Guide to Public Information

November 09, 2011

Guide to Public Information



The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is an independent federal regulatory agency created to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injuries and deaths associated with some 15,000 types of consumer products. An important part of this mission is to inform the public about product hazards. CPSC uses various means to inform the public. These include local and national media coverage, publication of numerous booklets and product alerts, a web site, a telephone Hotline, the National Injury Information Clearinghouse, CPSC's Public Information Center and responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.


CPSC Reading Room and Web Site

The CPSC's public reference reading room contains numerous agency records, including the materials the CPSC makes available for public inspection and copying pursuant to the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. §§ 552(a)(2) and (5). The reading room is in the Public Information Center (room 419) at the CPSC's headquarters at 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, Maryland 20814. The records available for review are listed at Appendix A to this Guide. Those reading room records that the CPSC creates after November 1, 1996 and certain others, are also available on the CPSC's electronic reading room, in the FOIA portion of the "Library" section.


CPSC's website also includes information about agency meetings, product recalls and hazards, job vacancies, publications, publicly available records, the agency's current calendar of public meetings and other activities. The site also includes an interactive feature that allows consumers to report unsafe products and related injuries electronically. CPSC also maintains an On-Line Form for contact by electronic mail. This can be used for inquiries about product recalls or to report potential product hazards.


CPSC Office of Communications

Numerous publications, press releases and product safety alerts are available without a FOIA request from the CPSC's Office of Communications:




4330 East West Highway

Bethesda, MD 20814.


You may receive this information 24 hours a day via the website. You can also use e-mail to order hard copies of publications and publications not yet available on the website (be sure to include mailing address and specify the publications desired). Please allow 3-4 weeks for delivery. For more information about these services, call CPSC's Office of Information Services, 301-504-7909, or fax 301-504-0124 or 0025, or contact them via the On-Line Form.


You can have copies of product recall and safety information, and the agency's public calendar, automatically sent to you. To subscribe to this service, use the subscription form.


Type of Information Source
CPSC Publications Office of Communications
CPSC Press Releases Office of Communications; website
CPSC Product Safety Alerts, Fact Sheets Office of Communications; website
Incident Reports FOIA request to the Office of the Secretary (also through the National Injury Information Clearinghouse with some exceptions discussed further below)
Commission Briefing Packages FOIA request to the Office of the Secretary; website
Special Studies and Reports for Engineering, Health Science, or Hazard Analysis Issues FOIA request to the Office of the Secretary; website
Safety Standards for Products FOIA request to the Office of the Secretary; website; Government Printing Office
Unrestricted Staff Investigatory Files and Product Corrective Action and Recall Files FOIA request to the Office of the Secretary; website
Reading Room Materials See Appendix A; FOIA request to the Office of the Secretary; website

CPSC's toll-free Hotline, 1-800-638-2772, is another source of public information available 24 hours a day. The Hotline can be used to find out whether a product has been recalled, learn how to return a recalled product or arrange for its repair, obtain information on what to look for when buying consumer products, obtain information on how to use a consumer product safely, obtain information about ordering CPSC publications, report an unsafe product, and report a product-related injury.


A wide variety of recorded messages on product recalls and consumer product safety also are available on the Hotline anytime. To report product complaints or injuries, the Hotline staff is available between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday, except holidays. There are staff available who speak both English and Spanish. In addition, callers can arrange to speak with CPSC staff members fluent in other languages.


CPSC National Injury Information Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse)

The Clearinghouse disseminates statistics and information relating to the prevention of death and injury associated with consumer products. Each year the Clearinghouse responds to 6,000 requests for information from the American public. The Clearinghouse uses the following databases as sources of information.


The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS)

NEISS is comprised of a sample of hospitals that are statistically representative of hospital emergency rooms nationwide. From the data collected, estimates can be made of the numbers of injuries associated with consumer products and treated in hospital emergency departments. Data is collected on a broad range of injury-related issues covering hundreds of product categories and provides national estimates of the number and severity of product-related injuries.


Death Certificate File

State health departments provide these death certificate files to CPSC where consumer products are found to be involved in the deaths. The Clearinghouse provides summaries of the death certificates with victim information removed.


In-Depth Investigations (INDP) File

The INDP file contains summaries of reports of investigations into events surrounding product-related injuries or incidents. Based on victim/witness interviews, the reports provide details about incident sequence, human behavior, and product involvement.


Injury/Potential Injury Incident File (IPII)

The IPII file contains summaries, indexed by consumer product, of Hotline reports, product related newspaper accounts, reports from medical examiners, and letters to CPSC.


To contact the Clearinghouse and request information, call the CPSC Hotline at 1-800-638-2772 or write your request by e-mail to or conventional mail to Clearinghouse, CPSC, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814.


Available Information


The following types of information are typically available from the CPSC, from the sources noted:


Restricted Information

The CPSC generally does not disclose to the public the following types of information:


  • Documents prohibited from disclosure by the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA) (15 U.S.C. §§ 2055 (a) and (b)), which prohibits the release of: trade secrets and confidential commercial or financial information; and information that identifies manufacturers of consumer products, unless the CPSC has taken reasonable steps to assure it is accurate, its release would be fair under the circumstances, and its release is reasonably related to effectuating the purposes of the acts the Commission administers.

  • Information that identifies injured persons and the persons who treated them, without their consent.

  • Certain inter-agency and intra-agency memoranda containing opinions and recommendations prepared to assist in decision-making.

  • Personnel, medical and similar files, the disclosure of which would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

  • Investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes when disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement procedures or would disclose techniques, guidelines and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions -- for example, records from CPSC's compliance and enforcement files pertaining to active investigations.


CPSC FOIA Regulations

As described in this Guide, many agency records are available without a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Certain records, however, can only be obtained by filing a FOIA request with the CPSC Office of the Secretary. The CPSC's FOIA regulations are published at 16 C.F.R. Part 1015, and are reprinted as Appendix B to this Guide. Information disclosure at CPSC is also subject to the requirements of section 6(b) of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. § 2055(b), and the Commission's section 6(b) regulations, published at 16 C.F.R. Part 1101, reprinted as Appendix C to this guide.


Making a FOIA Request


All FOIA requests for CPSC records should be made in writing to:

Office of the Secretary
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814

or by E-mail via CPSC's On-Line Form.

You can deliver your request by hand or express mail to:

Office of the Secretary
4340 East West Highway, Suite 820
Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4408

If you have questions regarding the making or processing of a FOIA request, you may write us at the above address, or contact us by:

telephone (301) 504-7923;

facsimile (301) 504-0127; or

E-mail - via CPSC's Information Center On-Line Form


As described in previous sections, the CPSC maintains hundreds of files involving thousands of records on manufacturers, products, and on administrative and rule-making proceedings. CPSC also maintains computer stored or generated information that summarizes incidents and investigations of incidents and contains analyses of injury information. Because of CPSC's numerous types of files and records, please include in your request the following information, as appropriate:


  • Identity and address of the manufacturer, private labeler or importer of interest;
  • Type of consumer product, brand name and model number;
  • Kinds of records sought;
  • Time period for which you wish the files searched;
  • Specific accident or hazard scenario of interest;
  • The extent of your willingness to pay any fees that would be incurred in the processing of your request; and
  • The purpose of your organization or your need for the information if requesting a waiver of the fees.


The more you narrow your request to specific descriptions, the quicker the request can be processed. Please keep in mind that the FOIA pertains only to existing records and is not a research service that compiles information that cannot be readily identified. If your request does not specify a time period for the file search, the Commission will limit the search to the most recent two years and the current year. Records for injury information and most other records for the time periods before 1980 are no longer immediately available through Commission records systems and data bases. Requests for records older than 1980 will take longer to retrieve and process and the cost to you could be more substantial.


FOIA Processing Fees

CPSC's FOIA regulations at 16 C.F.R. § 1015.9 provide for the charging of fees for the processing of FOIA requests. Fees charged and any fees to be waived are different for commercial use requesters, non-commercial educational or scientific institutions, the news media or "others," including consumers and plaintiffs' attorneys. Waiver requests must specifically explain the intended use of the information and the reasons the requester is entitled to a waiver.


CPSC Information and Record Locator Systems

CPSC's Government Information Locator Service (GILS) records are maintained by the Government Printing Office (GPO). GILS records identify public information sources within the federal government, describe the information available in these resources, and assist in obtaining the information. CPSC's GILS can be viewed either by going directly to the GPO web site at, or by going to the CPSC web site, clicking the button marked "Business/Contracts," then "Official Federal Information," then "Federal Register, GILS," then "Search the Government Information Locator Service (GILS)." Then, scroll through the agencies listed or enter: Consumer Product Safety Commission.


CPSC Annual FOIA Report

Pursuant to the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(e), the Commission prepares an annual report regarding its FOIA activities. You may obtain a copy of these reports on our web site, or by calling or writing the Office of the Secretary.


Title 16: Commercial Practices

Part 1015—Procedures for Disclosure or Production of Information Under the Freedom of Information Act