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Government agency may ban some toxic chemicals

Products liability often comes up in the news in connection with harmful drugs, design problems in cars and other types of design defects. But more broadly, products liability can apply in many cases where consumers are hurt in some way by products. A recent report about federal regulators highlights another way consumers may be harmed by products.

According to news reports, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering banning certain types of chemical flame retardants from use in furniture, bedding and children's products. The toxic chemicals have been linked to birth defects, hormone imbalances and other serious health problems.

Studies have shown that some of the chemicals involved don't even actually stop fires.

Ordinarily, toxic chemicals are regulated by other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, but the head of the CPSC has said that the prevalence of toxic chemicals in home products requires aggressive regulation. In the past, the CPSC did ban one type of flame retardant chemical from pajamas after the chemical was linked to cancer.

The law of products liability provides that when a consumer is injured by a defective product, the injured may be compensated through a personal injury suit against the companies that put the dangerous product into commerce. Liability can attach at many points along this chain of commerce, including manufacturers and sellers. It can also take different forms, including design defect, manufacturing defect and marketing defect, depending upon the circumstances.

In the case of a chemical that was designed to stop the spread of fires, but which leads to serious health problems, it's possible that a court could find that the product was defectively designed. That could mean manufacturers could be held liable for injuries caused by the products.

Products liability can be a highly complex area of the law. Those considering filing a personal injury claim due to a defective product may need the help of an experienced attorney.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "CPSC considers ban on toxic flame retardants in household products," Michael Hawthorne, Sept. 25, 2015

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