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Government Again Flounders on Defective Products

Today’s New York Times again spotlights the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s failure when it comes to defective products:

Walter E. Friedel’s plans to waterproof the tile floors of his hot tub room using Stand ’n Seal, a do-it-yourself product sold at his local Home Depot, promised to be a quick weekend project, one he could wrap up in time to catch the Giants football game on a Sunday afternoon.

The product offered “a revolutionary fast way” to seal grout around tiles and, its label boasted, any extra spray would “evaporate harmlessly.”

“It sounds like no big deal,” Dr. Friedel said, looking back.

But instead of watching football that afternoon, Dr. Friedel, a 63-year-old physician, ended up being rushed to the hospital, where he would spend four days in intensive care, gasping for air, his lungs chemically inflamed.

Dr. Friedel was the latest victim of a product whose dangers had become known months earlier to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the companies that made and sold it. Before Dr. Friedel bought Stand ’n Seal, at least 80 people had been sickened using it, two of them fatally.

But even then, with the threat well-documented, the manufacturer, retailer and the commission had failed to remove the hazard from the shelves.

The story goes on to document the history of problems surrounding the product and the government’s failure (because of lack of resources and lack of will) to protect the public.

This continues a long line of recent stories where the CPSC was aware of dangers but failed to take proper action to protect the public.  And that’s important.  But, as we’ve written before, these stories are also important because they show the flawed nature of the Bush administration’s policy of encouraging federal preemption of state tort laws.

Mark Perlmutter & Brooks Schuelke are Austin, Texas personal injury lawyers.

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