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March 2000 Vol. 26, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Undercurrent Gives Strobe Recall a Nudge

from the March, 2000 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We U.S. divers have a powerful advocate in the Consumer Product Safety Commission — and a damn good thing it is, too, since the last time I want to find out that a product’s a hazard is when I’m at depth, entrusting my fragile tissues to so many mechanical parts. Not all divers have that cushion of safety to rely on, however, as long-term subscriber Carles Cantos (Barcelona Spain) recently discovered. When Cantos read our column about the CPSC recall of several models of Sea & Sea strobes (see Undercurrent’s 1/00 issue), he rushed to check the serial numbers on his two units — and met up with an unpleasant surprise. Both numbers fell within the range of units listed as CPSC-targeted devices after explosions in two strobes injured both a Japanese strobe owner and a Caribbean repair technician. Cantos contacted Sea & Sea representatives in Spain, Sport-Video, S.A., to read them the serial numbers off his strobes, but before he had a chance to start reading, they cut him off with the announcement, “no problem in Spain; the problem is only with units sold in the U.S.” Although Cantos advises that “the strobes work fine” and he is “absolutely satisfied with their performance to date,” he adds, “I am concerned about my personal safety after reading your words of warning, and I need some peace of mind.”

Undercurrent called the U.S. general manager for Sea & Sea, Tak Sakamoto, to ask what impact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recall will have on strobe owners living outside the U.S. When told of Cantos’ safety concerns, Sakamoto first advised that the strobes are an explosion risk only if they’ve been flooded, precipitating a chemical reaction between salt water and battery acid that generates explosive gas and traps it in the battery compartment. Since divers subsequently attempting to use the unit place themselves in danger of touching off electrical ignition, Sakamoto cautioned that any flooded strobe should immediately be returned to Sea & Sea for repair.

Sakamoto also assured Undercurrent that Sea & Sea Japan has sent letters to all its distributors worldwide about retrofitting units with vented battery caps at no charge to divers. Sea & Sea is furnishing the battery caps, which are of different designs depending on the strobe model, to all distributors worldwide. Owners outside the U.S. concerned about the safety of their units should first call their local Sea & Sea distributor for a free replacement battery cap, but, if this call does not resolve their problem, owners can email Sea & Sea at, and a Sea & Sea representative will be in contact with them. (U.S. residents should still follow the original recall procedure and call 800-732-7977 for instructions.)

Sakamoto also corrected the list of serial numbers of affected strobes as it was originally reported by the Associated Press, the same list that Undercurrent carried in its report. The revised list, with unit number ranges somewhat narrower than those we received earlier, are as follows: YS-50, all nos. except YS-50A and YS-50M; YS-60TTL/S yellow, 961280001-961283815; YS- 60TTL/S black, 961270001-961271325; YS-60TTL/N orange, 691260001- 961261137; YS-60TTL/N black, 961250001-961251075; YS-120 DUO orange, 94130001-94131794; YS-120 DUO yellow, 94100001-94101516; YS- 120 DUO black, 94110001-94113903. Apparently, the CPSC posture of consumer safety at all costs is a hard one for foreign businesses to grasp. Disinterested distributors are certainly an impediment to dive safety, but manufacturers adhering to the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit don’t do much to make our sport safer, either. When asked why Sea & Sea’s website at was full of product promotions and photo contests but carried nary a word about the strobe recall, Sakamoto confessed that they were concerned that posting a warning just might alarm people.

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