Federal Hazardous Substances Act

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal regulatory agency, enforces the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. The Act regulates hazardous substances. A hazardous substance means a substance that is toxic, corrosive, an irritant, or flammable and which can cause serious personal injury or illness when used. Pesticides and fuels are regulated by other federal agencies and do not fall within the definition of a hazardous substance.

Definition of Hazardous Substance

The Act defines a hazardous substance as one intended, or packaged in a form suitable, for use in a household or by children. The Act prohibits shipping or selling misbranded hazardous substances or banned hazardous substances in interstate commerce. The Act also requires that a hazardous substance contain a warning label that includes the main hazard, precautionary measures, instructions for handling and storage, and the statement "keep out of the reach of children."

Examples of Hazardous Substances

The courts have found fireworks to be hazardous substances. In an Ohio federal case, the court upheld regulations adopted under the Act, which limited the amount of pyrotechnic powder that fireworks could contain. The court held that the regulation provided reasonable and fair notice to a fireworks company of what it could not distribute to consumers. Also, mineral spirits has been held to be a hazardous substance within the meaning of the Act. A court held that the manufacturer of mineral spirits could be liable for failing to take appropriate action where a young child died from ingesting mineral spirits. The court found that the manufacturer knew or should have known that the distributors were not adequately warning consumers of the hazard.

Commission's Enforcement Authority

The Commission can order a manufacturer or distributor of a banned hazardous substance to give public notice that the substance is banned and to mail such notice to every person to whom the substance was sold or delivered. The Commission can also require the manufacturer or distributor to repair or change the substance, replace the substance, or refund the purchase price of the substance.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.