Thursday, October 28, 2010

CPSC database coming closer to a reality

In 2007 and 2008, during the discussions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act as the bill was named in the end, consumer advocates repeatedly raised the issue of secrecy at CPSC, pointing to the human cost of keeping injury data secret from consumers using the products. While advocates had hoped to remove Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act -- which is an effective gag order on much safety information -- what happened in the end was a public database -- the ability of consumers to report injuries and incidents with products to CPSC which would then be available to other consumers making choices about those products.

According to the dedicated website at CPSC, the database will be a reality in 134 days (March 2011). The Commission was briefed by staff in a three hour session on October 20 and the final vote is expected in mid-November. CPSC staff have done yeoman's work in creating a process that encourages use of the database as well as the accuracy of the information. Consumers, business, academic researchers and CPSC staff will be able to access crucial safety information, in many cases before a recall or serious injury or death. You can view a Q&A about the database here.

That doesn't mean there hasn't been push back from companies who have gotten used to dealing with their safety problems in a more secretive way. But as Rachel Weintraub of Consumer Federation of America (pictured above at a CPSC workshop on the database with Consumer Union's Ami Gadhia) points out in an excellent article in this week's Product Safety Forum, consumers will be the winners in the long run.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A hot button issue: battery ingestion

According to Children's Memorial Hospital, each year 3,500 people (mostly young children and the elderly) in the U.S. swallow “disc” or “button" batteries, and many of these incidents result in serious health complications.

As part of their Battery Ingestion Advocacy Project, Children's Memorial Hospital recently released a helpful new flier on the dangers, preventions and treatments of disc or button battery ingestion for young children. While not widely publicized, this is a serious health issue for kids, as batteries can get stuck in children's throats and can lead to poisoning, chemical burns and other serious complications.

If you are concerned that your child has ingested a battery or for more information, contact the Battery Hotline at 202.625.3333 or Poison Control 1.800.222.1222.

CPSC Launches "Safe Sleep for Babies" video on heels of latest crib recalls

Today, on the heels of the latest in a seemingly never-ending flurry of crib recalls, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), along with three New York-based partner organizations, launched its new video "Safe Sleep for Babies." This video is the newest tool in CPSC's ongoing Safe Sleep Initiative, which works to reduce deaths and injuries associated with unsafe sleep environments.

The new video will be distributed to hospitals nationwide in an effort to reach as many health care providers and parents as possible, and to educate the public on these important safe sleep issues. The goal is to reach parents while they are still in the hospital, so that they create a safe sleeping space for babies from day one, and is an important step to make this information readily available and accessible for all parents and caregivers.

The video urges parents to:
  • Place infants to sleep on their backs
  • Use a firm, tight-fitting mattress
  • Never use extra padding, blankets or pillows under baby
  • Remove pillows or thick comforters
  • Do not use positioning devices – they are not necessary and can be deadly
  • Regularly check cribs for loose, missing or broken parts or slats
  • Do not try to fix a broken crib
  • Place cribs or playpens away from windows and window covering cords to avoid fall and strangulation hazards
  • Place baby monitor cords away from cribs or playpens to avoid strangulation
The three new crib recalls--the Heritage Collection 3-in-1 Drop-Side Cribs, Angel Line Drop-Side Cribs, and Ethan Allen Drop-Side Cribs--affects about 40,000 cribs. As always, please check the CPSC website to make sure that your crib is not affected.

You can also download KID's safe sleep flyer or visit our product hazard page on cribs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More on Graco Stroller Recall

Yesterday, we wanted to get the word out quickly about the 2 million Graco strollers recalled. If you haven't seen the information:
  • here is the CPSC release
  • here is the Health Canada advisory (no recall)
  • here is the Graco website for processing repair kits
  • here is a great flyer for posting about the recall to alert child care providers, parents, grandparents and other caregivers -- consider posting where parents gather.
We also had some questions about the reason the products were sold 2000 to 2007; deaths were reported from 2003 to 2005 (as well as one in Canada in 2006); and yet the recall is just happening now in 2010.

CPSC has reported that in initiating a review of injuries and deaths in strollers, they grouped these four deaths and decided it was important to do a recall since many families were using the strollers with no awareness of the risk. Why a recall wasn't done under a previous CPSC administration and how long this process took for Graco to do the recall are matters currently sealed in CPSC compliance files. We also don't know why Graco continued to make the product with the same design for several years after the deaths.

We urge parents using these Graco strollers to stop using them and get the repair kit. In fact, given that almost 4.6 million strollers have been recalled since June 2009, everyone using a stroller should probably go to CPSC's website to check their stroller against the recall list.

In their most recent Nursery Product Report, CPSC reports 12,400 children were rushed to emergency rooms in 2008 for injuries related to strollers and an average of three children a year die in strollers. CPSC's recent stroller safety advisory or KID's stroller brochure give important tips for safety.

Here are links to articles on the recall in the New York Times, AOL WalletPop and Bloomberg/Business Week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Graco and CPSC recall 2 million strollers for risk of strangulation

Today CPSC and Graco announced the recall of 2 million Quattro and Metrolite strollers sold between 2000 and 2007. Babies can slip between the seat and stroller tray -- trapping their head and leading to strangulation. At least four babies died this way between 2003 and 2005.

If you have one of these strollers (the list of model numbers is long!), stop using it until you can get the repair kit from the company.

We have many questions about this recall. This risk has been known for years, and certainly was evident in these strollers after the first death in 2003. The voluntary standard setting committee on strollers at ASTM addressed the flaw through changes in that standard in 2008 (which means work on it started long before that). Why are the strollers only being recalled now, years later? And more importantly, why were they sold until 2007 if the first death happened in 2003?

We'll be trying to get some answers. For all parents -- use the restraint on your stroller at all times, don't rely on the tray to restrain your baby. CPSC has issued a safety alert on stroller safety.

The Illinois Attorney General's office has also posted a very eye-catching alert that can be printed out and used as a poster in childcare facilities or any other place families gather. Help spread the word of this important recall.

Even though they report a death in Canada in 2006 in this product, Health Canada has declined to recall the product there, instead giving parents safe use information.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Canada declares BPA toxic

According to the Toronto Sun, Canada has declared bisphenol-A (commonly know as BPA) a toxic substance. According to U.S. PIRG, BPA, a chemical very commonly found in plastics such as water bottles, canned foods, baby bottles and toys, is used to line nearly all food and beverage containers, and is nearly impossible to avoid. This new classification, however, effectively bans the substance from all products manufactured in or entering Canada.

Here in the U.S., BPA has been under attack for several years as the FDA considers a possible ban on the substance, but change is slow to come. Back in January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressed concern over the health risks of BPA, which is believed to mimic estrogen in the body, and has been linked to various types of cancer. The FDA is particularly concerned about "the effects of the chemical on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.”

Despite consumer outrage and FDA concern, progress to ban BPA from children's products is slow-going. Five U.S. states, several New York counties, and Chicago have already banned the substance from infant formula and baby bottles, but it is still widely present in products.

There are a number of good resources available to help parents identify products that may contain BPA. The National Toxicology Program website has a simple but comprehensive fact sheet for parents, as well as links to other resources, and the state of Massachusetts produced a brochure, outlining advice for parents. While pregnant or breastfeeding, mothers should eat as much fresh or frozen food as possible (as opposed to canned). And if possible, breastfeeding is best. Avoid plastic food containers and bottles, especially when heating food. Learn to identify bottles that have BPA in them--bottles that have the number 7 on the bottom, generally contain BPA. Be sure to buy and use bottles, toys and pacifiers that are labeled "BPA-free."

Much of this change needs to happen on a policy level, so as always, concerned parents should contact their legislators. But in the meantime, it's a good idea to take as many precautions as possible to keep our children safe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

International Babywearing Week

International Babywearing Week is drawing to a close. It drew particular attention this year, in part due to rumors of a recall of a (to judge from Twitter feeds) very popular brand of sling. But that recall is still unannounced as of today.

Babywearing is the use of soft carriers or baby slings to carry infants and toddlers. Advocates love the closeness and comfort it gives as well as the ability to carry on with other activities while engaged with your child. Many of the carriers used already fall under the ASTM International's standard on soft carriers -- giving some assurance that the product meets minimum safety standards. ASTM is currently developing a similar standard for slings -- in fact, a draft went out to ballot this week! But both these are voluntary standards -- meaning not all products in either class have been tested to these standards. We urge the CPSC to continue their work on writing mandatory standards for these and all other durable infant and toddler products as required by the CPSIA.

Earlier this year CPSC recalled three of these carriers: a soft carrier whose buckles can break; 40 ring slings made by a very small firm in Texas after one death and one million bag type sling carriers after three deaths. In addition, CPSC issued a warning about baby slings in March, identifying at least 14 deaths in this class of product. They gave concrete suggestions for avoiding injury while still using a sling.

So what should parents do with this information?

First, it should be noted that the age of most of the babies who died in slings could be measured in days or weeks rather than months. With low-birth weight babies, premature babies, those with breathing problems or newborns, consider waiting to use a sling until the baby is older -- over four months is CPSC's recommendation.

At any age, closely monitoring the baby is important -- something that a tummy to tummy upright hold, with the baby's face visible and close enough to kiss, promotes.

Some slings are simply long lengths of material -- and many are a puzzle for the uninitiated. Review and follow instructions carefully -- check for a DVD of the instructions that comes with the product or a video online. Ask at your retailer if they provide instruction or look online -- we've found many sites that give clear general safety warnings for slings as well as precise instructions for individual products.

While deaths in slings have garnered the most attention, the most common injury pattern is a fall -- either of the baby out of the product or the caregiver and the baby. You will not be able to do everything you do normally while carrying a baby in a sling. Again, check your product's instructions for carrying advice and what to avoid.

As the proponents of babywearing often point out, it is a centuries old tradition in many cultures and one that if practiced safely, can improve the quality of your bond with your baby. Then again, be sure to spend plenty of time interacting with your baby outside of any product -- holding them in your arms!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CPSC issues alert on baby monitor cords

After the death of a 10-month-old baby this past March, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning about the risk of strangulation by baby monitor cords. This can occur if the monitor is placed too close to areas where children sleep. The children can reach out to the cord and became entangled in it.

CPSC has reports of at least six deaths since 2004 and three additional near-strangulations.

To avoid injuries and death CPSC recommends:
  • The use of wireless baby monitors to avoid strangulation or
  • If using a baby monitor with cords, make sure all cords are out of reach of the child.

The baby monitor cords are just one possible cord hazard in the nursery or home -- watch all other corded products and avoid window coverings with cords in homes with young children.

KID submits comments to CPSC on historic crib standards

Since Kids In Danger was founded in 1998 after the death of Danny Keysar in a poorly designed, untested portable crib, KID has focused on one main point: Children's products should be independently tested to rigorous mandatory standards before they are sold, not half-heartedly recalled after they have caused injury.

And with the passage of CPSIA in 2008, containing the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act; that vision became reality. Now, CPSC has drafted two tough mandatory standards for full-size and non-full-size cribs. Today was the last day to submit comments, which KID has done. Read our comments here. (PDF)

You can go to and pull up docket number CPSC-2010-0075 to read the proposed standards as well as the many comments submitted. (You even have a few hours left to submit your own!)

KID applauds the actions CPSC has taken to take dangerous cribs and portable cribs off store shelves and homes. We believe these new standards will give parents confidence that cribs that meet the standard are the safest place for their babies to sleep. Among the changes from the old voluntary standards:
  • more rigorous tests for stability, hardware, slat strength and durability
  • elimination of the dangerous drop-side design
  • requirements that will reduce the likelihood of mis-assembly
  • Requirement that any cribs that don't meet these new standards can't be sold to unsuspecting parents or used in child care or hotels after the effective date.
  • and most importantly -- these aren't voluntary!
The usual effective date for new standards or rules has been six months after final publication -- which in this case would be around the middle of 2011. Because of the impact on child care facilities, KID is recommending that they have an additional six months to comply -- still leaving the effective date for manufacturers and the sale of the products at six months.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the new crib standards. KID has always believed that parents assume when they buy a new crib or other children's product that someone, somewhere has made sure it is safe. Now we can say that will be the truth! There is still more to be done -- these standards don't apply to mesh sided portable cribs and play yards and there are other products still waiting for mandatory standards such as high chairs and strollers, but progress is being made.

Update: Here are the comments from our allies at Consumer Federation of America and you can read all the comments here.

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