2007-11-02 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER Recent major recalls of consumer products, ranging from toothpaste to children's toys, have left consumers on edge and manufacturers rushing to review their safety protocols. The State is working to protect consumers, by establishing regulations and providing information about potential dangers. It is also important for you to remain vigilant and learn how to protect your family from hazardous products.

First, be sure to keep yourself apprised of the latest product recalls. The federal government has set up an easy-to-use website to alert consumers to unsafe, hazardous, or defective products. You can find the site at http://www.recalls. gov/. This site contains the latest recall information and important safety tips, as well as a form for reporting dangerous products.

You may also want to consider signing up for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's free recall notification e-mail service, at http://www. cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx. You can receive information about recalls, as well as other product safety news and tips, delivered electronically to your e-mail inbox. Keep in mind that these recalls may not be mandatory. Retailers could still carry recalled products on their shelves, so it is important to not only check what you already own, but check products before you buy them.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Consumer Protection Board (CPB) are also taking action to protect New York consumers from dangerous products. For example, the DOH recently issued an order for summary action requiring all retailers to remove recently recalled Mattel and Fisher-Price toys from their shelves. This order, which is being enforced jointly by the DOH and the CPB, seeks to remove from the marketplace hazardous toys containing unsafe amounts of lead and magnets that can dislodge and be swallowed by children.

In addition to providing information about recalls, the CPB has posted a new tool on its website designed to help parents keep track of the toys in their home so that any recalled toys can be identified and removed quickly. The Board's "Toy Inventory Checklist" is available online at http://www.consumer. state.ny.us/pdf/toychest.pdf.

To address some of these issues, Assemblywoman Ginny Fields and I sponsored the Product Safety Notification and Recall Act of 2007 (A.8440). The Act would require manufacturers of certain child products, small appliances and other appropriate consumer products identified by the CPB, to provide consumers with a product safety owner card at the time of purchase and to develop an electronic registration and database of purchases for the purpose of notifying consumers about recalls.

Manufacturers would be required to notify consumers who return a card of any recalls of covered products.

For more information on product safety, you may want to visit the US Consumer Product Safety Commission website at http://www.cpsc.gov/.

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