaging, that boy’s parent had been able to get through to the company by phone for a list of the chemicals.   Two of the other parents with injured children who tried to call the company received no answer.  There is no response from the company to any of the four complaints on the website.

A law is in place to try and help keep products like this out of the marketplace.  The 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act – the same legislation that established the database – requires more rigorous safety testing of toys and other children’s products before they hit the shelves.  These stricter toy testing rules will go into effect in January 2012.   Mandatory toy testing is a long-overdue change – but as these incident reports demonstrate, the database is critical to help catch the toys and other products that slip through the cracks in a very big system.

Have you had a problem with an unsafe product that should be reported?  Go to www.saferproducts.gov and write about your experience.  By reporting safety hazards you have experienced with product, you will be helping the CPSC to identify dangers and helping other consumers make safer choices.

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