Release date: November 4, 1975
Release number: 75-069

Release Details

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission today invited any interested person or group to offer to develop a recommended consumer product safety standard for aluminum wire systems -- the wiring and devices -- currently used in residences, schools, recreational facilities, and other public buildings. The recommended standard so obtained could later be adopted by the Commission as a mandatory Federal standard.

In a Federal Register notice published today, the Commission also invited any person or group to submit an existing standard for aluminum wire systems for Commission consideration for adoption as a mandatory Federal standard.

According to the Commission, the major hazard associated with aluminum wire systems that needs to be addressed in a safety standard is death or injury caused by burning or asphyxiation due to fire caused by defective connections within aluminum wire systems.

The Federal Register notice defines the aluminum wire system as consisting of aluminum electrical conductors intended or suitable for use in 15 and 20 ampere electrical circuits (generally 10 AWG (American Wire Gage) sizes and smaller) as well as all devices connected to it, including outlets, wall switches, circuit breakers, fuse holders, lamp holders, wire connectors, and relay switches.

Included in the definition is aluminum wire which is clad with any conductive coating, but not included is copper clad aluminum conductors when the copper coating is 10 percent or greater of the conducting cross sectional area.

Since 1965, an estimated two million single family, multifamily, and mobile homes across the country have been wired with aluminum wire.

The Commission has preliminarily determined that hazards associated with aluminum wire systems present an unreasonable risk of injury or death on the basis of testimony received at two public hearings held in Washington, D.C., and in Los Angeles in March and April 1974, research at the National Bureau of Standards, and hundreds of hotline calls and letters received from consumers detailing problems with aluminum wire systems. The Commission has collected reports of over 165 aluminum wiring failures and numerous aluminum wiring related-fires.

Between August 29 and September 17, 1974, the Commission's hotline received 404 phone calls from the New York area in response to a newspaper article discussing the hazards of aluminum wire. Of those calls, 179 homeowners reported hazardous conditions such as burned wire insulation, burned receptacles, fire in wall switches, the odor of burning wires, overheated switches, scorched walls, and melted wire insulation.

The Commission received a petition from Southwire Company, Carrollton, Georgia, on August 27, 1974, asking the Commission to adopt a standard submitted by it for aluminum conductors and associated devices. The Commission viewed Southwire's petition in part as a request to commence a standard development proceeding, and, to this extent, responded to the petition by a Commission decision to initiate such a proceeding. Southwire may re-submit its standard for CPSC consideration as part of the standard development proceeding.

The Consumer Product Safety Act offeror procedures encourage and provide wide opportunities for participation by all interested persons -- industry, trade associations, technical experts, and consumers -- in the standards development process regardless of who is selected as offeror, a CPSC spokesperson said.

The Federal Register notice indicates that the Commission may agree to contribute to the cost of developing a proposed regulation but anticipates that the bulk of the offeror's work will be done by voluntary effort or funded by non-Commission sources.

Copies of the November 4th Federal Register invitation and injury and hazard data are available from the Office of the Secretary. Existing standards and offers must be submitted by December 4, 1975 to the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1750 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20207.

The development period will end 150 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register although the Agency may extend the time period for good cause. Persons interested in participating in the development activities should also contact the Office of the Secretary.

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