Effectiveness of Consumer Protection Programs

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-07-28.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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                                         ,~JMITED STATESGENERALACCOUNTINGOFFICE
                                                      WASHINGTON,     D C   20548

      CIVIL     DIVISION                                                            JR          2   8   4971

                           Dear Dr. Branscomb:

                                 We have completed a survey of consumer protection             and safety
                           programs being conducted by the National           Bureau of Standards.       The
                           survey was performed prlmarxly        at the Bureau's headquarters        In
                           Gaithersburg,    Maryland.    The survey included       the gathering    of infor-
                           mation on the following      programs:     Flammable Fabrics,      Motor Vehicle
                           Safety, Fair Packaging and Labeling,          Fire Research and Safety, and
                           Product Safety.      Although we do not intend to review any of the pro-
                           grams in further     detail  at this time, we wish to take the opportu-
                           nity to present our views on one aspect of the Flammable Fabrics

                                  In reviewing     the progress of the program under the Flammable
                           Fabrics Act, we noted that no standard or other regulation                   for wear-
                           ing apparel has become effective           during the three and one-half           years
                           that have followed        passage of amendments to the Act in December 1967.
                           The Department of Commerce issued findings,             however, that standards
                           or other regulations        rmght be needed for wearing apparel in general
                           in October 1’368 and for certain         items of children's       wearing apparel
                           In January 1970.        Standards or other regulations        have not been propos-
                           ed as a result      of the October 196@ flndxng,        but a proposed standard
                           for chlldrenls      sleepwear was published       in November 1970.         Public com-
                           ments have since been received          as a prelude to the possible           issuance
                           of a final     standard which will normally         become effective      twelve
                           months after promulgation         by the Secretary     of Commerce.

                                  The Congressional     corrmmttees, to whom the bill for amending             the
                           Act was referred,     reported    xn 1967 that vlctrms of wearing apparel
                           burns are very largely       concentrated   among the very young and the
                           aged. The Department,        however, did not find a possible need for
                           children's   wearing apparel standards,       as a basis for institution            of
                           proceedings,    until   January 1970 and has not yet found a possible
                           need for standards for wearing apparel of the aged. The January                     1970
                           issuance was based on the Bureau's analysis          of 254 cases reported           by
                           the Department of Health, Education,         and Welfare.

                                 Our discussions  with Bureau personnel and reviews of Congres-
                           sional hearings indicate     that a maJor impediment to more timely devel-
                           opment of standar&$'ls    the position   taken within   the Department that
                           the need for standards must be strongly       supported by statistically

                                                   5QTH   ANNIVERSARY       1921-        1971
      valid   case data and that such data has not heretofore                 been provided
      by the Department of Health, Education,                and Welfare.     We agree that
      such statistical       data 1s vital      to the satisfactory       accomplishment
      of the purposes of the Act.             Until such time as adequate data is
  =? made available,       however, we believe          that laboratory    research,   based
      on existing      case data and on the more common exposures of wearing
      apparel to ignition         sources, should be utslized          to determine unrea-
      sonable risk and develop anitzal             standards or other regulations         under
      the Act.      Considering     the obvious hazards which the wearing apparel
      of children      and the aged entail,        for example, it seems that labora-
-WI, tory research could possibly             have been concentrated       earlier   on the
      development      of Uflrst-generationlf        standards for such wearing apparel
    ' as In the case of carpets and rugs.

             We appreciate  the cooperation     extended to our representatives
       during the review.    We plan no further       reporting   on the results    of
       our survey; however,    lnformatlon    obtained    which related  to  other   agen-
       cies may be used in subsequent reviews of those agencies.             It  1s  pos-
       sible that Bureau officials       may be contacted during these reviews.

            Copies of this letter   are being sent to the Asslstant                Secretary
       for Admlnlstratlon  and to the Director,   Office of Audits,               Department
       of Commerce.
                                                 Sincerely   yours,

                                                      A. Neuwlrth

       Dr. Lewis M. Branscomb, Director
       National  Bureau of Standards
       Department of Commerce

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