Congressional Democrats say it’s time to lift the veil of secrecy on potentially harmful products in American homes


InvestigateTV – Washington, DC – Federal lawmakers have heard for decades that secrecy built into consumer protection law has led to deaths and injuries, but failed to act.

Consumer advocates say the time is long past to lift the veil of secrecy at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Babies have suffocated on nursing pillows because the agency has had to keep quiet. Toddlers were crushed by dressers because the CPSC could only issue generic warnings about the risk of furniture tipping over.

Seniors, stuck between bed rails and mattresses, died of asphyxiation, yet the agency had to keep quiet.

The reason: it is almost impossible for the commission to warn the public without the consent of the manufacturer.

“The Consumer Product Safety Commission is like a toothless watchdog who is constrained by lack of enforcement power even to warn, disclose or highlight defects so consumers can protect themselves,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told InvestigateTV. “He can’t even warn, disclose and highlight flaws when they’re a matter of life and death.”

The problem is based on a provision of the Consumer Product Safety Act, known as the section 6(b)which requires the agency to receive approval from manufacturers before disclosing any information about a specific product.

The CPSC regulates some 15,000 types of everyday products in American homes, from candles to coffee makers to cribs.

But when a defect or hazard is detected, CPSC generally cannot notify the public without the manufacturers’ consent.

In 2018, for example, the CPSC knew that 15 babies had died while in Fisher-Price’s Rock n’ Play recline sleeper. But Section 6(b) prevented the agency from alerting the public.

“If I had known the dangers of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper minutes before Emma was placed there, I would still have my daughter today,” Erika Richter told members of Congress during a hearing last June.

Her daughter died in 2018, when the CPSC was aware of at least a dozen deaths, internal emails obtained in a congressional report show.

Fisher-Price recalled Rock ‘n Play in April 2019. The death toll associated with the sleeper exceeds 90, according to congressional testimony.

“These deaths were preventable,” Blumenthal said. “The CPSC should have had the ability to warn and recall. That is what our legislation would do.

Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced bills to remove Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act.

“When we say to consumers, ‘Consumer beware,’ if you don’t have the information and you don’t have the power of government behind you, it means absolutely nothing,” the rep said. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who is sponsoring the House bill to eliminate Section 6(b).

Blumenthal is one of the sponsors of the Sunshine in the Product Safety Act on the side of the Senate.

The proposed law would give the CPSC the power to issue warnings and recalls “without giving industry (or) the manufacturer a virtual veto over how and when and even if there is disclosure,” a- he declared. “The sun is the best disinfectant.”

In 2008, when Congress approved the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to impose mandatory safety standards for infant and children’s products, among other things, lawmakers at the time removed a provision that would then have eliminated Article 6(b).

Fourteen years later, Section 6(b) still serves as an obstacle to educating the public about potential dangers in the home.

“It’s not fair that we have to block information, basic information, sometimes life and death information, from reaching consumers,” Schakowsky said.

So far, not a single Republican lawmaker has signed into law either bill proposed in the House or Senate.

Rep. Grant Grothman, a Republican from Wisconsin, initially agreed to an interview with InvestigateTV but later said he had to postpone. A new date has not been set. Last year, Grothman got a Fisher-Price executive to publicly admit for the first time the number of deaths potentially associated with Rock n’ Play: 97. But executive Chuck Scothon added that the company was continuing to investigate the reports to determine if they actually involved its product.

Blumenthal and Schakowsky said American consumer safety shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Schakowsky said consumers also need to do their part.

“I think we need to make sure that we mobilize people to pressure their own members of Congress to understand that there is a cure for these things. It is not just an act of nature, that there is something we can do about these needless deaths and injuries, and mobilize them to demand action,” she said. “I think the most compelling thing is when a congressman hears from his own constituents. And that can completely change the dynamic.


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