The theme for this Recall Roundup is effectiveness of recalls. In October, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released an investigative report criticizing the CPSC’s data-handling breaches from the spring. This month, the Office of Oversight and Investigations Minority Staff from the same US Senate committee released a report criticizing the CPSC’s handling of three “high-profile failures to effectively recall dangerous products” last year.
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As reported on December 10, 2019 in Hunton’s environmental law blog, “The Nickel Report”, additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has already found commercial application in various industries and its use is on the rise. 3D printing converts 3D digital models created on a computer or with a scanner into physical objects, usually by successively adding material layer by layer. The process allows manufacturers to make complex designs, rapid prototypes and final products while offering the potential to limit process waste and reduce production costs.
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Last month, the CPSC and three affiliated retailers issued a joint warning to consumers after the retailers discovered they sold nearly 1,200 units of 19 previously recalled consumer products between 2014 and 2019. The range of products at issue varied, including infant sleepers, scarves, portable speakers, barstools, children’s cardigan sets, hoverboards, beer mugs, coffee presses and infant rattles. It remains to be seen whether any further CPSC action, such as a civil penalty or a requirement to implement stronger recall systems and protocols, will be taken with respect to these three retailers.
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With Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle’s earlier announcement that she will leave the CPSC this fall, this month the commissioners elected Commissioner Robert Adler as the new acting chairman. Adler has been affiliated with the CPSC for more than 40 years. He has served as a commissioner since 2009 and previously served as the acting chairman from December 2013 through July 2014.
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This month serves as a reminder to manufacturers, distributors, retailers and importers that consumer products carry strong liability risks when they pose risks of serious injury or death. Steps should be taken to reduce that liability, including the issuance of alerts and recalls to remove the products from the stream of commerce.
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The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has imposed the first penalty for violations of its new rule limiting formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products just over one year after the rule became effective. The $544,064 penalty assessed against construction product supplier Global Sourcing Solutions, a Division of Turner Logistics, LLC (Global Sourcing Solutions), comes as part of a consent agreement between EPA and the company, which will also be required to implement a corrective action plan.
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As reported in an August 27, 2019 client alert by the Product Liability and Mass Tort Litigation practice, on August 23, 2019, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated 20 chemicals commonly found in consumer products as “high priorities” for risk evaluation and possible regulation. EPA’s identification of these chemicals comes under the authority conferred by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (Lautenberg Act), which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2016 to give EPA new powers to review and regulate chemicals.
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With summer in full swing, several U.S. senators have taken a public step to focus the CPSC’s efforts on dangers at the beach. Airborne umbrellas have become a serious hazard to beachgoers. In fact, CPSC data indicates that there have been over 31,000 beach umbrella-related injuries from 2008 to 2017, including the death of a vacationer after she was struck in the torso and killed by a rogue umbrella in Virginia Beach in 2016. In an unusual move, four senators recently issued a letter urging the CPSC to be more proactive about addressing the dangers posed by beach umbrellas. The senators requested more detailed information about umbrella-related injuries, asked about safety standards to prevent such injuries, and encouraged the creation of a public safety campaign to educate the public about the dangers of beach umbrellas.
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The balance of power at the CPSC will shift after Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle’s surprising announcement that she will leave the CPSC this fall. Buerkle has served as a CPSC Commissioner for six years and the Acting Chairman of the agency for almost half that time. President Trump has nominated Buerkle to be the permanent Chairman three times (2017, 2018, and 2019), but each time the Senate failed to vote on her nomination. Buerkle announced she is withdrawing her 2019 nomination to become the permanent Chairman and to serve an additional seven-year term. She will continue as Acting Chairman until September 30 and will complete the remainder of her term as Commissioner until October 27. She says that afterward, she will “pursue new opportunities that will allow me to continue my life’s work of advocacy and public service as well as spend more time with my six children and eighteen grandchildren.”
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