Federal Port Investigators Block Importation of Nearly 650,000 Allegedly Dangerous Products in Last Quarter of 2011

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the federal agency that monitors most consumer goods sold or imported in the U.S., recently reported on a collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to monitor shipments of goods arriving at international ports from abroad. The CPSC says that it either seized or blocked over 647,000 units of goods deemed dangerous, according to federal safety standards, in the last three months of 2011. The report offers interesting information on how the government assesses the safety of consumer products and monitors shipments from abroad.

The CPSC is an independent federal agency that regulates all consumer goods not specifically assigned to a different agency. For example, federal law gives authority over the safety of pharmaceutical products to the Food and Drug Administration. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms regulates guns, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates the safety of automobiles. The CPSC has the authority to ban products it deems dangerous, keeping them out of the marketplace entirely. It can also issue recalls of products that have already reached consumers if it determines that the product poses a risk to the public.

The CPSC determines the safety of products by drawing on several sources. A national system that collects data from hospitals regarding injuries caused by consumer products allows the CPSC to estimate the probability of injuries from specific products. A consumer hotline and website, known as SaferProducts, allows consumers to report injuries or concerns directly to the agency. The CPSC began operations in 1973 and commenced product screenings at U.S. ports that same year. It states that it “intensified its efforts” in 2008, when it launched its import surveillance division.

During the fourth quarter of 2011, investigators with CPSC and CBP screened at least 2,900 shipments at U.S. ports of entry. CBP monitors ports of entry in all fifty states, D.C., and the major U.S. overseas possessions. It identifies Baltimore as the port of entry in Maryland. CPSC’s report does not indicate how many ports of entry were included in its screening.

The roughly 647,000 units stopped by the investigators reportedly represented 240 different products found to be in violation of various safety regulations. Many of the products were children’s toys with lead levels in excess of federal limits, children’s products with prohibited phthalate components, and products that presented a danger of choking for small children. Other products included dangerous or defective appliances and other electric items. The CPSC report lists products that were blocked for violating a specific federal standard. The vast majority of these products came from China, with a significant number coming from Mexico. Two noncompliant products came from Japan.

Products liability law holds the manufacturer or supplier of an unreasonably dangerous product responsible for injuries sustained by consumers who use the product in its intended manner. The law frequently imposes a strict liability standard in cases of dangerous or defective products, meaning that a plaintiff does not have to prove negligence on the part of the manufacturer or supplier. The plaintiff must only prove that the product is unreasonably dangerous, and that the plaintiff did not use it negligently or improperly.

The Maryland personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people injured due to faulty or defective products. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

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