The American Association for Justice released a report that highlights the dangerous nature of many toys sold in the United States. While there is a federal agency in place — the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) — that regulates the sale of these toys, the report describes the sad state of regulation:
“The CPSC is woefully under-resourced to cope with the flood of products entering the U.S. marketplace. Until 2007, the CPSC had only 15 inspectors to monitor all ports in the United States for all products, and only one employee to conduct safety tests on toys. Wal-Mart alone spends more than 20 times the CPSC budget on marketing in a given year.”
Another watchdog group, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), is the body charged with ensuring the safety of consumer goods. PIRGs points out that, “just 20 years ago there were twice as many staff at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Funding at that agency is now at an all-time low.”
Debt Reduction Equals Safety Reduction?
With all the hype about debt reduction, it’s important to keep in mind that most (non-defense and non-Social Security/Medicare) federal government agencies, from the FBI and the federal courts to FDA, Forest Service and the National Weather Service, operate on less than 20 cents of every tax dollar.
Nonetheless, the recently passed compromise to raise the debt ceiling will undoubtedly put even more pressure on federal agencies — many of whom have been subject to cutbacks and hiring freezes for years — to cut more and do less.
The agencies may have struggled with understaffing and low funding, but in the United States, we are fortunate to have access to the courts and the ability to sue manufacturers and distributors of defective products.
A recent example of how private attorneys helped when defective or dangerous toys were discovered occurred in 2007. A fingerprint toy based on the popular CSI TV program contained a powder found to contain up to 5% asbestos, potentially exposing children to lethal tremolite asbestos.
However, the manufacturer refused to remove it from store shelves, apparently not wanting to miss the Christmas retail season.
Rather than wait for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to negotiate a recall, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization filed a civil action to stop sales of the kit.
Lawyers, working tirelessly for their clients, are an important element of the process of ensuring products consumers purchase are safe and do not present an unreasonable danger.
If U.S. safety standards are not able to keep potentially harmful toys out of the marketplace, parents and other safety advocates still have an avenue to pursue safety and keep dangerous toys away from children. If your child has been injured due to a dangerous product, it is important to speak to an attorney to learn about your legal options. Your child may be entitled to compensation for his or her injuries, and you can help keep the same harm from befalling another child.