NHTSA Must Revise Roof Crush Rule to Enhance Auto Safety

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We have always maintained that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) proposed performance standard for vehicle roofs is extremely inadequate when it comes to keeping people safe in roof crush rollover accidents. This article in the consumer watchdog Web site, Consumeraffairs.com, quotes safety advocates from Public Citizen, who agree with us 100 percent.

The main problem with NHTSA’s proposed roof crush rule is that it does not require a dynamic test that mimics an actual rollover accident. On the other hand, the requirement is only for a static test where the vehicle is dropped on its roof when its immobile. We all know that auto accidents and rollovers in the real world happen when vehicles are in motion, not when they are static.

The other problem with this roof crush rule is that it fails to require manufacturers to test both the driver and passenger sides of vehicles. The NHTSA’s rule relies on measuring the ability of the driver’s side roof to resist 2.5 times the vehicle’s weight. This is an improvement on the current standard, but still is way behind and does little to improve safety.

Product Liability Lawsuit Alleges Defective Design of Yamaha Rhino

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A 42-year-old Twain Harte, California, man has filed an Orange County product liability lawsuit against Yamaha Motor Corporation alleging that the company’s Yamaha Rhino side-by-side all-terrain vehicle is dangerously unstable and defective. According to court records, 42-year-old Scott Smith was severely injured on Aug. 20, 2006 when the 2006 Yamaha Rhino he was a passenger in, tipped over at a low rate of speed. Smith’s right leg was crushed and permanently impaired.

The lawsuit alleges that the Rhino’s roll bar damaged his leg and that Smith had to undergo seven surgeries, bear tremendous pain and be confined to his bed for a year. He will never again be able to engage in activities he enjoyed before the ATV accident such as skiing or hiking.

Defective Gas Grills Sold At Lowe’s Recalled

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission last week announced a voluntary recall of about 24,000 defective Perfect Flame Double Lid Four Burner gas grills. The recalled prodcuts, with model number GAC3615, were manufactured by Lucas Innovation Inc. of China and sold at Lowe’s home improvement stores in the United States from October 2007 through July 2008 for $300.

The danger posed by these defective grills is pretty serious. The cooking chamber of these gas grills can melt or catch on fire, thereby posing risk of fires and burn injuries to consumers. According to the CPSC alert, so far, there have been reports of 175 grill fires, 25 reports of grills melting. Some of these incidents resulted in property damage, but so far there have been no reports of injuries.

Owners of these grills are asked to stop using the grill immediately, disconnect the propane tank and return the defective products to any Lowe’s store for a full refund.

Consumer Reports’ product recall blog lists two complaints from its own readers relating to these recalled gas grills. One of their complaints cited the recalled model while another cited model number SLG2006, not included in this recall.

Defective Airbag and Suspension Plague Hyundais

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Federal officials are investigating airbag failures in the 2001 and 2002 Hyundai Elantra models, according to an article in the consumer watchdog website Consumeraffairs.com. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is including more than 150,000 of these economy-priced, Korean sedans in its investigation.

Federal investigators say the defective airbags failed to deploy in at least two fatality crashes that involved the Elantra. NHTSA and Hyundai have reportedly received 501 consumer complaints about the airbag system failures in the Elantra. Hyundai has also repaired the airbag system in more than 9,000 Elantra sedans under warranty claims. More disturbing is a letter from a consumer to Consumeraffairs.com stating that airbags also failed to deploy in his 2006 Hyundai Tucson during a rollover accident.

Airbags are not the only problem with the Elantra. NHTSA is investigating claims of catastrophic suspension failure in these vehicles, which nearly led to rollover accidents, according to some consumer complaints. In some models such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Sonata, the suspension could rust to the point of breaking, reports say.

Beef Recalled from All Whole Foods Stores

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Whole Foods, the upscale grocery store chain, which has a number of stores in California (one of which my wife shops at regularly), has recalled fresh ground beef from all its stores nationwide after finding out that the meat could be tainted by E. Coli, according to a report in Consumeraffairs.com. The E. Coli-tainted meat purchased from Whole Foods stores in Massachusetts has sickened six people so far.

The contaminated meat was purchased from Coleman Natural Foods, but was processed at Nebraska Beef, which recalled more than 5 million pounds of ground beef in May and June. Nebraska Beef reportedly recalled an additional 1.2 million pounds of beef produced in June and July, and that beef is included in a batch of meat that found its way back to Whole Foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has already been closely scrutinizing Nebraska Beef. Now, the plant is under investigation for possible food safety violations.

USDA officials have criticized Nebraska Beef’s operation, calling the conditions unsanitary and stating that the plant’s production practices are not good enough to effectively control E. Coli 0157:H7 in their beef products intended for grinding.

Defective Blenders Recalled For Laceration Hazard

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Florida-based Atico International USA Inc., has recalled about 124,000 Gourmet and Crofton personal blenders. According to an alert issued by the CPSC, these defective blenders pose a serious laceration hazard to consumers. The blender could be inadvertently turned on when the user places the cup on or off the base of the blender, thereby activating the blade.

So far, the company has received 14 reports of injuries, all cuts, including 11 that required medical treatment and stitches. The product recall involves the Signature Gourmet (item number W14A3691) and the Crofton (model number SB 19) personal blenders. The blenders are white and have three component parts – a base comprising a power button, a blade assembly and a blending cup. These blenders were sold at Walgreens stores nationwide from July 2006 to March 2008 for about $16. The Crofton blenders were sold at Aldi stores nationwide from May 2007 to March 2008 for about $13. All blenders were made in China.

Those who have purchased these blenders are asked to stop using the blenders and call Atico International USA for instructions on returning the defective product for a full refund. For more information, please call 1-877-546-4835 or visit their Web site at www.aticousa.com.

This report is another example of how many of our country’s importers lack quality control procedures when it comes to products that are manufactured outside the United States. Products that are made outside the country are still subject to the same standards and requirements as products that are made in the United States. But so far, we’ve seen violation of these safety standards, mostly in a range of defective products from China – from tires and cribs to toothpaste, clothes, toys and pet food. Importers of defective products are and should be held equally responsible for those products as their manufacturers.

If you or someone you know has been seriously injured by a defective product in California, we would like to hear about it.

Defective Airbags Result In BMW Recall of 200,000 Vehicles

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Defective airbags have led to a massive recall of 200,000 BMW cars and small sport utility vehicles, according to an article in Consumeraffairs.com. The article reports that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has warned that the front passenger side airbags in these vehicles may not deploy even in the case of a severe auto accident.

The recalled BMWs include the 2004 to 2005 5-Series standard and sport seat models, the 2004 to 2006 X3 and the 2006 3-Series with sport seats. According to NHTSA, the passenger-side airbags can deactivate because of “wear associated with a passenger getting in and out of the vehicle.” This wear causes small cracks in the car’s sensor mat, thereby deactivating the airbags.

When the auto product recalls begins in late September, BMW officials say they will extend the warranty for airbags on the recalled vehicles to 10 years from the first registration without any mileage limit. The defective detection mat in the vehicle that causes the problem for the airbags will also be replaced at no cost to the consumer. NHTSA started its investigation of the defective BMW airbags earlier this year. No injuries were reported because of these defective airbags. For more information, BMW owners are asked to contact the manufacturer at 1-800-525-7417 or NHTSA at 1-888-327-4236.

Defective Nail Guns Recalled

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DEWALT, a nail gun manufacturer, has recalled about 14,000 DC608 cordless nail guns, which can cause a hazard to nail gun operators by continuing to operate even in a locked position. According to an article in Consumeraffairs.com, the defective product can continue to operate when the trigger is not pulled and the contact trip is depressed. The unexpected ejection of nails could pose a serious injury hazard to consumers.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has also issued a safety alert about these defective products. No injuries have been reported so far. The recall involves the DEWALT DC608 18 Volt Cordless 2’ 18 Guage Straight Brad Nailer with date codes 200728 through 200821. These nailers, manufactured in Mexico, were reportedly sold from October 2007 through May 2008 for about $280.

Those who own and use these products are asked to immediately stop using the nailers and contact DEWALT for the location of the nearest service center. DEWALT will repair these defective nail guns for free. For more information please contact the manufacturer toll-free at 1-866-220-1481 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or please visit the company’s Web site at www.DEWALT.com.

Foodborne Illness Outbreak: Salmonella Sickens More Than 1,300 People

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More than 1300 people across the United States have been infected by foodborne illness from salmonella bacteria after consuming tainted peppers and/or tomatoes. But health officials have still not been able to determine the source of the infections. All they know is that the salmonella came from jalapenos, Serrano peppers and possibly tomatoes grown on several farms in Mexico.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 1 million people in the United States are hit by various strains of salmonella each year, causing more than 500 documented deaths annually. This particular outbreak has now stretched over four months and has been the most challenging for the Food and Drug Administration to sort out.

Salmonella is among those foodborne illnesses that can not only make victims suffer long-term, but could end up being lethal. Salmonella is the most common foodborne illness in the United States. The bacteria grow in the intestine and cause the illness. How severe the infection becomes depends on the amount of bacteria in the system, the strain of organism and the resistance level of the affected persons. Infants and the elderly are considered high-risk. Most common symptoms for salmonella infection include headache, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and fatigue.

Defective Tire Valve Systems Could Be Widespread

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Federal safety officials have issued a warning about defective tire valve systems manufactured in China, suspected of causing a November fatal Ford Explorer rollover accident in Florida. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) traces these defective tires to Topseal, a subsidiary of Shanghai-based Baolong Industries. Here in the United States, these tires are distributed by Dill Air Control to major retailers including Discount Tire Stores.

According to NHTSA’s report, the rubber compound in these faulty tire valves may undergo cracking resulting in gradual loss of air pressure resulting in a blowout. The report states that this defect was caused by improper mixing of the rubber compound in the manufacturer’s facility. Cracks in valve stems can cause tires to lose air quickly, and such air loss at highway speeds can result in tire failure and a loss-of-control crash. On November 11, Robert Monk of Orlando, Fla. died when the right rear tire of his 1998 Ford Explorer failed, triggering a fatal rollover crash.

According to NHTSA, only about 8,600 tire valves may be defective. But there is the suspicion that millions of tire valve systems – nearly 30 million distributed in the North American market – may be defective. Tech International, a U.S. distributor, also recently issued a recall of 6 million of the Chinese-made valve stems, which have been tentatively linked to the fatal SUV rollover crash in Orlando.

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