Recently in Consumer Products Category

March 28, 2011

New Product Safety Database Launched by CPSC

A new product safety information database has been launched by the federal government, giving consumers a one-stop online portal to report and research hazards in almost every kind of product under the retail sun. The new www.SaferProducts.gov was launched by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on March 13.

You can use the new SaferProducts.gov database to:

  • report any actual injury caused by a consumer product,
  • report on safety risks you've noticed in certain dangerous products, and
  • research the safety record of products you own or are thinking about buying.

So, how does the product safety risk reporting system work? After a consumer submits an online report to SaferProucts.gov -- detailing an injury or safety hazard linked to a product -- CPSC reviews the report to make sure it contains all required information. Qualifying reports are then sent to the product's manufacturer, and that company has 10 days to respond to and/or comment on the consumer's claims about the product's safety. After those 10 days, the consumer's report and the manufacturer's response are posted on the SaferProducts.gov database. (Manufacturers can also register their companies on SaferProducts.gov using the Business Portal.)

You can learn more about the new SaferProducts.gov in this Q&A from CPSC.

February 10, 2011

Drywall and Deaths Not Linked, CPSC Says

Two recent federal investigations have turned up no evidence that drywall found in homes is to blame for a number of deaths in Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Today, federal product safety officials announced that an investigation looking into a potential link between drywall in homes at Fort Bragg and the deaths of at least three infants has turned up no such connection. The infants were said to have either lived in or visited two homes containing suspected problem drywall over a period beginning in 2007, on the base at Fort Bragg, which is a U.S. Army post in Fayetteville, North Carolina. But rounds of testing revealed that drywall in the homes was not "problem drywall" of the kind that has made headlines in recent years, and no drywall-related environmental factors could be linked to the babies' deaths, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Read the CPSC news release here and see the full report on the Fort Bragg investigation here (PDF file).

ABC11-WTVD in Raleigh-Durham reports on the case here (including an assertion that the investigation looked into as many as 11 infant deaths), and the station has also posted a PDF file collecting 263 pages of documents related to the investigation.

In January, CPSC released a report summarizing a separate investigation into the deaths of 11 adults (five in Florida, five in Louisiana, and one in Virginia) ranging in age from 59 to 86. That review -- which involved work by CPSC, CDC and a number of state health agencies -- concluded that "exposure to imported drywall was not believed to be a contributing factor" in the death of the 11 adults, all of whom "had one or more severe health conditions that were unrelated to imported drywall," including cancer and cardiac problems. You can read a PDF version of that report here.

January 13, 2011

Is Nintendo Playing Games With Its 3DS Warning?

Nintendo's newest hand-held device lets users play games in 3-D mode, but the company's vague warning on the use of the device by young children has left some people wondering if the lawsuit fix is in.

Nintendo posted a warning on its company website a few weeks ago, cautioning parents that children age six and under shouldn't use the new 3DS in 3-D mode because it could adversely affect eyesight development, as CNET reported. But the warning came without much in the way of details, like medical evidence of the health risks involved. So, is Nintendo just playing the older-than-Pong game of CYA, hoping that a preemptive warning will come in handy down the road if (or when) lawsuits get filed over the safety of the 3DS? The announcement was just a precautionary measure for customers, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told the WSJ in a recent interview, although Iwata also didn't deny that worry over litigation may have factored into the warning.

Nintendo's warning on the potential dangerousness of the 3DS could play a part in the company's liability if product defect lawsuits are ever filed over the game. That's because a manufacturer's liability for a product's safety hinges partly on whether warnings were issued by the manufacturer, and whether those warnings were sufficient in light of the potential harm. Learn more in Nolo's articles Proving a Defective Product Liability Claim and Defective Product Claims: Theories of Liability.

December 15, 2010

Drop-Side Cribs Banned by U.S. Government

Drop-side cribs have been banned under new federal safety regulations announced Wednesday (December 15, 2010) by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Some are calling it the end of an era, given the drop-side crib's huge and decades-long popularity, but others are calling the ban long overdue. In the last nine years, defective cribs have been blamed for the deaths of at least 32 children, and millions of cribs have been recalled during that time -- with many of those recalls involving defects in the drop-side mechanism of different cribs.

The ban applies to the sale, manufacture, and re-selling of any drop-side crib. Service businesses that use or offer cribs (such as day care centers and hotels) will have one year to comply with the ban, by replacing any drop-side cribs with safe and CPSC-approved fixed-side models.

The CPSC recently described the dangers of drop-side cribs this way: "When drop-side hardware breaks or deforms, the drop side can detach in one or more corners from the crib. If an infant or toddler rolls or moves into the space created by a partially detached drop side, the child can become entrapped or wedged between the crib mattress and the drop side and suffocate. Infants can also strangle in the "V" shape formed by a drop side that detaches in an upper corner."

To learn more about crib safety standards, recent recalls, and how to make sure that your child's crib is safe, check out Nolo's recent article Crib Recalls, Safety, and Litigation.

For parents and caregivers who want to ensure that cribs and other baby furniture are up to safety standards -- and not subject to any recent recalls -- the CPSC has set up a special online Crib Information Center at www.cpsc.gov/info/cribs.

November 22, 2010

Four Loko and Other Caffeine-Alcohol Drinks: Last Call?

Like it or not, caffeine and alcohol are as American as Starbucks and Budweiser. But from now on, consumers looking to dabble in both are probably going to have to pick one vice or the other at a time. Last week, the FDA fired a loud warning shot over the marketing of drinks like Four Loko, Joose, and Core -- alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine as an "unsafe food additive," according to the health agency.

Here are the caffeinated alcoholic drinks affected by last week's FDA marketing warnings (click on a hyperlinked company name to see the FDA warning letter sent to that beverage's manufacturer):

The FDA is warning consumers that "individuals drinking these beverages may consume more alcohol -- and become more intoxicated -- than they realize," and that "drinking caffeine and alcohol together may lead to hazardous and life-threatening behaviors." It's not for nothing that in some circles these drinks are known as "blackout in a can."

On the heels of the FDA's warnings, a number of states have already banned the sale of drinks like Four Loko, including Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington. And according to Time.com, at least one wrongful death lawsuit has already been filed over the safety of Four Loko.

Learn more about unsafe products and FDA warnings in the Dangerous Products & Drugs section of Nolo's Accidents & Injuries Center.