GAO reports on CPSC’s challenges in addressing product safety


The United States (US) Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) authority and ability to stay generally informed about new risks associated with consumer products and use available information to identify product hazards, and assess and address new risks posed by consumer products in a timely manner.

In its report, GAO found that CPSC has broad authority to identify, assess, and address product risks, but faces some challenges in identifying and responding to new risks in a timely manner.

While the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) allows CPSC greater freedom to disclose information to US courts, Congress, and state and local agencies, CPSC has been unable to complete information-sharing agreements with foreign counterparts as envisioned because it cannot offer its counterparts reciprocal terms on disclosure of nonpublic information. Due to the growing number of imported consumer products, this restriction on sharing information may hinder CPSC’s ability to identify risks from new products in a timely manner, possibly leading to injury and death if unsafe products enter the US market.

CPSC also faces challenges in collecting and analyzing large quantities of data in order to identify potential product risks. Some sources CPSC uses to identify injuries or death are dated – for example, death certificates can be 2 or more years old – or contain limited information about the product involved in the incident.

Lastly, GAO found that timeliness of CPSC’s actions to assess and address new risks depends on the specific product or hazard. CPSC can take action to address a product hazard more quickly if it is addressing a known hazard. However, addressing a new or emerging risk, such as those posed by certain chemicals or nanotechnology, can take CPSC years because it may need to develop new standards or approaches.

For more on CPSC’s approach to product safety, contact Compliance & Risks!

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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