WASHINGTON— Congressman Paul D. Tonko and Consumer Protection & Commerce Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky are calling on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today to review Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) “Stab-Lok” circuit breakers. Dr. Jesse Aronstein, a constituent in New York’s 20th congressional district and an internationally respected expert in this field, alerted Rep. Tonko that these circuit breakers may be responsible for more than 100,000 fires in the U.S. over the last 40 years. Tonko and Schakowsky sent a letter to CPSC leadership today calling on the agency to review new evidence of this faulty breaker and issue a consumer recommendation or recall based on that evidence. Many stakeholders including electricians, home inspectors and insurance companies have flagged this product as a safety risk.
“Dr. Aronstein has been working on this issue since the 1980s, when the CPSC hired the company where he worked to test the safety of Stab-Lok breakers manufactured by the now defunct company Federal Pacific Electric,” the authors wrote. “According to testing results Dr. Aronstein and his team submitted to the CPSC, 51 percent of the FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers failed to trip when the electrical wires were overloaded. Building on this initial work for the CPSC, Dr. Aronstein has continued to test thousands more Stab-Lok breakers. His peer-reviewed research has found that nearly 54 million defective breakers may currently be installed in U.S. homes, and have likely resulted in at least 13 preventable deaths, 116 injuries, and $40 million in property damage every year.”
“Circuit breakers are a standard safety measure that protects our homes, businesses, and in some cases our lives in the event of an electrical overload,” Congressman Tonko added. “Thanks to Dr. Aronstein’s thorough research into these crucial products, we know that millions of lives are needlessly being put in danger. Americans, safety organizations and state and local agencies rely on CPSC to review and, if needed, share these findings and issue a warning or full recall of this dangerous product. I urge CPSC to consider this new evidence that wasn’t available at the time of their previous review, and to continue to uphold the agency’s sacred duty to defend public safety. American homes and lives are on the line.”
"Defective FPE Stab-Lok breakers have been a causative factor in an estimated 100,000 residential fires in the 40 years since the CPSC first confirmed the defects,” engineer and specialist in this issue Dr. Jesse Aronstein said. “The CPSC controls this issue due to its previous investigation and its recently modified 1983 press release. I trust that this letter will result in the CPSC encouraging replacement of the FPE Stab-Lok panels because - as the agency has stated for other brands involved in recalls - if the breakers do not operate as required there is an increased risk of fire and injury."
Dr. Aronstein has been testing FPE Stab-Lok circuit breakers for decades. His years of peer-reviewed research found that as many as 54 million defective breakers may currently be installed in homes throughout the country. The CPSC opened an investigation into Stab-Lok circuit breakers in 1980 but closed the investigation three years later, due to insufficient data. In 2011, CPSC offered further clarification, but no analysis, stating that it had closed its investigation into Stab-Lok breakers without making a determination on their safety.
While FPE has stopped manufacturing these products, millions remain installed in homes and affiliated models are still being sold under other brand names.