Spring Cleaning Can Be a Lifesaver

April 17, 2001 -- If you've been looking for a reason to go through your house and clean out some relics -- disposable lighters, frayed extension cords, old electric hairdryers -- here's a good one: It could save your family's life.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today a "recall round-up" of household consumer products that are fire hazards.

More than 3,000 people die and 16,000 are injured every year because of fires that start in the home. Children are particularly vulnerable: About 800 children under the age of 15 die of fire-related causes, and about 500 of these deaths occur in children under the age of 5. Children under 5 have a fire death rate more than twice the national average, the CPSC says.

Approximately 1,800 fire stations across the country will serve as collection sites for a host of hazardous products that have been recalled in the past or were made safer when new safety standards were put into place, according to the CPSC.

"CPSC's safety standards and recalls have helped save hundreds of lives, but many pr-standard and recalled products remain in people's homes," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown in a statement released today by the agency. "That's why people should do some spring cleaning and check their homes and knick-knack drawers for products that could be hazardous. CPSC sometimes learns of deaths or serious injuries caused by previously recalled products. We urge people to get CPSC's list of recalls and check for old products that could be hazardous."

Among the fire hazards in your home that should be rounded up include:

  • Cigarette lighters without child-restraint mechanisms. The agency especially urges consumers to round-up novelty lighters in the shape of toys or objects that can be attractive to children. CPSC and Gladstrong Investments USA are announcing the recall of about 13 million disposable lighters because child-resistant mechanisms are frequently ineffective.
  • Extension cords with frayed or cut insulation, undersize wire, loose connections, or improper grounding. Extension cords should have a safety certification label from an independent testing laboratory.
  • Black and Decker Spacemaker Optima Toasters. These 234,000 toasters, sold between 1994 and 1996, were recalled after complaints that flames burst out when the toaster door opens.
  • K-Mart children's decorative lamps. Some 280,000 electric wooden lamps, sold from January 1993 to March 2000, were recalled because of fire hazards.
  • Halogen torchiere floor lamps. Over 40 million halogen floor lamps made before 1997 were recalled because they have no guard to protect against fire.
  • Old electric hair dryers without built-in shock protection devices. These products can cause electrocution if they come in contact with water. The CPSC urges consumers to destroy these products, and not to sell them at garage sales or give them to thrift shops.

CPSC Chairman says governors, state health officials, and grassroots organizations will help publicize the safety campaign and distribute information about the hazardous products.

Individuals can obtain a complete list of recalled products by sending a postcard to Recall List, CPSC, Washington, DC 20207. CPSC's toll-free telephone hotline and web site provide information about recalled products and information on what to look for when buying products. Consumers can reach the hotline at (800) 638-2772 or visit the web site at

Fire stations participating in the round-up are also listed at the CPSC web site.