Consumer distorts

Consumer Reports’ retraction last week of its flawed testing of infant car seats puts in question the magazine’s credibility as an unbiased product evaluator. As well it should.

Unfortunately for consumers, this is just the latest of a string of misleading product recommendations by Consumer Reports. Increasingly, Consumer Reports is bowing to the anti-market and anti-sound science agenda of its parent organization, Consumers’ Union.

With this story and many others, the magazine is harming consumers, creating fear unneccesarily with bogus scares while ignoring real health and safety problems of products and policies.

Consumer Reports has also needlessly scared consumers about pesticides on food, bioengineered crops, and currently, chemicals in makeup that the FDA has found to be safe. It has hyped discredited scares like Alar on apples and asbestos at very low levels. More examples of this can be found on the website Consumer Distorts: The Consumer Reports Watchdog.

At the same time, Consumer Reports has downplayed the very real safety tradeoffs of smaller, more-fuel efficient cars. CEI Sam Kazman points out that in 2002, an article in Consumer Reports dismissed the argument the fuel-economy mandates force consumer into smaller, less safe cars, despited the fact that the National Academy of Sciences had concluded that the rules had cost thousands of lives.

In my new book Eco-Freaks, I contend that the scares hyped by Consumer Reports and others are harming public health by stripping us of our defenses against traditional hazards.

For example the ban on the pesticide DDT resulted in millions of malaria deaths in African countries. Taking asbestos off the market has resulted in less effective fireproofing and deadly fires that could have been averted had asbestos been used. Fuel economy standards, due to scares from oil shortages to global warming, have caused thousands of additonal deaths on the highways and have been counterproductive in reducing pollution and conserving energy.

Savvy consumers sHould approach the recommendations of Consumer Reports with the same skepticism they exercise when researching other products for their families. If we didn’t have the First Amendment, which does and which should protect even misleading speech, Consumer Reports would be a prime candidate for a mandatory product recall.