Friday, September 19, 2014
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Product-injury database: 6,000 reports in 10 months

In the new database's first 10 months, more than 6,000 people reported injuries. The sky didn't fall in.

Product-injury database: 6,000 reports in 10 months

Business groups bitterly opposed the Consumer Product Safety Commission's new publicly accessible product-injury database, SaferProducts.gov.  It was designed to enable consumers to quickly report injuries linked to products such as toys, cribs, and household appliances - things that are usually safe but that occasionally come with dangerous defects - and to enable other consumers to search for such reports if they have particular concerns about an item.

It's too soon to tell if the new database, which posted its first reports on April 2, 2011, will significantly reduce the lag time between discovery of a defect and a product's recall, or encourage manufacturers to monitor  their own products more aggressively. But a report today from the Consumer Federation of America, Kids In Danger and Consumers Union suggests that the database is working largely as intended.

You can find the report here. Rachel Weintraub, senior counsel at the CFA, says that the vast majority of 6,000 reports in the first 10 months involve newer, well-identified products and reports from consumers themselves, in contrast to opponents' warnings that third-party advocates would clog the database and that manufacturers would be harmed by vague gripes involving older products. 

"It’s not someone talking about their 30-year-old refrigerator in the basement," says Weintraub, who notes that 84 percent of the injuries are linked to products identified by model names or serial numbers. "It’s definitely providing more information to the public, it's providing more information to the CPSC, and it's providing more information to manufacturers to evaluate the real-world use of their products."

About 40 reports came from medical professionals, medical examiners or coroners, and about 60 from other public-safety professionals.

I blogged here about plans for the database, and why advocates such as Weintraub believed it would be valuable, and here about efforts to kill it before it got off the ground. Those efforts haven't stopped - as I wrote in a column last fall, the new database remains a target, and has even been attacked in an unusual "Company Doe" lawsuit.

But for now, SaferProducts.gov is a resource for consumers who want to warn about product dangers, or to see if anyone else has raised concerns about something they were given or plan to buy. 

Kids In Danger just released another new report, A Measure of Safety, with this hopeful statistic: "Children’s product recalls announced by CPSC in 2011 dropped by 24% to 121, the lowest number since 2006."

For parents (or anyone else buying or passing along stuff for young children), Kids In Danger is another great resource.  One of its key messages, based on the senseless tragedy that led to its founding, is that no recall ever succeeds 100 percent.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
About this blog

Jeff Gelles, who writes the Inquirer's weekly Consumer 14.0 and Tech Life columns, takes a broad look at the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas.

Reach Jeff at jgelles@phillynews.com.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
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