MANASQUAN, N.J. – A year after a tourist was impaled by a flying beach umbrella at the Jersey Shore, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) stood on the beach in Manasquan to call on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) to take more aggressive action to protect beachgoers from the dangers of wind-swept beach umbrellas that can cause serious injury or even death. On July 16, 2018, a beach umbrella took off with a gust of wind in Seaside Heights, N.J., and speared the woman in the leg. In 2016, a woman in Virginia Beach was killed by a beach umbrella that got caught in the wind and struck her in the chest. Last month, a toddler was nearly impaled by a flying beach umbrella in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“We need awareness. We need guidance. And we need the Consumer Product Safety Commission to do its job. In my view, the only things that should be flying through air on a sunny day at the beach should be seagulls and Frisbees—not spear-tipped beach umbrellas that have the potential to claim lives,” said Sen. Menendez. “That’s why today I’m calling on the CPSC to pursue this issue more aggressively.”
Flanked by Manasquan Mayor Edward Donovan, lifeguards and beach patrol, the senator today called on the CPSC to develop an aggressive public safety and awareness campaign to educate beachgoers on the dangers of beach umbrellas and remind them to ensure they are properly staked in the sand.
In a letter Sen. Menendez sent today to Acting CPSC Chairwoman Ann Marie Buerkle, cosigned by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.), the lawmakers also urged the CPSC to consider the efficacy of a weighted other alternative systems that could improve safety and mitigate serious injury.
“As Americans flock to the beach this summer season, we believe it is imperative that the CPSC ensure that a day at the beach isn’t turned into a day at the emergency room,” the senators wrote.
The lawmakers noted other notable CPSC public education campaigns that have proven successful in changing people’s behavior and encouraging greater precaution. Specifically, they pointed to the 2010 “Safe Sleep Campaign” to educate parents and caregivers about how best to make nurseries safe; the 2015 “Anchor It!” campaign to warn of the dangers of furniture tip-overs; the annual July 4th fireworks safety campaign; and a 2017 alert to the public of fidget spinner choking hazards.
The call for action follows a May letter to CPSC, Sen. Menendez led with Sens. Warner, Booker and Kaine, requesting specific information on the beach umbrella threat. In its June 7 response, CPSC reported an estimated 2,800 people sought treatment at emergency rooms over a nine-year period from 2010-2018 for beach umbrella-related injuries. The agency also stated it explored requiring a performance standard, requiring umbrellas to “contain venting”, the development of a staking requirement, and the development of a warning label system, but it did not indicate that it looked into an anchor or weighted system, or other potential safety solutions.
The full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here:
July 29, 2019
Ann Marie Buerkle
Acting Chair, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814
Dear Chairman Buerkle,
We write in the wake of your June 7, 2019 response to our May 2, 2019 letter regarding the documented safety risks posed by beach umbrellas. Your letter stated that, over the nine-year period from 2010-2018, an estimated 2,800 people sought treatment in emergency rooms for injuries related to beach umbrellas. A majority of those injuries were caused by a wind-blown beach umbrella. As we noted in our letter, unsafe beach umbrellas have even proved fatal to our constituents.
As Americans flock to the beach this summer season, we believe it is imperative that the CPSC ensure that a day at the beach isn’t turned into a day at the emergency room. To that end, we write to specifically ask that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launch a public safety campaign to educate the public about the dangers of beach umbrellas. In addition, we write with additional follow-up questions regarding whether the Commission considered the efficacy of certain design or technical changes to beach umbrellas.
As your letter acknowledges, there is currently no CPSC-led public education campaign on the dangers of beach umbrellas. Yet, a July 6, 2019 tweet and Instagram post from the CPSC’s social media accounts remind consumers to properly stake their beach umbrellas. We were pleased to see the CPSC take the issue of beach umbrella safety seriously. Notably, your June 7 letter states: “CPSC technical staff believes that an information sheet on the potential hazards could be developed.” We agree, and formally request that the CPSC develop safety and educational resources for the public. As you know, the CPSC has a history of such public safety campaigns.
In 2010, the CPSC implemented the “Safe Sleep Campaign” in part to “educate parents and caregivers about the most effective ways to make a nursey safe.” In 2015, the CPSC launched “Anchor It!”, a national public safety campaign to educate the public about the dangers of furniture tip-overs. In addition, every July 4th the CPSC reminds the public of the dangers of fireworks. In August 2017, the CPSC went so far as to warn the public of the dangers of fidget spinners, stating that the popular toys pose a choking hazard. Surely, the dangers of a beach umbrella turned flying spear – and the large number, and often gruesome nature, of these incidents – warrant the attention of the Commission.
Your June 7 letter stated that “[t]echnical staff does not believe a safety standard would have a substantial effect on injuries from beach umbrellas incidents.” The letter states that the CPSC considered requiring a performance standard, requiring umbrellas to “contain venting”, the development of a staking requirement, and the development of a warning label system. Your letter does not however indicate whether the CPSC considered the efficacy of a weighted system, or any other alternative system options. To that end, we request responses to the following questions:
We appreciate CPSC’s willingness to consider this issue and look forward hearing back from you by August 30, 2019. Should you have further questions please contact Shelby Boxenbaum in Senator Menendez’s office at 202-224-4744.