Did federal shutdown affect consumer safety in Illinois?

The recent government shutdown had most Americans and many others around the world sitting on pins and needles. There was considerable speculation about which government agencies and how many residents, Chicago included, would be affected.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission is one agency that was hit hard by the shutdown. The agency is one of those that is easily taken for granted — if people even know about it, that is — except when consumers are injured or someone loses his or her life because of a defective product.

Because of the two-week crisis, consumers missed the agency’s hard work in getting defective and dangerous products off the market. The shutdown left only 23 of the agency’s 540 staffers to investigate complaints and safety concerns about consumer products. Even port inspectors and field investigators were furloughed in that time.

With only a skeleton crew to work with, the agency could only work on products that seemed to pose an imminent threat to public safety or health. Even the agency’s chairman admitted that the agency could not fully protect consumers. Products with high lead content or toxic elements that fell below the “imminent threat” threshold may have passed through ports without inspection and could now be on store shelves.

Several reports to the CPSC went unaddressed. One included a fatality. A 2-year-old girl died when an apparently defective wicker chest of drawers tipped over, and sent a television set crashing down on the toddler.

Any Chicago resident who lost a loved one because of a defective product that was not detected by the CPSC because of the shutdown can choose to seek counsel from a Chicago products liability legal professional. Legal guidance can help a resident receive the necessary compensation for damages, as well as be informed about consumers’ legal rights.

Source: The Huffington Post, “CPSC, paralyzed By Shutdown, ‘Can’t Protect People,’ Chairwoman Says,” Kate Sheppard, Oct. 11, 2013