Amid all the discussion surrounding this week’s government shutdown a lot of attention has been paid both to large budget issues and to the daily inconveniences – and, in some cases serious troubles – the suspension of government services involves for many Americans.
One of the most potentially hazardous areas of the shut down may prove to be consumer safety. As an article this week at Boston.com (the website of the Boston Globe) explains, as part of the broader shut down the Consumer Product Safety Commission “is only announcing recalls that pose an imminent risk to the public.”
As though to demonstrate what exactly that might mean, on Thursday the CPSC recalled “some 15 million surge protectors sold for a decade at some of the nation’s largest retailers… after more than 700 reports of the strips overheating.” It is, of course, very good to see the CPSC still at work, even in a much diminished form, but one also must ask whether this is the bar that product recalls must cross for as long as the current government funding crisis continues.
The surge protectors in question have not been sold ‘new’ for a decade, but according to Boston.com it is thought that many are still in use. The newspaper reports that the recall follows evidence that the ageing devices can melt or even catch fire.
The children’s safety website Kids in Danger notes that the CPSC “is one of the first lines of defense separating children from dangerous products in the marketplace.” It goes on to note that “in addition to reduced recall notices, CPSC will be accepting reports through saferproducts.gov, but will not be able to publish any reports for the public.”
All of this is a reminder of the important, but often unseen, roles government fills in our everyday lives. As a Portland child injury attorney I, along with many Oregon and Washington parents rely on the detailed and careful work the CPSC puts into examining and recalling dangerous and defective products. This is not the first thing many of us think of when we think of the federal government, and the scaling back of the CPSC may not have the TV news value that closing the Grand Canyon has. Still, it is important, and it is a reminder of the real damage the current budget crisis has the potential to do to all of us here in Oregon, Washington and around the United States.
Boston.com: 15 million surge protectors recalled
Kidsindanger.org: What does the government shutdown mean for product safety?