A majority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted yesterday to start proceedings to revoke a mandatory safety standard that was originally enacted to reduce injuries and deaths from unvented gas-fired space heaters.
Commissioners voting for revocation said eliminating the rule will permit states and municipalities to adopt stricter standards. They chastised industry groups that have sought to have the mandatory rule retained to cut economic losses for heater manufacturers.
The situation prompted Commissioner Stuart M. Statler to call the industry groups "hypocritical."
"Ideology aside, when it comes to sales, industry will push for a mandatory standard," said Statler, who joined with Commissioners Sam Zagoria and Terrence M. Scanlon to vote 3 to 2 for revocation.
Chairman Nancy Harvey Steorts and Edith Barksdale-Sloan voted to retain the mandatory standard, which required that unvented gas-fired space heaters be equipped with oxygen-depletion sensors (ODS) that would shut off the heater when oxygen in a room reached dangerously low levels. Without that safeguard in such circumstances, persons in the room with the heater could die of asphyxiation. The standard has been in effect since Dec. 31, 1981.
But since the mandatory rule was implemented, a stronger measure developed by the American National Standards Institute has been adopted by the industry and written into many local laws. The ANSI standard requires the ODS as well as some other safety measures.
However, because the weaker CPSC mandatory standard automatically pre-empted local laws around the country, the agency has been besieged in recent months by municipalities and states seeking exemptions from the mandatory rule. With the exemption, their local laws containing either the stronger ANSI requirements or a ban against any unvented space heater without ODS could prevail.
Rather than grant a number of exemptions, commissioners voted for revocation of the mandatory rule, which could take nine months to a year to complete.
Two industry groups, the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association and the American Gas Association, had urged the CPSC to retain the mandatory rule, which would have permitted them to sell their products in areas where there previously had been a ban against unvented gas heaters.