Port Inspections Block Millions of Unsafe Products

During 2010 and 2011, personnel from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and U.S. Customs and Border Protection prevented more than 6.5 million units that were unsafe or violated U.S. standards from reaching consumers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said increased inspections at U.S. ports by its staff and personnel from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency resulted in more than 6.5 million units of about 1,700 different products prevented from reaching consumers during 2010 and 2011. The products were unsafe or violated U.S. safety standards, according to the agency.

"Intercepting dangerous products as quickly and as early as possible, well before they make their way into the hands of children and other consumers, is consistent with our vision for CPSC to continue enhancing its protection of America's families," said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.

Her agency reports the products involved ranged from toys and other children's products to mattresses, art materials, household chemicals, lighters, fireworks, bike helmets, and all-terrain vehicles. Some were stopped because they violated standards for flammability, lead paint and lead content, phthalates, or small parts. Port surveillance has been in place for years, but CPSC's import surveillance and inspection team was created only in 2008 and has steadily increased the size of its staff at some of the largest U.S. ports of entry, at CPSC's headquarters, and at a CBP operations center.

"The marketplace of imported consumer goods has expanded rapidly in recent years, requiring CPSC to take an increasingly global view of consumer product safety," said Carol Cave, director of the Office of Import Surveillance and Inspection. "In response to the lead in paint recalls in 2007, CPSC started to place investigators at key ports of entry full time. Having CPSC staff who have the training and equipment necessary to identify non-complying products under CPSC jurisdiction at the ports has improved coordination and cooperation with CBP and industry."

He said the agencies' cooperation produces more effective import enforcement by reducing exam times and increasing interagency communication. "We are working smarter, but because of the large volume of products being imported that are under CPSC's jurisdiction, it is critical that, as the agency moves forward, we systematically evaluate the risk of incoming shipments and expand the number of staff inspecting merchandise," Cave said.

Tenenbaum said the results of enforcement efforts at the ports will be published regularly in 2012. "We want the American public to know that CPSC stands for safety and we are doing all we can to identify and stop unsafe products from being introduced to our marketplace, so that consumers will have fewer things to worry about," she said.

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