Release date: June 15, 2015
Release number: 15-164

Release Details

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Effective June 3, 2015, a new safety rule for seasonal and decorative lights allows CPSC to remove hazardous products from the market more effectively, but does not require manufacturers to do additional testing or paperwork. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) unanimously approved (5-0) and published this new safety rule on May 4, 2015.

Seasonal and decorative lighting products include lighted decorations, such as stars, wreaths, electric candles without shades, light sculptures, blow-molded (plastic) figures and animated figures incorporating lights. Under the new rule, if these products lack any of three readily observable characteristics described in the UL 588 voluntary standard-minimum wire size, sufficient strain relief, or overcurrent protection-CPSC will deem the products to present a substantial product hazard to consumers. The new rule streamlines CPSC’s ability to stop shipments of nonconforming decorative lights at U.S. ports of entry and secure recalls for hazardous lights that have been sold.

Seasonal and decorative lighting products have been responsible for hundreds of fire- and shock-related deaths and injuries over the years. CPSC is aware of 132 fatal incidents that occurred from 1980 through 2014 which led to 258 deaths, and 1,405 nonfatal incidents associated with seasonal and decorative lighting products.

Since 1974, CPSC staff has announced 47 voluntary recalls of seasonal and decorative lighting products, involving a total of 3.6 million units. In addition to product recalls, CPSC staff has stopped at least 127 shipments of noncompliant seasonal and decorative lighting products at the ports, involving about 31 companies and a total of about 200,000 lighting units.

Over the years since that time, a voluntary standard was put in place and the average number of incidents and deaths relating to seasonal and decorative lighting products declined. The new rule incorporates elements of the voluntary standard and will streamline CPSC’s efforts to prevent the distribution and sale of nonconforming seasonal and decorative lighting products.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) provided CPSC with the authority to specify, by rule, for any consumer product or class of consumer products, characteristics whose existence or absence shall be deemed a substantial product hazard.

Due to the Commission’s ruling that lights lacking any of these safety characteristics are a substantial product hazard, manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers must report these hazards to the CPSC.  Such lighting products are also subject to corrective action and now must be refused admission into the United States.  Additionally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is authorized to seize nonconforming lighting products offered for import.