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  • Writer's pictureChris Quinn

Despite previous safety concerns, this circuit breaker is still in homes

Millions of U.S. and Canadian homes were built with circuit breaker panels that one expert has questioned as a potential fire hazard. Issues about Federal Pacific Electric’s “Stab-Lok” circuit breakers were first raised with the Consumer Product Safety Commission decades ago. The CPSC closed its investigation of the breakers in 1983 because, it said, the data available to the commission at that time did not establish “that the circuit breakers pose a serious threat of injury to consumers.” In an updated 2011 CPSC news release, however, the commission clarified that the investigation was closed “without making a determination as to the safety of FPE circuit breakers or the accuracy of the manufacturer’s position on the matter.” Now, a man who played a key role in identifying issues with FPE breakers is back with a new claim that Stab-Lok breakers made by other brands may pose a fire hazard as well, and is strongly urging homeowners to replace ­all Stab-Lok-type panels and breakers.

Electrical engineer Jesse Aronstein, 82, who has been testing the FPE breakers for decades, met with the CPSC last month to ask the agency to definitively warn consumers about the danger. “Nobody whose word can be taken as an authority . . . has made a positive recommendation that people should change out their [breaker] panels for safety reasons,” Aronstein told CPSC staff. “When some agency of authority picks up the ball on this, then I can stop.” In a statement to The Washington Post, the agency said, “CPSC will be reviewing the information to determine if additional investigation is warranted under our statutes.”


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