Saturday, April 2, 2011

Proposal before House Committee will gut the Danny Keysar Act and leave children vulnerable


In 2008, parents of children injured or killed by unsafe juvenile products rejoiced when the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act was included in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and signed into law. This portion of the CPSIA assured parents that:

  • For the first time, cribs, strollers, high chairs and other juvenile products had to be independently tested for safety before we brought them into our homes to use with our children.
  • Strong new standards would be adopted for juvenile products that would assure that the required testing would find potential flaws and make sure the products were safe for use.
  • Child care facilities and other public accommodations could only offer children safe cribs that met federal standards.
  • Parents would be given the opportunity to register their products with the manufacturer either through a postage paid card or online – making sure they would learn of recalls.

Well, fill out those product registration cards – you’re going to need them! The new House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Manufacturing wants to strip most of those protections – just like they stripped the words ‘Consumer Protection’ from their subcommittee name – it’s not like they didn’t warn us!

In addition to many other onerous changes that reduce the safety of all products you and your children use, here are the specific changes that affect infant and toddler durable products:

  • Strips the requirement for independent testing from all infant and toddler products, except for testing cribs to the old standards that eliminated gaps between slats, but little else. But that stroller, high chair or carrier? Your child will again be the test dummy for safety. Companies may say they employ their own testing, but we saw where that got us with the 10 million cribs recalled in the last four years and dozens of deaths each year in nursery products.
  • First, the proposed change says that child care providers have to replace their old cribs that don’t meet the standard – but just this once. In the future, if the standard changes, the facilities can keep using their cribs, only moving up to cribs that meet the new standard when they replace them. We understand this rule – after all, some centers will only be getting their new cribs in late 2012 when there might already be a few changes to the standard – making it a ridiculous exercise in trying to keep up. BUT, the next proposed change, combined with this commonsense change, will basically mean that your child care can keep on using any old crib they want – as long as it doesn’t have a drop-side. Read on…
  • The next proposed change says that if a child care facility is using fixed sided cribs (no drop-sides), they don’t have to comply with the new law that requires all cribs in child care to meet the new standard by 2013. So if a center is using an old crib, that we know is unsafe – it has corner posts that have hung children, it has cut-outs that have caused strangulation, or it is simply too old and rickety – they get to keep using that crib! And since they don’t have to comply with the next revision of the standard, they can keep using it forever! They do provide that the facility has to be subject to regulations that require them to stay in the room with the infant, not leave an awake baby in a crib and move all babies out of cribs at 12 months. But we all know that supervision is a poor substitute for safe products. When a baby suffocates or strangles, it is usually with little or no noise. Babies have died when parents have been in the same room.

So, what should be done, what are we asking for?

All products in section 104 of the CPSIA (infant and toddler durable products – cribs, strollers, high chairs, etc) should be subject to independent, third-party testing with no exceptions. These are products parents and caregivers buy to keep their children safe. They involve many parts and hardware and can be very dangerous if defective. Let’s not go back to the days of baby test dummies – let’s make sure the products are safe before we use them for our children.

While it may not be reasonable to ask child care providers to replace all cribs every time there is a minor change to the crib standards, there should be a means by which CPSC can require that if necessary. If another flaw in cribs erupts as the drop-side issue did over the past few years, CPSC should have the ability to require safe cribs in child care settings.

The new mandatory crib standard does so much more than ban drop-sides. In fact, it is unlikely that the drop-side cribs on the market over the past decade that led to millions of products being recalled and dozens of deaths could meet this standard – thereby eliminating the need to even officially ban them. The new standards will make sure crib hardware is sturdy, mattress supports and slats can stand up to real world use and that cribs, used to protect an unattended child, can keep a child safe. Allowing all matter of cribs, safe and unsafe, to remain in child care – just because they don’t have a drop-side is a clear attempt to gut the safety improvements of the past few years. Child care is varied and diverse. It is unreasonable to have an exemption for fixed sided cribs without knowing the condition of the crib, when it was made and what standards it does meet. If we are allowing some child care providers to keep older, less safe cribs, they should at least meet the most recent voluntary standard, ASTM 1169-09 or ASTM 406-09 for non-full size cribs.

Tell Congress – “Don’t Retreat on Safety: Keep our nurseries safe”

Call or email your own representative as well as Chairman Bono Mack of the subcommittee and other members. Let them know we can't go backwards on the safety of our youngest consumers. Tell them about your child and why it is important to you that nursery products meet strong standards and be independently tested.

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