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Hazardous Substances Act (1960)

Hazardous Substances Act (1960)


This law was one of Congress's first forays into consumer protection, and it helped to pave the way for the explosion in consumer protection legislation that began in the mid-1960s. The Hazardous Substances Labeling Act was passed in 1960 (the word "Labeling" was deleted by the 1966 amendments the act). The law authorized the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to require warning labels for household substances that were deemed hazardous. These substances were categorized as: toxic, corrosive, irritant, strong sensitizer, flammable or combustible, pressure generating, or radioactive. The law does not cover pesticides (which are regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide , and Rodenticide Act); food, drugs, or cosmetics (which are covered by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act); radioactive materials related to nuclear power ; fuels for cooking, heating, or refrigeration; or tobacco products.

A product is defined to be hazardous if it might lead to personal injury or substantial illness, especially if there is a reasonable danger that a child might ingest the substance. When the HEW Secretary declares a substance to be hazardous, a label is required. The label must include a description of the chief hazard and first aid instructions, along with handling and storage instructions. If its chief hazard is flammable, corrosive, or toxic, it must say DANGER on the label; other hazardous substances require either CAUTION or WARNING. In addition, all labels must include the statement "Keep out of the reach of children."

Major amendments to the act, the Child Protection Act, were passed in 1966. These amendments, largely in response to the message on consumer issues by President Lyndon Johnson, expanded federal control over hazardous substances. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which administered the law, could now ban substances (after formal hearings) that were deemed too hazardous, even if they had a warning label, if "the degree or nature of the hazard involved in the presence or use of such substance in households is such that the objective of the protection the public health and safety can be adequately served" only by such a ban. The amendments also extended the scope of the law to pay greater attention to toys and children's articles. This meant the government could require a warning on all household items, rather than just packaged items.

The Child Protection and Toy Safety Act of 1969 further amended the Hazardous Substances Act. Toys could be declared hazardous if they presented electrical, mechanical, or thermal dangers. Also, substances that were hazardous to children, including toys, could be banned automatically. As the titles of these amendments suggest, the Hazardous Substances Act became the primary vehicle to protect children from dangerous substances and toys. Administration of the act has been shifted to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If the Commission finds a "substantial risk of injury,"
children's clothes, furniture, and toys can be pulled from the market immediately.

See also Environmental law; Hazardous material Hazardous Materials Transportation Act; Hazardous waste; Hazardous waste siting; Radioactive waste; Radioactivity

[Christopher McGrory Klyza ]


RESOURCES

PERIODICALS

"Child Protection." Congressional Quarterly Almanac 22 (1966): 3257. "Toy Safety," Congressional Quarterly Almanac 25 (1969): 24850.

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