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Stand ‘n Seal Recall Debacle Highlights Failures of CPSC Safety Programs

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Stand ‘n Seal Spray on Grout Sealant, a dangerous product known to cause respiratory injuries, was allowed to remain on the market long after it was recalled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) in August 2005. At least 80 serious injuries, including 2 fatalities, have been liked to this dangerous product, yet it wasn’t until earlier this year that Stand ‘n Seal was removed from the market entirely. Now, the sad story of Stand ‘n Seal has become yet another example of the CPSC’s inability or unwillingness to take strong action when dangerous products threaten so many with serious injury.

Stand ‘n Seal
was introduced in 2003 by Roanoke Companies (now known as BRTT) as an alternative to traditional ceramic tile grout sealants. Previously, these sealants had to be painted on to tile by hand. But with Stand ‘n Seal, consumers were able to quickly spray the product onto the tile. The can of Stand ‘n Seal included no warnings about inhalation hazards on the products packaging, and in fact promised that once applied, any extra Stand ‘n Seal Spray would “evaporate harmlessly.” The product was sold exclusively through Home Depot stores, and the retailer’s promotional materials for Stand ‘n Seal featured smiling do-it-yourselfers using the product without any protective clothing or masks.

Unfortunately, consumers soon found out that using Stand ‘n Seal was not so simple. Stand ‘n Seal contained chemical hydrocarbons, which can cause respiratory problems if inhaled. By 2005, Roanoke had received dozens of complaints from consumers who had been injured by Stand ‘n Seal. User complaints ranged from mild headaches and sinus problems to difficulty breathing. Some victims were unable to move for a time after their exposure, and others reported terrifying instances of actually foaming at the mouth. Many victims of Stand ‘n Seal exposure had to be hospitalized for days, and at least two died. Many survivors still suffer from breathing problems as a result of their use of Stand ‘n Seal.

Federal law requires that companies inform the CPSC of possible safety problems within 24 hours of becoming aware of them. But Roanoke waited weeks before telling the CPSC of Stand ‘n Seal’s issues. Instead, Roanoke tried its best to conceal the problems, even telling employees who manned the company’s 24-hour emergency hotline not to tell customers reporting illnesses that similar reports had been made. Roanoke finally made the CPSC aware of Stand ‘n Seal’s problems in June 2005, but only because several health care professionals had let the company know that they were going to make their own reports to the CPSC. But even once it knew, the CPSC still moved slowly, only recalling toxic Stand ‘n Seal in August 2005.

But even after the August 2005 recall, Stand ‘n Seal was still endangering consumers. For one thing, not all recalled cans of the product had been removed from Home Depot’s shelves. The CPSC simply does not have the staff to insure that its recall orders are complied with. But even more outrageous, Roanoke rushed a replacement version of Stand ‘n Seal into stores that still included the same dangerous chemicals that had been making people sick. The CPSC had taken the manufacturer’s word that the problems with Stand ‘n Seal had been eliminated in the new version, but that just wasn’t the case.

The CPSC continued to receive reports that Stand ‘n Seal was still injuring people well after the recall. But even now, the Commission’s recall notice states that cans of Stand ‘n Seal purchased after June 2005 are safe, though that is clearly not true. Finally, after scores of people were injured, and facing hundreds of lawsuits, Roanoke finally conceded earlier this year that the new version of Stand ‘n Seal was as dangerous as the first. In March 2007, Roanoke – now BRTT – finally quit selling its defective Stand ‘n Seal product.

For its part, the CPSC has said that Roanoke’s misinformation had prevented it from acting appropriately in regards to Stand ‘n Steal. Yet the CPSC has yet to levy fines or take other action to punish Roanoke for its actions.

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