Wired Glass Industry to face investigation and review by Federal Regulators

Continuing their fight to limit the use of wired glass in buildings in Oregon and beyond, Senator Vicki Walker (D-Eugene), and Greg Abel, Chair of Advocates for Safe Glass (AFSG) of Eugene, Oregon, took their case to Washington, D.

C. and met with federal regulators and members of Congress in late October.They called their trip “very successful. There is still work to be done, but we feel someone is finally listening to help us protect the lives of America’s children,” said Walker and Abel.

Delegation Briefed On Oregon’s Success
Walker and Abel met with each of Oregon’s Congressional delegation offices, and are working closely with Sen. Ron Wyden and his staff. Sen. Wyden was supportive and instrumental in setting up a meeting with the Federal Trade Commission. Sen. Gordon Smith’s office had been contacted on a prior visit and has been recontacted by telephone this week.

Walker and Abel went to Capitol Hill to brief Oregon’s delegation on the leadership role Oregon has taken in adopting new International Code Council (ICC) safety regulations regarding wired glass. They explained the safety hazards of wired glass, that it results in thousands of debilitating and life-threatening injuries to those who impact it; the fact that the industry has enjoyed an exemption from impact safety standards granted to it by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1977; and the fact that there are alternative products that are much safer and just as effective, made by American workers and sold in America.

“America, or any other country for that matter, should not be the dumping ground for an unsafe product,” Walker said. “In 1994 the United Kingdom required that a safer product be made for their citizens, but they do not make that product available in America.”

Central Glass of Japan had recently posted on their Web site, “These glass products [wired glass] are not safety glazing materials, and should not be used as such or in locations where human impact is possible or where safety glazing is required.” Walker and Abel cited it to the delegation as another reason the CPSC needs to revisit this issue of the industry exemption.

Sen. Walker and Mr. Abel also met with the director of the CPSC’s Office of Compliance and other CPSC staff to present evidence to substantiate a petition to remove the wired glass exemption, or to request the CPSC to issue a safety advisory regarding the use of wired glass. Joining Walker and Abel at the table was Susan Winn of the Consumer Federation of America (www.safechild.net) and Lloyd Potter of Children’s Safety Network (www.ChildrensSafetyNetwork.org), who were there in support of the proposal. Mr. Abel presented detailed and convincing evidence of injury data, technical data of alternative products, industry test data showing how wired glass fails to meet even their own minimal industry test standard, and numerous other data to support AFSG claims for a change in the standard. “The CPSC indicated it would give some preliminary guidance back to us within a few weeks,” Abel said.

“Very Concerned the Product is Unsafe”
The Federal Trade Commission was the next stop for Walker and Abel, where they discussed issues of consumer fraud relating to the test data, and issues relating to unfair trade practices. Walker and Abel have been strong advocates for third-party independent testing of wired glass product. In 1981, the CPSC relinquished their control over standards in sidelites and other glazed applications to state and local governments, through codes that adopted lower impact standards established by an industry-dominated group that does not require third-party testing of its product. Mr. Abel has had wired glass product tested at independent labs on two different occasions and the product has failed each time; as it has in other independent tests. “I’m very concerned the product being sold in the United States is not only unsafe in the first instance, but unsafe even by these poorly designed industry standards,” said Sen. Walker.

The FTC will be reviewing issues regarding unfair trade practices given the fact that wired glass so dominates the American market, Walker said. They will be closely examining whether wired glass has gone outside the narrow exemption granted to it by the CPSC, and whether it has engaged in other activities that are not permissible under American law. “Just perusing any legal search engine, you can find a history of price-fixing and anti-trust lawsuits dating back to 1984 and as recent as September 2003 involving some of the major wired glass manufacturers and their related entities. I’m sure the FTC will have a field day on this one,” said Walker.

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