Consumer product recalls: Some linked to injuries and deaths, spiked in the past year, says report

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury KGO logo
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Product recalls linked to injuries, deaths spiked in the past year
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It's unclear whether products are less safe, or if oversight is now more aggressive.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A consumer watchdog group just finished a study showing a big spike in recalled products last year -- hundreds of items you may have in your home right now. Dozens of them caused injuries, even deaths.

The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) found some incidents were reported to the government long before items were pulled from store shelves. Often consumers are unaware of dangers that may be in their own homes.

7 On Your Side told you about Erika Richter, whose newborn baby died in the Fisher-Price sleeper months before the bed was recalled -- and linked to 30 deaths.

"If I had known about the dangers of the Fisher-Price Rock 'N Play even minutes before she was placed in it, I would still have my daughter..." Richter testified before Congress.

MORE: 2M air fryers recalled due to fire and burn hazards

This year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) renewed the recall, saying the toll of known deaths has now reached nearly 100 infants, including eight who died even after the Rock 'N Play was pulled off the market.

"We have found there are plenty of examples of folks continuing to use products and continuing to get hurt, just because they didn't know about the recall," said Jenn Engstrong of the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG).

A new study by CALPIRG makes the startling finding that recalls of everyday consumer products suddenly spiked last year.

"The findings are pretty scary. There were 33% more recalls in this last year, compared to 2021. A product was recalled every 30 hours on average," said Engstrom.

Engstrom says it's unclear whether products are less safe, or oversight is more aggressive. Many of the recalls are renewals of past ones, as consumers continued to use the banned products or did not get the needed repairs.

MORE: 145,000 cans of Enfamil ProSobee infant formula recalled over bacterial risk

In one case, a Generac power generator was recalled two years ago because the handles could pin and crush fingers. Two years later, it's been linked to 24 finger amputations. And the CPSC is urging owners to obtain the prescribed repair.

The study found 292 products were pulled from store shelves last year, compared to 216 the year before.

It's the most since 2007 when more than 400 products were recalled.

"When we really dug into looking at the complaints, that's when it really got scary. Many of these complaints and recalled products involve injuries and even deaths," Engstrom said.

Some recalls involved ordinary household products that consumers might never worry about.

"Like of course, I would never have thought that my cleaning product would have bacteria in it, the thing that I use to clean things and get rid of bacteria," Engstrom said.

MORE: Fisher-Price reminds consumers of 2019 recall of Rock 'n Play Sleepers after more deaths

But it happened. 37 million bottles of the popular Pine-Sol brand cleaner were pulled from shelves because of possible contamination with a toxic bacteria.

Other seemingly harmless items also proved risky, like an acrylic bird bath -- which can cause a fire. When sunlight hit the bird bath, it overheated and burned wood siding and decking at two homes.

And a children's squirt gun also was flagged for erupting in flames -- it has a lithium battery that overheated and caused fire or smoke in 30 cases.

Other recalls involved serious injuries -- and death.

A weighted blanket caused the deaths of two young girls who got caught in the covering.

A wall-mounted basketball hoop was recalled because it may break off and fall. In one case, it fell and killed a teenager.

And the CPSC got four companies to recall home elevators because children can get trapped in the gap between the inner and outer doors, and get injured if the elevator is called to another floor. Two children died, in 2017 and in 2021, and a third was left permanently disabled, according to the CPSC recall notices.

MORE: The Laundress recall: 8M cleaning products recalled over bacteria exposure risk

The recall says that companies will provide a repair to thousands of the elevators by installing a device that fills the gap.

CALPIRG says it's up to consumers to be aware of dangers.

"If you have, you see the recall, you need to get rid of your product, right? Like, we don't have people who come in and take your products from you," Engstrom said.

You can sign up to receive recall alerts from the Consumer Product Safety Commission by visiting their website.

Read CALPIRG's full report here: Safe at home? Analysis of 2022 CPSC data shows recalls of dangerous products often take months or years.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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