The Consumer Product Safety Commission is particularly active on safety issues involving children, says Chairman Ann Brown, because children are one of our most vulnerable populations.
"CPSC is committed to addressing both obvious hazards and hidden hazards in products that can seduce caregivers into dangerous behaviors because they believe their babies are safe when they are not."Some of the agency most recent projects and concerns include:
Bath seats and rings: A 9-month-old Baltimore baby recently died in a bath ring. A caregiver was bathing the little girl when the caregiver left for a few minutes to check on a noise in another room. She returned to find that the baby had slid under the ring and drowned in the bath water. Since 1989, CPSC has received 17 reports of such incidents involving children between 5 and 12 months of age.
Bath seats and rings may make caregivers believe that a baby is in a relatively safe environment, says Brown. But never leave a baby in a bath seat or bath ring without constant adult supervision. All levels of water are dangerous for babies. Always keep the baby at arm's reach.
Window blind cords: Approximately one child a month has died from strangulation in window blind cords. Often the young victims, usually 8 to 23 months old, were in cribs that were placed near window-covering pull cords. A few older children found the cords hanging near the floor and got entangled.
CPSC and the Window Covering Safety Council have announced a three-part program that will eliminate the loop in most window blind cords by improving the safety of existing window coverings, modifying future design, and implementing an educational campaign for consumers.
Consumers who have window coverings in their homes with loop cords can call 1-800-506-4636 to find out how to get safety tassels and installation instructions to fix their cords. As of January of this year, two-cord window coverings will be sold in stores.
Parents should always keep window-covering cords and chains out of the reach of children. Never place a child's crib within reach of a window blind.
Five-gallon buckets: Each year approximately 40 children between 8 and 14 months drown in these buckets. When filled with a small amount of water, these large plastic buckets become so stable that they do not tip over when a small child falls in, and the child may drown. As of January 1995, warning labels have been placed on these buckets. CPSC will monitor the problem to see if more action needs to be taken. But as far as the agency knows there have been no deaths in a labeled bucket in California, where labeled buckets have been mandatory for some time.
Baby walkers: The CPSC has records of 27,000 walker-related injuries that have required treatment in hospital emergency rooms for children under 15 months of age, primarily from falling down stairs. The agency has started a rulemaking proceeding to establish a mandatory safety standard for baby walkers. Brown recommends that consumers with stairs in their homes who might purchase a traditional walker opt for one of the alternative design products that do not travel. Parents and caregivers should block off access to stairs, steps and thresholds while a child is in a mobile walker.
Used cribs: Despite safer design of new cribs and an education campaign to alert parents to the dangers, an estimated 50 babies still die each year in crib-related deaths. The majority of the cribs involved were obtained in used, rather than new, condition. Investigators reported missing, loose or improperly installed equipment. Consumers must maintain cribs in good repair, notes Brown. Consumers should either repair cribs with loose or missing hardware, broken brackets or other structural damage or discard these cribs. A broken crib can be a death trap for a baby.
High chairs: Numerous injuries have been reported from children sliding downward in the highchair seat and getting caught on trays and waist straps. There have been 19 deaths since 1988. Many new highchairs have waist belts and crotch straps and other safety restraints. It is important for caregivers to look for and use these devices.
Child-resistant packaging for mouthwash: CPSC has proposed child-resistant closures or packaging for mouthwash containing alcohol. Manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to use this packaging by May 1995. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported nearly 2,000 ingestions of mouthwash with alcohol by children under age 5 in 1991. All mouthwash should be stored out of reach of children.
Toys: Toy safety is stressed a lot at the holidays, but it should be a year-round concern, says Brown. Select toys to suit the age, skills, interests and abilities of the individual child. Read warning labels for age recommendations. Even the brightest child should not be given a toy labeled for an older child. Look for sturdy construction. Buy appropriate protective gear to complement all sporting equipment. Set ground rules for play. Supervise young children closely during play. Teach children how to use toys properly and safely. Inspect old and new toys regularly for broken parts or other hazards.