Hazardous products found for sale after agency ended import inspections amid COVID-19

Hazardous products found for sale after agency ended import inspections amid COVID-19
© www.cpsc.gov

Hazardous products have been found for sale after a consumer watchdog agency ended inspections of imports amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A congressional report dated June 25 detailed some of the findings of the Consumer Safety Product Commission’s (CPSC) decision to end inspections at ports last year.

The contents of the report were first reported by USA Today, which also first reported on the decision to end port inspections in December.

ADVERTISEMENT

CPSC stopped inspections at ports on March 16, 2020, when the agency directed all agency staff, including those at ports, to begin working from home, the report says. CPSC port staff was able to return in early September.

CPSC began conducting “virtual exams” at ports while working from home in partnership with Customs and Border Protection, the report stated.

In the report, the agency identified 56 companies with one or more shipments imported between mid-March and early September of 2020 with a risk score in its highest category and requested documentation from each of them.

The agency had to follow up with 22 of the firms because they either didn’t respond to the agency, didn’t provide all the documentation or provided documents indicating “elevated risk of product noncompliance.”

The agency said it followed up with the firms and that it was carrying out enforcement actions on “potential violations” that had been discovered as a result.

Investigators also searched the internet for products that may not have been inspected at import, such as toys and children’s products with lead, durable nursery products and hairdryers without immersion protection.

ADVERTISEMENT

Of the 75 products, the agency said it's taking enforcement actions on 33 that did not meet the requirements associated with the product.

In a statement to The Hill, CPSC said "decisions made by CPSC with regard to both consumer and staff safety during the pandemic—including port staffing and the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment—were made with the full involvement, consultation, and approval of all Commissioners, as appropriate for issues of this unprecedented nature.”

Congress ordered the report after USA Today reported the agency’s decision to end the port inspections.

CPSC Commissioner Peter Feldman told the newspaper that the report still fails to answer Congress’s question.

“It fails to answer Congress’ central question: What got through and where it went,” Feldman said. “I question whether or not we’ve done our jobs here, and I fear the consumer may still be at risk.”

--Updated at 12:24 p.m.