May 02, 2019

Ahead Of Summer Vacation Season, Warner & Kaine Raise Concerns About Beach Umbrella Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With summer vacation season just around the corner, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) are drawing attention to an unexpected danger to beachgoers: flying beach umbrellas. Essential staples of many family vacations, the popular beach accessories can quickly become hazards when propelled by wind through the air, as has happened on several occasions in recent years, most tragically in 2016, when Lottie Michelle Belk of Chester, Va. was struck in the torso and killed while vacationing in Virginia Beach with her family. Today, Virginia’s Senators were joined by their colleagues from New Jersey, Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ), in asking the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to do more to inform and protect the public from dangerous, and potentially lethal, flying beach umbrellas.

“As you know, beach umbrellas provide beachgoers the benefits of shade on hot and sunny days at the shore. Yet, a burst of wind can make these summer accessories harmful to those around them,” the Senators wrote to Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Elliot Kaye. “Over the last several years, reports of horrific injuries resulting from beach umbrellas have splashed across the media.”

According to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 31,000 people were treated at hospitals for umbrella-related injuries between 2008 and 2017. However, the publicly available data falls short of providing consumers with recommended safety standards to prevent beach umbrella-related injuries or information on specific products that have caused serious injuries.

The Senators noted several examples of these injuries, including a Virginia man who lost the use of his eye after a seven-foot-long beach umbrella struck him at a beach in Delaware.

The Senators are requesting more information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, including what safety standards are in place to prevent umbrella-related injuries and problems with specific beach umbrella products, and what it is doing to ensure the public is properly educated of the risks and dangers of beach umbrellas to prevent injuries. They also requested that the CPSC provide a detailed breakdown of data on umbrella injuries, including the number of injuries caused specifically by beach umbrellas.

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

May 2, 2019

 

Elliot F. Kaye

Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

4330 East West Highway

Bethesda, MD 20814

 

Dear Chairman Kaye,

We write regarding concerns about the safety of beach umbrellas. Recently, we heard from constituents impacted by flying beach umbrellas, which have caused injury, and in at least one recent case, death. As you know, beach umbrellas provide beachgoers the benefits of shade on hot and sunny days at the shore. Yet, a burst of wind can make these summer accessories harmful to those around them. According to a query on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s own website, from 2008-2017 over 31,000 people sought treatment at a hospital due to an umbrella-related injury.  Unfortunately, the CPSC does not parse out the data to differentiate between types of umbrellas. Nonetheless, we request information regarding how the CPSC plans to address this issue.

Over the last several years, reports of horrific injuries resulting from beach umbrellas have splashed across the media. In 2015, a Virginian man lost the use of his eye after a seven-foot-long beach umbrella struck him at Bethany Beach, Delaware.  Last year, a beach umbrella came loose from the sand in Seaside Heights, New Jersey impaling a British tourist through the ankle.   That same summer a woman sitting on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland was pierced below the collarbone by a beach umbrella.  Most tragically, in June 2016, a Virginia resident lost her life after a gust of wind launched an umbrella into the air, striking her in the torso while she was on vacation in Virginia Beach.  The scourge of beach umbrellas is not a new phenomenon. In 2006, a woman in New York received $200,000 from New York State because of injuries she sustained from an airborne beach umbrella in 1999; the umbrella struck her forehead resulting in 13 stitches and permanent nerve damage.

To ensure the public is equipped with the most updated information, we request responses to the following questions:

  1. What if any safety standards does the CPSC have in place to adequately prevent beach umbrella-related injuries?
  2. Does CPSC believe any particular safety standard could prevent injuries?
  3. What is the CPSC doing to educate the public regarding the dangers of beach umbrellas?
  4. Has the CPSC received complaints regarding beach umbrellas?  If so, what do those reports indicate about injuries related to beach umbrellas?
  5. Is the CPSC aware of problems with specific beach umbrellas that have not been made public?
  6. Can the CPSC provide a detailed breakdown of data on umbrella injuries? Specifically, how many injuries are specifically caused by beach umbrellas?

We appreciate CPSC’s willingness to take a direct look at the concerns raised by our constituents, and look forward hearing back from you by June 3, 2019. 

Sincerely,

 

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