CBP and CPSC Join Forces to Protect the Public by Promoting Fireworks Safety
With the Fourth of July holiday rapidly approaching, U.S. Customs and Border Protection joined forces once again with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission yesterday at its annual fireworks safety demonstration on the National Mall in Washington. Designed to educate the public about the dangers associated with fireworks, especially illegal explosives, the event is an example of how CBP and the CPSC are working together to keep American families safe.
CBP Assistant Commissioner Dan Baldwin, who oversees the agency's Office of International Trade, was one of the officials who spoke at the event. Import safety is a priority trade issue for CBP. The agency works with the CPSC as well as nearly 50 other government agencies to enforce their import regulations and to stop unsafe and illicit goods such as illegal fireworks from entering the country.
The event began with remarks from CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum, who welcomed those attending and announced that last year there were nearly 6,000 reported injuries involving fireworks during the 30 days surrounding the Independence Day holiday, which translates to approximately 200 injuries a day. More than half of the injuries were related to firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers, she said.
"Consumers need to heed our warning: fireworks related incidents, especially those involving illegal fireworks, can be fatal," said Tenenbaum. "I want the public to know that the federal government is working together to keep illegal fireworks out of the country, to catch those who bring them in and to make sure that consumer fireworks meet U.S. safety rules."
Baldwin expanded upon this message. "In the last couple of years, CBP has worked especially closely with Chairman Tenenbaum to strengthen our import safety regime by combining forces literally," he said. "For example, we have now taken an unprecedented extra step to incorporate CPSC expertise directly in identifying potentially unsafe shipments for CBP to check at our ports. By collocating CPSC personnel in our Import Safety Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center here in Washington, we are using all available information to help stop unsafe imports before they enter the commerce of the United States."
Baldwin noted that each year CBP processes more than 10,000 entries of fireworks, valued at more than $200 million. The combined data and expertise have helped focus the agencies' resources more effectively to better protect the public.
"Since the Fourth of July last year, CBP has made over 50 commercial seizures of fireworks valued at well over $500,000," said Baldwin. "We're very happy that we stopped those goods from entering the commerce, but much of that effort requires the due diligence of the American consumer -- to make sure that they are clearly understanding what they're buying and that the products are safe."
Other speakers at the event included Chief Glenn Gaines, the acting U.S. fire administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Arthur Herbert, the assistant director of enforcement programs and services of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and Jason Henderson, a fireworks-incident victim who shared his story.
Following the remarks, the CPSC conducted a demonstration using sparklers, illegal fireworks, and a "quick match" fuse to show the dangers of professional explosive devices.
CBP assists the CPSC in selectively sampling and testing shipments of imported fireworks to determine if they are compliant with the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. In 2009, approximately 38 percent of those shipments were found to contain fireworks that were noncompliant.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.