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CPSC Action On Hair Dryers Manufactured With Asbestos

Release Date: March 30, 1979

The Commission yesterday unanimously ordered nine major manufacturers of hand-held hair dryers and three of the major retailers to promptly provide CPSC with comprehensive information on the use of asbestos insulation in the hair dryers.

The Commission also requested each of the corporations to send representatives to meet with CPSC staff on Thursday, April 5, at CPSC headquarters in Washington. Through this meeting and the CPSC Special Orders issued today the Commission is expected to obtain much of the data needed to prepare a regulatory response to the potential health threat that may be facing millions of American consumers.

The list of those corporations sent CPSC Special Orders included Sears, Roebuck & Co., Montgomery Ward, and J.C. Penney, three of the nation's major retailers and private labelers of hand-held dryers.

Among those who were sent Special Orders today to provide information to CPSC were manufacturers of Clairol, Conair, Schick, Hamilton Beach, Norelco, Sunbeam, General Electric, Gillette and American Electric products. Other manufacturers and importers of hair dryers also are expected to be sent orders to provide information on their use of asbestos, The Commission, however, does not currently have confirmed information as to which of these companies use asbestos in their hair dryers.

These major manufacturers are responsible for more than 90 per cent of all domestic hair dryer sales annually; more than 75 per cent of the nation's annual sales of about 13 million hair dryers are manufactured overseas and imported into the U.S. According to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), between 25 and 40 per cent of the imports in recent years have been manufactured with asbestos as a heat shield insulator.

The CPSC Special Orders issued today are intended to identify those hair dryers manufactured with asbestos which may be in consumers' possession, in manufacturers' inventories, or in the chain of distribution.

The Special Orders require the retailers and manufacturers to provide to CPSC within 10 days factual data covering specific areas of preliminary inquiry, including:

- The presence of asbestos in any form in any of the companies' hair dryers, and whether the asbestos is exposed to the dryer's airstream.

- The manufacture of hair dryers using asbestos within the past 10 years.

- Identification of specific models, as well as quantity and dates of manufacture and importation.

- Whether any scientific testing has been performed by or for the companies regarding emission of respirable asbestos fibers from the hair dryers.

The Commission and staff also are proceeding with laboratory testing and evaluation of asbestos fibers released from various hair dryers commercially available to consumers. The tests are being conducted by the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) and at other federal government agency facilities.

The NBS demonstration testing is designed to determine whether asbestos fibers are being emitted from specific hair dryers, and NBS officials have projected that they may be able to report general estimates of the quantity and size of the individual fibers as early as mid-April.

A comprehensive test survey of up to 50 individual brands and models of hair dryers also is being conducted for CPSC at the Cincinnati laboratories of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). CPSC has been informed that preliminary results from this testing, which will include transmission electron microscopy, will be available by the end of April and that final results may be ready by the end of June, 1979.

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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