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Safety agency celebrates its 50th anniversary this year

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As part of an uptick in the Consumer Movement in the 1970s, a federal safety agency – the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission – was created.

For the past five decades, the CPSC has worked to protect the American public from dangerous and deadly consumer products.

“We believe there is value in recognizing the significant strides for safety CPSC has taken in reducing deaths and injuries from the products in our homes,” said CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric.

Every year consumer products are involved in thousands of deaths and millions of injuries. In 2019, there were nearly 51,000 deaths associated with consumer products, and in 2020, 28.5 million medically treated injuries occurred.

The CPSC regulates thousands of types of consumer products ranging from kitchen appliances to children’s toys to exercise equipment.

As a result of CPSC’s efforts, mandatory safety standards, and the enforcement of existing federal laws on unsafe products, the agency has reported decreases in the number of consumer product-related fatalities and a significant reduction of injuries. The following highlights some of these statistics:

  • Refrigerators: Deaths from refrigerator door entrapments are nearly eliminated. Ninety-six children died due to being trapped and suffocating in refrigerators between 1973 and 1984. During the last 25 years, there have been two reported deaths. The most recent occurred 15 years ago in 2007. The Refrigerator Safety Act was enacted in 1956.
  • Garage Doors: From 1982 to 1990, there were 46 garage door deaths involving children. In the past decade there have been only two such reported deaths. The CPSC put a mandatory safety standard into place in 1991.
  • Fires: There was a 43 percent decline in residential fires, a 47 percent decline in fire deaths, and a 41 percent decline in fire injuries from 1980 to 2018.
  • Cribs: Crib deaths have decreased with a nearly an 80 percent decrease from 1973 to 2018. CPSC’s mandatory safety standard for cribs took effect in 2011.
  • Baby walkers: A major decline of 88 percent in baby walker associated injuries has occurred. In 1992, these types of injuries resulted in over 25,000 visits to the emergency room, with visits dropping to an estimated 3,100 in 2020. The CPSC issued mandatory safety standards in 2010.
  • Child poisonings: There was a decrease of 80 percent for pediatric poisonings for children under age 5 between 1972 and 2020. The Poison Prevention Packaging Act was enacted in 1970.
  • Bicycles: Between 1973 and 2020, there was a 35 percent decline in the rate of bicycle injuries per 100,000 Americans. CPSC’s mandatory bicycle safety regulations took effect in 1976.
  • Pools: From 1975 to 2019, in-ground swimming pools and equipment injury rate per 100,000 Americans decreased by 55 percent. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was enacted in 2007.

The Consumer Product Safety Act was enacted into law on October 27, 1972, and signed by President Richard M. Nixon. The legislation established the CPSC, an independent federal regulatory agency and authorized CPSC to develop standards, undertake recalls, and ban certain products. The agency was given authority to tackle consumer product hazards with a bi-partisan board of five commissioners.  

Despite many advances in consumer safety, more needs to be done, said Hoehn-Saric.

He said the CPSC is continuing its work to: prevent pool and spa drownings, which is the No. 1 killer of young children; reduce deaths related to carbon monoxide from portable generators, which claims the lives of nearly 80 people every year; and emphasize its Safe Sleep campaign by focusing on mitigating or eliminating product risks to small children in their sleeping environments.

The CPSC conducts research on potentially hazardous products and alerts the public by issuing recalls with remedies available to consumers including repairs, replacement products, and refunds. Information on this is available at www.cpsc.gov

Consumers can also visit www.saferproducts.gov to report unsafe consumer products in their homes or read the experiences of other consumers involving potentially hazardous consumer products.

CPSC is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, with a national product testing and evaluation facility in Rockville, Maryland. Agency field officers are located across the country in addition to the CPSC’s personnel who work at the country’s largest ports. The agency currently operates with a staff of about 539.

For more information on CPSC’s 50th Anniversary and consumer safety over the past 50 years, visit http://www.cpsc.gov/50th-Anniversary

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