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Greenville, OBX & Rocky Mount, North Carolina

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Rick Shapiro
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Good safety rule? CDC is suggesting bans on products rather than warning labels.

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No matter what product you buy today, it seems like when you get it home and start unwrapping it, the packaging is full of warning labels. We’re all familiar with the typical signs: “Danger”, “Flammable”, “Keep Out of Reach of Children”, “Choking Hazard”. But how many of us really pay attention to these labels. And when the risk of the product isn’t immediately obvious to us, are we really reading up to learn about what the hidden dangers might be?

The fact is that warning labels have in some ways become so common place that it is easy for our eyes to just pass right over that important information, disregarding it almost entirely. So how can we ensure consumer safety when warning labels have all but lost their impact? The Washington Post recently ran an article on precisely that issue. And it reminds us that there is one strategy that the CPSC has at its disposal when all other attempts at improving product safety have failed: simply banning the sale of a product altogether.

That is the strategy that was recently taken in relation to a couple of products that pose a hazard to children. In the last month the CPSC recalled 4 million Bumbo Baby Seats after increased warnings and additional safety features failed to adequately address fall hazards. The CPSC has also recently banned the sale of small BB-sized magnets due to the choking hazard they present.

Of course failed warning labels don’t automatically result in a product ban. There are many tactics that can be used to ensure consumer safety. Sometimes a simple product modification—like adding a safety restraint—can be effective. Other times it is possible to add safeguards such as child-resistant caps or different packaging that prevents a hazard from occurring.

But at the end of the day, sometimes no amount of warning, packaging, or modification can really make a product as safe as possible for its intended us. When that is the case, simply banning the product may very well be the best strategy.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, Eastern Shore Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service.