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CPSC update on 1983 FPE Stab-Loc Press release


Bill Kibbel
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March 2, 2011/Upper Bucks County, PA

By Bill Kibbel, Associate Editor - TIJ

On February 18, 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission "revised" their original press release regarding Federal Pacific Electric's Stab-lok circuit breakers.tn_2011322322_FPEStablokBrkr.jpg

This is the press release that experts and many inspectors have condemned as not going far enough to adequately warn of known safety issues regarding this particular electrical equipment.

While the change is only the addition of 3 sentences, it is in red and at the beginning of the press release:

"Note: CPSC staff advises electricians, homeowners, home inspectors and real estate agents to read and interpret the following press release carefully. The press release announces that the Commission closed the matter without making a determination as to the safety of FPE circuit breakers or the accuracy of the manufacturer’s position on the matter. The Commission advises consumers to take the safety precautions noted in this notice with all circuit breakers and fuses".

The full text of the press release can be found here.

For additional reading on this subject, refer to the following article by leading electrical expert, Douglas Hansen. FPE panels - Hazard or Hype?

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I've read the release over several times.

They seem to be saying that, even though the breakers don't trip as intended, it's still OK......(?).

And......"Reliance maintains that at those few overload levels where FPE breakers may fail to trip under realistic use conditions, currents will be too low to generate hazardous temperatures in household wiring."

Is that to say that they know the breakers don't trip, but it's still OK?

Something stinks here.

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Hi,

I think it says "we haven't got enough evidence to support or refute Reliance's contentions that the breakers are safe. It's a Mexican standoff. OK, it's weak; but if you had a 50/50 chance that nearly 30-year-old year old breakers in a house you were buying were garbage would you really want them?

Someone - probably someone like that Kentucky (or was it Tennessee?) licensing board that didn't want to piss off the realtorzoids and was forced to back down on their position forbidding inspectors to gig those FPE panels, or some other woos that wants to curry favor with realtors - or maybe even one of the realtor pundits that's always telling inspectors how wrong home inspectors are - raised a stink with CPSC and this is what the public got - a flaccid addendum.

Anyone know what the results of the class action against FPE were, and has anyone got a link to those results?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Anyone know what the results of the class action against FPE were, and has anyone got a link to those results?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

I spoke with the attorney about a year ago. He stated the suit was settled out of court and the settlement is 'sealed'. Go figure.

(Bill's link goes nowhere)

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Buncha wonks.

They're too busy recalling hoodies. Gotta protect the public from dangerous hoodies.

Hoodies are dangerous or so my son's middle school administration thinks! They have "outlawed" them on school property because they are a safety concern. Supposedly students have been hurt when the hood is pulled from behind!

Guess who's son had to test the new rule to see if they were serious! Yep, you got it right!

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Buncha wonks.

They're too busy recalling hoodies. Gotta protect the public from dangerous hoodies.

Hoodies are dangerous or so my son's middle school administration thinks! They have "outlawed" them on school property because they are a safety concern. Supposedly students have been hurt when the hood is pulled from behind!

Guess who's son had to test the new rule to see if they were serious! Yep, you got it right!

Uh, these folks never thought to maybe outlaw pulling a hood from behind? Sounds like gun control logic to me.

No more underwear either. Someone might give you a wedgie.

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Local D/FW TV station (KDFW Channel 5) had a piece on the FPE panels the other day.

Interesting in our market as the Dallas Morning News had an article a couple of months ago about them as well.

At the least ... a little visibility of the dangers of them.

The inspector interviewed is known for being 'zoid' friendly and his comments were rather milk-toast.

Federal Pacific Panels .. KDFW-TV

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Buncha wonks.

They're too busy recalling hoodies. Gotta protect the public from dangerous hoodies.

Hoodies are dangerous or so my son's middle school administration thinks! They have "outlawed" them on school property because they are a safety concern. Supposedly students have been hurt when the hood is pulled from behind!

Guess who's son had to test the new rule to see if they were serious! Yep, you got it right!

Ah yes, punish the victim for the actions of the aggressor. I'd be showing up for every sports game, parent/teacher conference, and fundraiser wearing a hoodie.

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Thread drift........

For those not involved in urban living, the hoodie has a lot of other problems, primarily the one of various hoodies designating and delineating gang affiliation.

Because we're a PC society, calling things what they are isn't allowed, so there has to be the secondary, i.e., allowable, thing that you call it.

So, some of this banning of hoodies from school grounds has meaning beyond aggressor/victim stuff. It's about restricting gang "colors" on campus.

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Yeah ok. Doing that makes as much sense as banning black Nike sneakers to prevent kids from following Marshall Applewhite to the Hale bopp comet.

If your in a gang, I'm thinking banning your hoodie isn't going to suddenly cause you to see the light.

It's a nice thought for those who insist on fooling themselves and feeling like they're making a difference by initiating these silly rules instead of dealing with the tattoo under the hoodie.

Good timing for me. Thanks for the Info on the FP panels since I just ran into one the other day.

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Well, I guess I didn't expect everyone to understand the explanation of why things is the way they is. School administrator's are caught in between a million squeezes.

Back to the StabLoks........

I'll still be calling them as the POS's they are.

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Well, I guess I didn't expect everyone to understand the explanation of why things is the way they is. School administrator's are caught in between a million squeezes.

The beauty of rural living is that hoodies emblazoned with 'colors' are sold by the PTA as a fundraiser.

Why is everyone surprised the CPSC language is weak? It's the same wishy washy agency it's always been.

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CPSC recalls are voluntary (in almost all cases) on the part of the manufacturer. CPSC helps spread the word for the manufacturer as one of the steps that can be taken to help the manufacturer reduce their liability. I'm not sure exactly where the numbers are now, but the last time I spoke to a CPSC rep about involuntary recalls I was told there had only been four in the history of the CPSC.

CPSC doesn't really have a manufacturer to work with on this issue, unless you count Square D for their ownership of the tooling that cranks out Federal Pioneer in Canada, or unless you count the descendents of the banking entities involved in the FPE bankruptcy. Neither is a viable source of consumer relief. As I understand the class action suit in New Jersey, their Supreme Court limited relief to only those persons who were the original owners of houses with FPE panels.

Last year, Jess Aronstein presented new (very convincing) material to CPSC in an attempt to get them to revise their original report on the issue, and thanks to Bill we get to see their cautiously worded revision.

The CPSC shouldn't be expected to play the role of acting as final arbiter on these issues. Their scope is narrow. Asking them to recall FPEs is like asking them to recall Studebakers for not having seat belts.

Douglas Hansen

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. . . The CPSC shouldn't be expected to play the role of acting as final arbiter on these issues. Their scope is narrow. Asking them to recall FPEs is like asking them to recall Studebakers for not having seat belts.

It needn't be a recall. I wouldn't expect a recall after this period of time anyway. Nor would I expect them to revise a 28-year old press release -- especially when the revision contains no new information.

I would expect them to fulfil their mission which does not limit them to issuing recalls but does charge them with "protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products."

They issue lots of safety warnings about lots of other products that aren't involved in recalls. They publish "Safety Alarts," "Safety Warnings," and "Safety Tips." Who would be harmed by issuing a document that said, in effect, "There is ample evidence that this product is unsafe and we encourage consumers to replace it as soon as possible."

Since there's no one to pin a recall on, then surely there must be no one to sue the CPSC for such a statement.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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After inspecting many larger apartment complexes, I found something noteworthy with FPE. A 90+ unit complex featuring "stab-lok" sub panels had a high incidence of breaker replacement. Since I like to take photos of each accessible panel in each unit, it was not difficult to notice. The replacement FPE breakers had white numbers. (vs original orange) Just to double-check, the white-numbered breakers were "shinier" and newer looking than the orange. The point is, most apartment sub panels are hardly even looked at, let alone messed with. At some complexes, 30-40 year old panels (such as square D)

looked pristine and identical. This is hardly a controlled, technical study, but it left a big impression on me. FPE stood out from the norm.

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Last year, Jess Aronstein presented new (very convincing) material to CPSC in an attempt to get them to revise their original report on the issue, and thanks to Bill we get to see their cautiously worded revision.

Douglas Hansen

Douglas - Is the material that Jess Aronstein presented available for sharing among our HI world?

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Who would be harmed by issuing a document that said, in effect, "There is ample evidence that this product is unsafe and we encourage consumers to replace it as soon as possible." Since there's no one to pin a recall on, then surely there must be no one to sue the CPSC for such a statement.

It would be leaving a blood trail for the sharks, and they know it. The conservative nature of bureaucracy is such that they learn to avoid that kind of controversy. Why FPE and not also Zinsco? Why stop there? The CPSC is not a laboratory for testing and evaluating products. They do not have their own objective test data, and they don't attempt to do UL's job of testing breakers to a verifiable standard (which unfortunately wasn't done by UL either for the fraudulently manufactured FPEs). For the most part, all they can do is respond to data that is brought to them.

There are some exceptions, such as the CPSC creation of an impact standard for safety glass back in the 1970s, a standard that gained wider acceptance than ANSI Z97.1. That one has done a lot of good. And there are notable failures, such as CPSC's absurd endorsement of the "Copalum" system, where they may have ultimately done as much harm as good. The latter does have a direct relation to this current action.

Douglas Hansen

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