Americans seek medical attention for 30 to 40 million consumer product-related injuries every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The cost of these injuries is staggering. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimates these injuries cost U.S. consumers $1 trillion a year. That comes to roughly $2,800 for every person in America.
The CPSC gathers most of its information on product-related injuries from hospitals. But consumers can also report injuries they’ve experienced to the agency’s Safer Products webpage.
Product Safety and Recalls
The Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972 established the CPSC and gave it authority to recall or ban products that threaten consumers’ safety.
The commission regulates roughly 15,000 types of consumer products in the United States. It also keeps track of injuries across 88 different groups of products ranging from toys to chainsaws. And those are just the products under the CPSC’s scope. Eight other federal agencies monitor and regulate consumer products from medicines to cars to airplanes.
Certain government agencies may order recalls if a product is unsafe. Or they may work with manufacturers who voluntarily recall a product.
But it isn’t always easy for consumers to know which agency to turn to for recall information. For example, the CPSC oversees nursery equipment and toys, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees child car seats. And while the NHTSA oversees motorcycles, the CPSC monitors ATVs, mopeds and minibikes.
If you want to find out whether a product you use is subject to a recall, you can search at Recalls.gov. The federal government combines searches from six different agencies responsible for issuing the most common recalls.
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- Most consumer goods
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Cosmetics, Drugs, Electronic device radiation, Food, Medical devices, Tobacco products, Veterinary medicines
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- Passenger cars, Commercial trucks, Motorcycles, Tires, Child car seats
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Pesticides, Fungicides, Other household chemicals
- U.S. Coast Guard
In addition to agencies that monitor consumer products, The United States Department of Agriculture regulates food and agricultural products, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration oversees industrial and business products and farm equipment.
Defective or poorly designed cribs, car seats and toys all present dangers to children. The CSPC estimates that toys may injure a quarter million kids every year — and that doesn’t include injuries from bicycles, skateboards or sporting equipment.
A 2017 study in the journal Pediatrics estimates nearly six in every 1,000 infants will require an emergency room visit for injuries related to nursery equipment by the age of three. And the CPSC estimates a child is injured every 30 minutes from tipped-over furniture or a falling TV.
- About 250,000 toy-related injuries require ER treatment annually. - CSPC
- Nursery Equipment
- Baby carriers, cribs and strollers account for more than half of all nursery product-related injuries. - Pediatrics
- Car Seats
- Between 1997 and 2017, 125 car-seat recalls affected 37 million seats. - NHTSA
Home and Furnishing
The vast majority of consumer product injuries happen in the home. The CPSC estimates that home cleaning or maintenance products or the home’s design itself are related to 9.5 million emergency room visits every year. It stresses the products may not necessarily be the cause of all the injuries.
But risks lurk in every room, across every yard and in every weekend handyman’s tool box.
Home injuries involve falls down stairs and running into glass doors. They also include injuries from tools, lawnmowers, appliances or cleaning products. And nearly 900,000 injuries a year involve beds.
The CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System collects data on product-related injuries from hospitals. An NEISS coordinator reviews patient medical records and enters data daily. The information is then analyzed and released to the public on the CPSC website.
Select Home Product-Related Injuries Reported to CPSC Every Year
The American Lung Association warns that many household products may lead to conditions including asthma and cancer. These products include aerosol sprays, cleaning supplies and even air fresheners. It can be hard to determine the risks posed by specific products because United States law does not require manufacturers to list all the chemicals in household products. Improper disposal can pollute drinking water or contribute to indoor air pollution in the home.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that the average woman in the United States uses 12 personal care products daily. Men average six products every day. But few people realize the ingredients in these trusted products may cause health problems.
In 2016, California public health researchers reported that at least 13 types of personal care products — from cosmetics to shaving and baby products — may contain ingredients that have serious health consequences. These included substances that may cause reproductive complications and cancer.
If you’ve ever wondered what those ingredients listed on your shampoo or makeup are, you can find more information about many of the chemicals in your personal care products at the National Library of Medicine’s database.
- Talcum Powder (FDA)
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies talc use on the genitals as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” And multiple studies have suggested a 30 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer with talc use.
- Cosmetics (FDA)
- Tens of thousands of possible cosmetic injuries occur every year. A 2017 study found serious underreporting of cosmetic side effects to the FDA.
The most common injuries from consumer technology products stem from how we use devices. People can twist themselves into unnatural positions to stare at their screens or tap out text. These injuries include creative names such as selfie elbow, tech neck, or texting thumb. While these injuries may sound minor, some people need physical therapy to get over them.
In rare cases, batteries that power your personal tech can explode, cause fires and seriously burn you or other people. Lithium ion batteries are favored to power laptops, cell phones and other tech products because of their long-lasting power. But battery fires have led to recalls of cell phones and hoverboards.
And the U.S. Fire Administration called the combination of lithium ion batteries with electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, “a new and unique hazard.” The devices combine health risks with serious explosion dangers.
- Tech-Use Injuries
- Medical company ImagineMD reported that “thumb pain” is the most often searched tech-related injury, with 10,000 Google searches a month.
- Lithium Batteries & Devices
- The Federal Aviation Administration reported 225 incidents of fires involving lithium batteries in baggage or as cargo in aircraft or airports between 1991 and 2018.
- E-Cigarettes (FDA)
- E-cig explosions and fire resulted in 133 cases of acute injury between 2009 and 2016.
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