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CPSC finds no problems with buckles Consumer Reports broke

Summary: This 1997 article reported that CPSC had found no problem with the buckles that Consumer Reports said they were breaking.

CPSC Tests Find No Problems with Buckles
Article Spurs Agency to Check Helmet Buckles


BETHESDA, MD-After Consumer Reports published an article saying some helmet buckles failed during standardized testing, engineers at a Federal agency tried to duplicate the magazine's results.

For the most part, they were unable to find the same problems the magazine's testers found. In its testing, Consumer Reports found some buckles broke on 1996 Bell, Giro, Rollerblade and Pro-Action helmets.

In June, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) tested 28 sample helmets from Bell, Giro, Rollerblade and Troxel that the agency bought from retail stores.

All but two of the helmets passed the tests with no buckle breakage. The buckles on two Giro helmets passed Snell B-90 and ANSI Z90.4 buckle tests but broke when the CPSC tested them to the ASTM F-1447 standard. Giro has never claimed the helmets meet the ASTM standard.

"From Giro's point of view, the buckles did everything Giro ever said they would do," said Randy Swart, executive director of the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, a consumer group.

A federal law, enforced by the CPSC, requires that all helmets sold in the United States meet at least one of the three most common standards-the Snell B-90, ASTM F-1447 or ANSI Z90.4.

So while the Giro helmets failed to meet the ASTM standards, they meet ANSI and Snell standards.

The CPSC released the test results to Swart, who earlier this year lodged a Freedom of Information Act request to get the information. The buckle test results are the only results the agency has released to Swart.

Before the CPSC gave them to him, Giro officials requested that a statement be added.

The statement read, in part "We are concerned that the CPSC's statement that two Giro helmet buckles did not pass ASTM F-1447 maybe used improperly. This statement provides no c information to consumers, and, in

fact, is misleading, because the Giro helmets satisfy the CPSC's Interim Rule and because Giro does not claim to certify its buckles to ASTM F-1447.

"As the CPSC would agree, the fact that two Giro helmets &did not pass F-1447, when they fully complied with the Snell and ANSI standards, in no way indicates that those Giro helmets are unsafe or would fail to protect the rider in an accident."

Bill Hannemann, Giro's president, said the buckles may have broken because they were not fully engaged. "We're trying to get the CPSC to send us the buckles so we can take a look at them," he said.

Swart said there is no need for concern about Giro's buckles. "The buckles are not breaking in the field. It's not a problem," Swart said.

Swart also said retailers should pay more attention to making sure consumers replace broken buckles than worry about new buckles breaking.

"Some riders break off one prong of their buckle and continue to use it. That is an unsafe buckle. It is inadequate for any type of crash," Swart said.

Helmet manufacturers, safety groups and test labs criticized the June issue Consumer Reports article.

Some said the article might dissuade consumers from buying their first helmets because it emphasized the buckle breakage. Swart noted, however, that the article avoided downgrading any helmets due to the buckles, which indicated to him that even Consumer Reports editors did not see a real problem.

In addition to the CPSC, several helmet and buckle manufacturers, the Snell Memorial Foundation and other labs have conducted their own tests, trying to duplicate the breakage that Consumer Reports found. None have found a problem with the buckles.

Copyright 1997 by Miller Freeman, Inc, Santa Fe, New Mexico. All rights reserved. Used with permission.