The U.S. Consumer Safety Commission has jurisdiction over 15,000 products. It's their mission to protect you as a consumer from unsafe products. CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton says, "Labs can test products to see if they comply with safety standards and to see if they present a risk of injury."
Every clothing item must meet flammability standards. The tester exposes a strip of fabric to a flame for one second. If it ignites and burns too quickly, then the product fails.
Now, let's take a look at some of the tests that toys go through. The first test is for impact. Testers drop the toys from two and a half feet, which is about the height of a small child. If too many pieces break or fall apart, then the toy is not safe for a child. Next, is a test to see if the children could easily choke on the toys. If any piece of the toy fits into a small container the size of a child's mouth, the product fails the test.
In 1997, a new standard was passed to prevent baby walkers from falling downstairs. The tester rolls the walker down a table and if it falls off, it's not safe for children. A safe walker will have rubber grippers on the bottom to prevent falling. When the walker with grippers is slid down the table, the walker doesn't fall, indicating it probably wouldn't fall down the stairs.
For those out of their walkers, it's the bicycle helmet test. The helmet is tested for impact resistance and chin strap strength. The helmet is fitted on a weighted-head and dropped onto a steel surface, that's hard like a curb or sidewalk would be. If the helmet cracks or breaks in any way, it's not strong enough to protect your child and will fail the test.
These types of tests have helped create stronger safety standards for products. Stratton says, "These tests help us to set standards and sometimes lead to recalls." For example, products like silly string in aerosol cans no longer contain flammable propellants, like they used to.