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.
1333 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92154
15750 Concord Circle
Morgan Hills, CA 95037
27 May 1997
Dr. R. David Pittle, PhD
Vice President and Technical Director
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
cc; Mr. Frank Krivda, U.S. CPSC