The Public Interest

Regulation by the numbers—a report on the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Steven Kelman

Summer 1974

IN 1972 Congress created a new federal regulatory agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and empowered it to deal with the safety of virtually every consumer product in use. Previously, household products subject to safety regulation had been the exception rather than the rule. Specific laws—the first dating from 1953 but most having been enacted during the consumerist boom of the late 1960’s-had given various federal agencies regulatory power over flammable fabrics, refrigerator doors, household poisons, and toys. The new law, the Consumer Product Safety Act, applies to every type of consumer product not covered by other legislation—which is to say, everything except automobiles, cosmetics, drugs, food, and cigarettes.

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