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The 1980s

In 1981, based upon risks to consumers from irritation, sensitization and possible long-term health effects, the State banned urea-formaldehyde foam insulation in Connecticut -- one year before a nationwide ban enacted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In October 1982, Drug Control staff were joined by a good portion of the entire Department to oversee the removal of Tylenol capsules from stores following a nationwide scare in which seven people in the Chicago area died from taking capsules that had somehow been tampered with before they were purchased.

A significant consumer protection item in 1982 was Connecticut ‘s new law that addressed warranty problems with new cars. Known as the "Lemon Law,’ this pioneering legislation and program was replicated in states across the country and set the stage for improved protections in subsequent years. "Squeezing the Lemon Law," an agency-produced booklet that explained Connecticut’s innovation, received "Best Consumer Publication" award from the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators.

A consumer tip in 1983 led to the Department’s embargo of more than 15,000 cans of paint containing lead. A batch of "Cabbage Patch" look-alike dolls were found to contain kerosene. The Department banned the dolls from sale in Connecticut and helped consumers to get refunds for dolls they purchased. The department recalled a batch of gas line anti-freeze that was found to contain mostly water -- and that froze in the gas lines of automobiles.

A second "Lemon Law" passed in 1984 gave enforcement powers to the Department of Consumer Protection and led to the creation of the hugely successful Automobile Dispute Settlement Program, which mediates warranty disputes between new car buyers and manufacturers.

A new 1985 law established a Health Club Guaranty Fund, and required that a certain portion of all Connecticut health club license fees be allocated to the Fund, to be managed by the Department of Consumer Protection. The agency established a process to provide pro-rated refunds to eligible victims of unexpected and sudden health club closings.

The Drug Control Division was involved in the investigation and arrest of several pharmacists, a physician and a body-building gym for illegal possession or sale of anabolic steroids -- one of the first cases of its type in the country.

In 1986-1987, a typically busy year for the growing agency, the Department:

• responded to 73,000 phone calls and investi- gated 4,200 complaints;
• handled 561 freedom of information inquiries;
• engaged in 250 investigations of health care practitioners and obtained and executed fifteen search and seizure warrants and seven arrest warrants;
• performed 17,124 food inspections;
• conducted 782 occupational license inspections and processed 165 with violations;
• responded to 852 requests for information on public charities; and
• conducted 88 field inspections of real estate brokers’ and salesperson’s offices.
Product safety tests on pillows in 1987 found that material described on some labels as goose down had come from a duck, while other "down-filled" pillows actually contained feathers and crushed quills. The manufacturers were advised to comply with fair trade practices laws or lose their license. They complied.

In 1987-88, the "Lemon Law" automobile dispute program saw a 63% increase in the number of complaints over that of 1986 and a 75% increase in eligible complaints. More than $3.5 million in cash or vehicles was recovered for consumers that year alone.

In 1989, a series of tornadoes caused more than $130 million in damage across the northeastern United States on July 10th. Extensive damage occurred in Bantam. A large section of Hamden, including an industrial park and hundreds of homes, was completely destroyed; in some places buildings were flattened to the ground. Food inspectors were on the scene to ensure food and water safety, but more than $346,000 worth of food had to be destroyed.