The marketers of the Duram Emergency Escape Mask have agreed to notify prior purchasers that the mask does not filter out carbon monoxide, a lethal gas associated with fires, and also to disclose that fact on package labels and in certain advertise- ments, as part of a settlement of Federal Trade Commission charges. The FTC alleged that Frank A. Latronica, Jr. and Duram Rubber Products falsely represented, among other things, that the mask will protect wearers from lethal gases associated with fires for up to 20 minutes.
Duram Rubber Products, which manufactures the mask, is based in Israel. Latronica distributed the mask in the United States through his company, Life Safety Products. He is based in Laguna Beach, California. The product has been marketed through a brochure and advertisements in direct mail catalogs. It was advertised for about $50 - $75.
According to the complaint detailing the FTC allegations, the brochures and ads represented that the mask:
-- will absorb or filter out all significant toxic smoke and poisonous fumes and lethal gases associated with fires;
-- will protect the user from all significant hazards associated with toxic smoke, poisonous fumes and lethal gases in fires for up to 20 minutes; and
-- is appropriate for use in mines.
These claims are false and unsubstantiated, the FTC charged. According to the complaint, the mask does not filter out carbon monoxide, and it does not meet standards developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the U.S. Bureau of Mines for respiratory protective devices. The FTC also alleged that the respondents falsely represented that scientific tests prove that the mask filters 94 percent of the smoke in a heavy smoke environment.
The proposed consent agreement to settle these allegations, announced today for public comment, would require Duram Rubber Products and Latronica to notify by mail all consumers who purchased the mask from Life Safety Products, or from catalog retailers who purchased the masks for resale from Life Safety Products, that the mask does not filter out carbon monoxide. The settlement also would require the respondents to clearly and prominently disclose on all package labels and inserts for the mask, or any substantially similar product that will not provide significant protection from carbon monoxide, that the product does not filter out carbon monoxide. The respondents would have to include a similar disclosure in any advertisement that represented that such a device would protect the user from any hazard associated with fire.
In addition, the proposed settlement would require the respondents to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate any future representations they make that the Duram mask or any substantially similar product will filter out or otherwise protect users from any hazardous gas or fumes asso- ciated with fire. The respondents also would be required to have scientific substantiation for any representation they make that any fire-protection or safety-related product protects users from respiratory hazards associated with fire or other environments where normal breathing is impaired. And they would be required to have competent and reliable evidence to support any claims that such a mask is appropriate for mines.
Finally, the settlement contains various reporting provi- sions that would assist the FTC in monitoring the respondents' compliance.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed settlement for public comment was 5-0. It will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final and binding. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000.
Copies of the complaint, consent agreement, and an analysis of the consent agreement to assist the public in commenting are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, same address as above.
(FTC File No. 932 3150)