The Consumer Product Safety Commission, saying that the voluntary labeling on wood- and coal-burning stoves is inadequate, voted yesterday to crack down on manufacturers and have its staff draft a mandatory labeling rule that would explain installation, use and maintenance.
Chairman Nancy Harvey Steorts called her vote for the mandatory rule troublesome but necessary. Steorts, a Reagan appointee who has opposed mandatory standards repeatedly, said she was voting for the mandatory measure in this case because the industry has failed to comply voluntarily.
A CPSC survey of stove labeling completed last year found that about 75 percent of stoves for sale in stores had labels, but many of the labels were confusing and lacked information needed for safe installation and operation. The CPSC concluded that less than half of the labels were adequate.
Because of the industry's lack of compliance, the CPSC staff recommended earlier this month that the commission adopt a mandatory label requirement. Commissioners Sam Zagoria and Edith Barksdale Sloan, citing the dangers of improper stove use, both voiced support for the staff recommendation. But Chairman Steorts and Commissioner Stuart M. Statler said they wanted to delay the vote to give the stove industry an opportunity to explain why manufacturers weren't providing proper labels.
At a meeting last week, Carter Keithley, executive director of the Wood Heating Alliance, a trade association, said his group would campaign for voluntary label compliance but had no way to force members to comply. Moreover, he said only about 100 of the 300 stove manufacturers are members of his group.
Yesterday Steorts joined Zagoria and Sloan and voted to have the staff draft a labeling rule. Statler, who is ill, sent word through an aide that he intends to vote for the mandatory standard.
About 130,000 fires occurred in 1981 from the use of solid fuel heating equipment, primarily wood, according to the CPSC. Those fires resulted in about 290 deaths, 2,760 injuries and $265 million in property loss, the agency said.