How to Report Dangerous Products

Even when companies follow all the appropriate safety regulations, industry guidelines and common good sense, unsafe products still seem to find their way somehow onto the open market. When this happens, the best case scenario is that a company will recognize the potential harm their product can do and issue a voluntary recall immediately.

Unfortunately, that does not always happen, and some harmful products remain on the market for weeks, months, or even years. Even worse, some manufacturers and marketers miss or actively ignore evidence of malfunction or bad design. They may also hire lawyers and PR firms to fight legal claims and public perception about the problems.

In such cases, an abundance of reports from consumers – the people who are actually buying these products – and pressure from regulatory agencies is necessary to show how dangerous these products can be and get the company to issue a recall.

Who Is Responsible for Overseeing Dangerous Products?

There is no single government entity that monitors every type of product on the market. Different agencies oversee different types of products, and they each have their own policies, procedures, and notification systems for dealing with health and safety issues. They also have different methods for members of the public to report problems.

The good news is that if you know what type of product you have on your hands, it is pretty easy to find the right agency to report it to. Below, we have compiled a list of reporting information with direct links to reporting forms for each regulatory agency.

Why Report Dangerous Products?

There are several reasons why someone might want to report a dangerous product to the appropriate state or federal agency.

  • You want to let other consumers know about problems you’ve experienced.
  • You want the company to be aware of and fix the problem.
  • You want the agency to investigate the issue.

In most cases, one or two reports about dangerous products may not be enough to make the company pull the product off the shelves or trigger an investigation. However, if enough people report problems with a product, then there is a greater likelihood that a recall or some other action will be taken.

How to Use This Reference

Find the section for the type of product you want to report and read the description. Simply click on the link to go directly to the agency’s reporting page.

General Consumer Products

Most everyday products are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In general, unless the type of product is listed elsewhere on this page, you should report products that caused harm or that you believe to be dangerous to the CPSC.

Report To: Consumer Product Safety Commission

Consumer Product Examples

  • Toys and Games
  • Baby Products
  • Furniture and Decorations
  • Clothing and Accessories
  • Household Items
  • Construction and DIY Materials
  • Containers and Packaging
  • Kitchen Items
  • Personal Care Products
  • Sports Equipment
  • Yard and Garden Tools
  • Cleaning Products
  • Fuel, Lighters and Fireworks
  • Other Chemicals except fungicides, herbicides and pesticides

Chemicals

Some chemicals are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rather than the CPSC. Generally, the EPA responds to environmental issues related to these chemicals, including large spills, unintended exposure, “drift” (such as herbicides sprayed on a farm and getting blown by the wind to nearby homes), and misuse.

Report To: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Example Chemical Products

  • Fungicides
  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides

Meat, Dairy and Eggs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the quality of meat, dairy, and egg products, including processed egg products. However, it does not regulate pet food containing meat or poultry. All other food items are handled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Report To: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Example Agricultural Products

  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Goat
  • Seafood
  • Game Meat
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt
  • Whey and Casein
  • Eggs
  • Dried Eggs
  • Other dairy products
  • Other meats and meat-based products, excluding pet food

Other Foods, Medicine and Medical Devices

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lives up to its name, and then some. Both packaged and prepared foods (other than meat, eggs, and dairy) fall under the FDA’s purview, as do all kinds of medications, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs. The FDA also regulates medical devices, including everyday items found in first aid kits like bandages and gauze, as well as complex devices for major medical problems like artificial joints, pacemakers, and most hospital equipment. Strangely enough, the FDA also has some responsibility for cosmetics, though its authority over cosmetic products is not as strong as for food, drugs, and medical devices.

Report To: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Example Food and Medical Products

  • Food (excluding meat, eggs, and dairy)
  • Drugs (prescription)
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Medical Devices
  • Medical Apps
  • Veterinary medications
  • Cosmetics

Land Vehicles and Vehicle-Related Products

Land-based vehicles of all kinds are overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), even if the vehicle is not technically made for highway use (such as off-road vehicles). The NHTSA also regulates vehicle components and certain accessories used with vehicles, such as car seats and boosters for children.

Report To: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Example Vehicles and Automotive Products

  • Cars
  • Motorcycles
  • Off-Road Vehicles (3- or 4-wheelers)
  • Trucks
  • Trailers
  • RVs
  • Rescue Vehicles (ambulances, fire trucks, etc.)
  • Car seats
  • Tires

Marine Vehicles and Equipment

If it floats on or (intentionally) submerges under the water, then the U.S. Coast Guard oversees it. From humongous shipping vessels to single-person jet skis, the Coast Guard is tasked with making sure manufacturers follow the proper safety guidelines. They also regulate equipment normally used for boating and marine activities, such as life jackets and rescue equipment.

Report To: U.S. Coast Guard

Example Maritime Vehicles and Equipment

  • Boats
  • Boating Equipment
  • Life Jackets

Air Vehicles and Equipment

Most people don’t deal with airplane or helicopters on a regular basis, but with the increasing prevalence of drone technology, airborne equipment is becoming more and more common. The Federal Aviation Administration oversees everything that can go up in the sky, including drones, gliders, helicopters, airplanes, and yes, even dirigibles (referred to as “airships” in the regulations).

Report to: Federal Aviation Administration

Example Airborne Vehicles and Equipment

  • Airplanes
  • Helicopters
  • Gliders/Sailplanes
  • Drones
  • Blimps
  • Commercial Space Vehicles
  • Parachute Equipment
  • Parts for any of the above

Industrial Equipment

Worker’s safety laws allow employees to file complaints about hazardous workplace conditions, including potentially defective equipment. Complaints are collected by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), and all information is kept confidential from employers. If you believe a piece of equipment, especially heavy machinery, is defective, you should report it right away to keep yourself and your co-workers safe.

Report To: Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Industrial Product Examples

  • Industrial machines
  • Commercial products
  • Farm equipment

Alcohol and Tobacco

While there is no government agency tasked with overseeing defective firearms, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau – a sub-division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) – does oversee consumer product complaints tied to alcohol and tobacco products. Note that illegal activities (including theft) involving firearms, ammunition, and explosives can still be reported to the ATF, while illegal drug activities should be reported to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Diversion Control Division.

Report To: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Example Alcohol and Tobacco Products

  • All types of Alcohol
  • Tobacco products (not including e-cigarettes)

Radioactive Materials

Okay, most people don’t have nuclear waste or other radioactive materials sitting in their attics or basements (we hope). That said, we decided to include this information because it’s better to have the information in an emergency than not to have it.

Report To: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Radioactive Product Examples

  • Nuclear reactors (and reactor parts)
  • Nuclear fuel
  • Radioactive materials, including lost, stolen, or damaged materials

Still Don’t Know What to Do?

If none of the categories listed above seem to fit the product you are looking to report, you have one last option. Every state has a consumer protection office of some kind (the exact name varies from state to state). When in doubt, contact your state’s consumer protection office, and they can point you in the right direction.

State Consumer Protection Office Directory

Authored by Curtis WeyantManaging Editor
Photo of Curtis Weyant
Curtis Weyant has more than 20 years as a writer, editor, and communicator, publishing on a wide variety of topics, especially in the financial, legal, and medical fields. At ConsumerSafety.org, Curtis oversees the day-to-day publication of all content, ensuring its relevance with the mission of the site.
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