Buyer Beware: Dangerous products

(National) Jan. 28, 2005 - Consumer Reports testers found a serious fire hazard glitter and colored hairspray for children. The spray is legal and carries warnings that children should not use it without adult supervision and that say it's "extremely flammable."

But, some wonder if something that could potentially turn a birthday party into a disaster should be marketed to children.

Consumer Reports' investigation also discovered other hazards on store shelves. Toddlers could easily choke on some toys, but they aren't labeled with a proper safety warning.

Dinacell batteries look like Duracells, but they're counterfeit and can leak acid. Some electrical cords can overheat and cause fires. They're made in China.

Mari McQueen of Consumer Reports says many safety problems are from imported products, "The United States has some of the best safety regulations in the world with regard to consumer products. Today many of the products we use are made abroad, and it seems that these laws are not quite as effective at protecting American consumers in this kind of environment."

It isn't just American consumers who are at risk. Dangerous products that are recalled in the US are often shipped overseas. A recall was issued five years ago on some extension cords thought to be a fire hazard, but they were recently found for sale, labeled "export only," on a web site.

And, some novelty toys were recalled three years ago in the US because of a choking hazard. McQueen says, "At least one of the manufacturers sent them to the Dominican Republic, where we found them this summer for sale in a party goods store in Santa Domingo."

As for the dangerous products found in the US, Consumer Reports say many are found in dollar stores and closeout shops. Until laws and enforcement get together, the magazine warns, it's buyer beware.

One way to protect yourself if to buy name brands. While it's no guarantee, having a manufacturer listed on the product allows authorities to contact the company in order to fix safety problems. When it comes to electrical equipment, always look for the Underwriters Laboratories' logo.

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees