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Bicycle Helmet Manufacturers Disagree With
Consumer Reports Findings

A letter from PHMA

Summary: PHMA wound down its operations in 2009, but at the time of this letter it represented a number of US helmet manufacturers.

PHMA logo

1333 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92154

15750 Concord Circle
Morgan Hills, CA 95037
408-779-6229 ext.2327

27 May 1997

Dr. R. David Pittle, PhD
Vice President and Technical Director
Consumers Union
101 Truman Avenue
Yonkers. New York 10703-1057

Dear Dr. Pittle,

The Protective Headgear Manufacturers' Association is a not-for-profit organization of manufacturers, whose mission is to reduce the risk of head injuries. Our goal is to increase public awareness of the need to wear and fit recreational protective helmets properly. Our membership consists of makers of a number of different types of headgear, who manufacture approximately 75% of the bicycle helmets manufactured in North America. We fund a number of research projects and educational programs directed toward reducing the risk of head injuries.

We are concerned about the implications of the article that has recently been published in Consumer Reports regarding testing of bicycle helmets. We appreciate that you selected bicycle helmets as a product of interest, but we question the desirability of the perception that we believe you achieved. Unfortunately, your title, your sub-title, and an inordinate amount of text concentrate on a few failures that you observed in a particular model of buckle. We believe that the overwhelming benefits of helmet wearing should have been stressed more than a few failures that have not been reproduced in any other lab.

Helmet manufacturers, along with consumer advocates, medical experts, and educators, among others, have been working diligently for many years to inform the public of the importance of wearing helmets when cycling. We have made some inroads, but there are still many people who are unaware of helmets and the protection they can provide. Your article, in a single motion, has negated much of the progress we have made, by emphasizing a possible failure in a small number of products, while never mentioning that helmets are a vital part of the protective equipment that every cyclist should use. A number of organizations such as the American Medical Association have published statements describing helmets as the most protective piece of equipment available to cyclists. Your approach in the article would generally, we believe, be perceived as a disincentive to wear bicycle helmets.

The buckle in question has been used by many manufacturers, including some who were not included in your article. These manufacturers do extensive testing before releasing a product into the market, usually including both in-house testing and independent laboratory testing. At least five independent laboratories and certification agencies have tested helmets using the ITW Nexus TSK63 buckle' and none has mentioned any problems with the buckle. We are not aware of a single instance of failure of this particular buckle at any lab; your findings are unique. We would appreciate a complete description of the test procedure that you used, so our members can attempt to duplicate your findings in their own labs. If there is indeed a potential problem with the buckle, we wonder why the problem was not discovered long before now. Letters that you have received from several prestigious labs and organizations already on this issue suggest that it would be advantageous for you to check your test procedures. Your procedures might also account for failures found in excessive stretching of strapping in some models, as these models have consistently satisfied all requirements at several independent labs.

We understand that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is beginning tests to determine whether they can duplicate your results, and that the tests should be completed by about mid-June. We look forward to receiving their findings, and we would appreciate information from you that would allow us to perform tests identical to yours in our members' labs. Please send the information to the undersigned.


Chris Cox


cc; Mr. Frank Krivda, U.S. CPSC

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