Save Me Steve: Consumers kept in the dark about potential product safety concerns

Products in homes across the country may put you at risk every day. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission is prohibited from telling you about them.

The folks at Consumer Reports are ready to cut the red tape after the deaths of 32 infants tied to the now recalled Fisher-Price Rock and Play Sleepers.

The CPSC confirms it was aware of deaths tied to that product as early as 2009, some 10 years before it was pulled from store shelves.

So why didn’t the CPSC tell you?

Section 6B of the Consumer Product Safety Act prevents the CPSC from discussing information about the safety of products while safety claims are being investigated.

Instead, it essentially requires the agency to first navigate through manufacturer oversite before it can release any negative information.

In fact, in the case of the Rock and Play Sleeper deaths were occurring for years and the public was kept in the dark until the CPSC mistakenly released information to Consumer Reports without redacting company and product names.

Only after Consumer Reports published their data was the public made aware and all 4.7 million sleepers were recalled.

“While it’s impossible to say exactly what would have happened, Consumer Reports believes that yes the product would still be on the market. Because nobody, not consumers and not groups like Consumer Reports were aware that the product had at the time had been tied to 32 fatalities,” said Jennifer Shecter, the senior director of content impact and outreach at Consumer Reports.

The folks at Consumer Reports have now produced a mini documentary on the Rock and Play recall.

The organization believes debates about public health and safety should happen in public and the fact that 6B creates a lack of transparency for consumers means you may be buying products that manufacturers and the CPSC know are harmful or even deadly.

Those who support 6B say it’s designed to protect consumers from misleading or inaccurate information.

Critics of that opinion insist that much like online or peer reviews, if you give consumers access to all the information then they could make the best choice for themselves.

Still, the folks at the CPSC are powerless to do anything about it. A repeal of 6B would require congressional intervention.

It’s something you may soon hear much more about.