Thousands of new products are introduced for consumer use every year, providing convenience and recreation for every member of the household. But every now and then these new products present unexpected dangers.
Last year, the Consumer Products Safety Program (CPSP), part of Health Canada, received 2,355 reports about dangerous products, of which 22 involved a death and another 917 referred to a non-fatal injury. This list includes consumer products and cosmetics, but not vehicles, medical or food products, which are monitored by separate divisions of Health Canada.
Under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, companies that make consumer products must report any health or safety incidents to Health Canada. Consumers can also report unsafe products by filling out an online form. In addition, the CPSP gathers information in Canada and internationally about any injuries and new science relating to consumer products. It also does sampling and testing of products and works with Canada Border Services Agency to make sure products being imported into the country are safe.
The top 10 consumer products reported to CPSP last year were, in order:
Toys: Reports of children getting cuts and bruises from toys and choking on small parts
Telephones or accessories: Burns, cuts and electric shocks
Diapers: Irritations and allergic reactions
Electric ranges or ovens: Burns, cuts, irritation or allergic reactions
Battery chargers and adaptors: Burns and electric shock
Laundry soaps and detergents: Irritations or allergic reactions and poisoning
Stroller/tricycle: No injuries reported
Light bulbs: Cuts, burns and electric shock
Thermostats: Fire, causing irritation or allergic reaction
Several household products were also blamed at least partially for a death. Five people died as a result of strangulation by cord entanglement from window shades, venetian blinds or indoor shutters. A floor lamp fire resulted in someone receiving extensive burns and dying as a result of complications. A heating system malfunctioned and killed a resident by carbon monoxide poisoning. There were 10 deaths from garden tractor and riding lawn mower accidents.
Recently Health Canada and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office issued a warning about tabletop fire pots, also known as fireburners, patio burners, flamepots or tabletop fire pits. They are portable, decorative accents that support an open flame burning. They are generally made of ceramic and have an open fuel reservoir.
“Ontario has recorded multiple fatalities and serious injuries related to the refueling of these ethanol-fueled appliances this year,” says Jon Pegg, Ontario’s Fire Marshal. He says since 2016, his office has conducted 11 fire investigations that involved the use of the firepots.
In June, a Toronto doctor died after she was seriously burned while refueling one of the units.
Pegg says that a fire hazard called flame-jetting can happen if you try to pour fuel into one of these units before the flame has been fully extinguished. The flame is not always visible.
The Fire Marshal’s Office created a video to show how injuries can happen.
When using a firepot, make sure any flames are fully out and that it’s cold to the touch before refueling. Only refuel when there is nobody near the unit. Use a fuel container that has a flame arrestor, says the Fire Marshal.
Health Canada maintains a busy website that includes product recalls and warnings for all kinds of consumer products, as well as food, vehicles and health products. Here are a few household products that recently made the list that no manufacturer wants to be on.
Mid-Century three-drawer chests, imported by Home Meridian International: Some models of these chests are unstable if they are not anchored to the wall, “posing serious tip-over and entrapment hazards that can result in death or injuries to children,” says Health Canada. About 10 of the units were sold in Canada.
Carrier- and Bryant-branded 1.5-ton multi-zone, four-ton multi-zone and four-ton single-zone ductless heat pump outdoor units have been recalled due to a fire hazard. Health Canada says the fan motor can fail and catch fire. If the units are close to a building the flame could spread. As of August 2019, there had been five reports of fires in Canada and one in the United States. About 450 of the units have been sold in Canada. Consumers are advised to contact their installation servicer, dealer or contractor for a free repair.
DeWalt multi-functional 40-inch utility bars have been recalled because they may break while being used for prying. The bars are yellow at one end and black at the other. The model number DWHT55293 is printed in black on the yellow end. As of October of this year, the company has received no reports of the bar breaking in Canada.
ASKO dishwashers sold in stainless steel and custom panel-ready options have internal wiring that can overheat, melt or catch fire. There have been no reports of this happening in Canada as of September 2019, but 69 reports have been recorded in the United States. Health Canada says 4,324 of the units have been sold in Canada.
The Health Canada site includes dozens of warnings and recalls and outlines what consumers should do to dispose of the recalled products and get a refund.
Health Canada also works with international consumer production organizations. You can check out products that have been recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or by other countries around the world.