Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More on the database, from a mother's perspective

This letter is from Lisa Olney, whose daughter Ellie would have been 9 last week, had she not died in a portable crib just after her first birthday.

It scares to me think that the mandated database, part of the CPSIA, has organizations and individuals attempting to suppress it. This database is an essential part of keeping our children safe by making consumer experience with products accessible to all.

On December 19, 2002, my daughter Elizabeth, just 13 months old, died in a poorly designed play yard. I live my life often looking back through “what if’s” and “should have’s,” but I’ve learned to give most of that up in order to save myself from being a horribly miserable individual. Instead, I realize the importance of focusing on efforts to protect our children so that no parent has to suffer from what I have, along with too many other victims of unsafe children's products. This CPSC database is going to protect millions of children, because it provides a place to go when considering the choices parents make when purchasing products, especially those products intended to be beneficial to our children’s safety.

Since Elizabeth’s death, I gave birth to a third daughter. Having been so disappointed in the things I learned about children’s product safety since Elizabeth’s accident, it is an understatement to say I was paranoid and at a loss as to how I might raise another baby, using products whose manufacturer’s executives or legal teams were suppressing information essential to my child’s safety.

Sure, there is the CPSC recall list, but what about the complaints lying in the “inbox” of someone’s desk, waiting to be investigated? What about those products that had a few complaints but never made it to the public until it resulted in a death? It took nine months for the CPSC to release Ellie’s story and the warning that went with it. It wasn’t even a recall; Graco only had to offer new warning labels cautioning people of the possibility and danger of entrapment.

The database planned for CPSC gives parents, grandparents, families, friends, medical personnel, and even retailers, immediate and FREE information on ANY problems reported about a particular product, not just those few which rise to the surface because a child has either died or been seriously injured by the product. By that time, it’s too dangerously late. As with Ellie’s case, it could take months before the public sees this information.

Of course manufacturers might not be pleased with production of such a database because it not only means that their products could show up on the database, it also means that they will be forced to spend more money on assuring the safety of their product if they want it to sell.

A child is priceless, beyond what any definition might attach itself to that word. I don’t know whether Ellie was destined to be a ballerina or a professional race car driver. I also don’t know what she might have looked like on her 9th birthday last week or what her laughter sounds like. What I do know is that her life was ripped from her too soon.

CPSC’s database demands that manufacturers hold themselves to higher standards and give the public the chance to decide for themselves, whether a product’s small glitch or major defect is worth taking a risk on and buying for their child. I cringe at the thought that a manufacturer might put enough pressure on the CPSC to divert the creation of this database in any way.

Companies who make products for our children deserve to be held accountable for that product at every moment. I certainly can never hide from my grief, my pain, or the permanent hole in my life that once was my toddling, smiling child. Manufacturers don’t deserve the ability to hide.

Lisa L. (Davis) Olney

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