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Commission Approves Issuance Of General Orders On Asbestos In Consumer Products

Release Date: May 30, 1980

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has voted to issue general orders requiring approximately 1,200 U.S. corporations to provide information regarding the use of asbestos in consumer products.

This further step in CPSC's investigation into potential consumer exposure to asbestos, a known cause of cancer and lung disease, focuses on selected household appliances and other products which may be manufactured with asbestos.

Following publication of the general orders in the Federal Register, the 1,200 manufacturers and importers will be allowed 60 days to provide the information focusing on about 30 categories of products to the Commission A selected for priority attention. These include kitchen appliances such as ovens and stoves, toasters, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators. Also covered are such products as oven mits and pot holders, portable electric heaters, pipe insulation, airduct insulation, burner mats and asbestos paper.

Responses to the orders will be required from companies which have manufactured, imported or privately labeled these products since January 1, 1977. The information will assist CPSC in determining whether any actions are necessary to protect consumers from potential health risks associated with the products.

The questions in the general orders will seek information covering:

-- whether asbestos has been used in the products

-- the form in which the asbestos is present

-- the purpose served by the asbestos

-- the results of any tests performed to determine the emission of asbestos fibers into the air and

-- the availability of potential substitutes for asbestos. in the products.

In addition, the general order also seeks information as to the potential economic effects of regulating consumer products containing asbestos. According to law, the Commission must consider the probable effects on the cost and availability of a product before regulating the product. The Commission also must consider alternative approaches that would achieve its objective while minimizing adverse effects on competition or on manufacturing.

The majority of the Commissioners approved inclusion of the following question to facilitate timely consideration of such potential economic effects:

"Describe the usual marketing and use patterns of each product identified, including: prices (e.g., price lists or schedules); promotional materials (to the extent that they relate to potential consumer uses); typical distribution channels (e.g., wholesale only, catalog sales only, wholesale and retail); regional distribution patterns (e.g., nationwide, Northwest only); and intended uses, functions, and applications."

The majority felt that seeking such information is also in keeping with the Commission's commitment to promoting regulatory reform by considering the economic impacts of its actions at the earliest stages of the regulatory process.

Chairman Susan King and Commissioners Stuart Statler and Edith Sloan approved the final general order in all respects. Commissioners David Pittle and Sam Zagoria joined in approval won specifying the of the general order except as to submission of certain economic information. The opinion of Commissioner Zagoria is expressed in a separate statement attached to this news release: the opinion of Commissioner Pittle will be available later iin CPSC's Office of the Secretary.

In order to limit the burden of the reporting requirements on industry, CPSC reduced the scope of the general orders as originally drafted to cover only those products manufactured, imported or labeled since 1977. CPSC staff believes that those products still may be in the commercial chain of distribution and currently available for sale to consumers.

As part of an earlier agreement, responses to the CPSC general orders will be shared with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is working with CPSC to gather information on asbestos in the general environment. Information from companies which stipulate that the data is proprietary or a trade secret, however, will not be shared with EPA. In addition, companies which previously have supplied the information to CPSC or EPA need not respond to the general orders.

Once the general orders have been published in the Federal Register and sent to the 1,200 corporations in mid-July, the reporting requirements will remain binding for a one-year period to cover any new uses of asbestos in these products.

The Commission is continuing to study all consumer products which contain asbestos and may request information on other types of products (beyond those covered by the current general orders *) in future orders to industry.

The following products are subject to the order:

Barbecue fire starters (electric)
Deep Fryers
Frying pans and grills (electric)
Mixers (electric)
Popcorn poppers
Ranges and ovens
Slow cookers

Clothes washers and dryers

Curling irons (electric)
Electric blankets
Heaters, portable electric

Texture paint
Asbestos paper (including asbestos paper tape) and millboard (i.e., in rolls or sheets) for consumer use, including but not limited to such uses as (This category does not include paper and millboard sold as a component of another product).

Wall protection behind heat-generating products
Floor protection under wood and coal stoves
Soldering and welding blocks or sheets
Pipe insulation
Airduct insulation

High-temperature wallboard
Iron rests and burner mats; barbecue mits, pot holders and similar items
High-temperature gaskets for wood and coal stoves (including fireplace inserts)
Stove pipe rings
Safes, Kilns, safety boxes, filing cabinets, and incinerators


U.S. consumer Product Safety Commission
Dissent On Question 5 Of Asbestos General Order

The Commission, in adopting this General Order, is embarking upon the broadest quest for information in the history of the agency. It is important that we ask of the 1200 companies only such information as is demonstrably necessary to out our responsibility for consumer product safety. Every question pulls business away from productive activity and adds to the ultimate cost of products to consumers. We should not ask one question more than we absolutely require.

"Describe the usual marketing and use patterns of each product identified, including: prices (e.g., price lists or schedules); promotional materials (to the extent they relate to potential consumer uses); typical distribution channels (e.g., wholesale only, catalogue sales only, wholesale and retail); regional distribution patterns (e.g., nationwide, Northwest only)..."

Such information, which business organizations have already told us is considered sensitive marketing strategy information, is not necessary at this stage, during which we are seeking to determine what, if any, health hazard exists in certain consumer asbestos products. If the Commission determines regulation is necessary on some of the products, it would be appropriate to contact those manufacturers rather than to require such information from all 1200 firms on the chance that information from some firms may be needed.

The Federal Paperwork Commission, in which Esther Peterson was a major participant, estimated that paperwork imposed on industry costs some $25-$32 billions per year--about two percent of the gross national product. We should not add to that toll by requiring information that may be unnecessary, burdens business and consumers, and is soon out of date.


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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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