Children's Products Safer, Group Says in Report

doll in crib, baby monitorLast year, the federal government made substantial progress in the regulation of thousands of children's products, child safety advocacy group Kids in Danger (KID) stated in its 2010 annual report on recalls and other actions by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"It seems CPSC is acting a little quicker than [in] 2009 when there were over 4,000 incidents, including two recalls with more than 1,300 reports each of a hazard and six more with more than 100 reports," the KID report stated.

But all the news wasn't good. While toy recalls were down from 2009 figures, the percentage of children's products recalled was up slightly last year, with 160 recalls. And there were 1,587 incidents related to these products before they were recalled.The report also showed that 163 children were injured and 18 children died due to toy-related injuries. Last year's deaths were double the 2009 figure.

Nancy A. Cowles, executive director of KID, explained that the recorded deaths don't all take place in the year of the recall -- many of the 18 deaths were in prior years. "Some things had been allowed to remain 'unrecalled' for many years," Cowles said in an email to WalletPop. An example is the Graco stroller that was responsible for four deaths and later recalled. Those deaths took place in the mid-2000s, but the stroller wasn't recalled until 2010 so that's when the deaths were credited to the recalled product.

"We aren't privy to manufacturer discussions with the CPSC on recalls, but it appears this recall was stalled and only got announced when the new administration, led by CPSC Chairman [Inez] Tenenbaum, put more pressure on the company," Cowles told WalletPop.

The same goes with some crib recalls, Cowles said. "These were the latest in a string of crib recalls – totaling more than 10 million – that started in 2007 because of weak standards and inadequate testing." The new crib standard, adopted in 2010, will make ensure that cribs are safe before they enter the marketplace, and not just after they injure or kill a child, Cowles added.

Amendments made in 2008 to product safety laws did a tremendous amount to fix what was wrong with the children's product safety system, Cowles said. The amendments require the CPSC to issue standards for cribs, strollers and high chairs; set limits for lead in children's products; and create a database the public can use to check on the safety of specific products. It also gives the agency greater authority to order mandatory recalls and prohibit the sale or resale of recalled products.

"We're still waiting for some parts of the law to be implemented," Cowles added. "We'll then have a better idea of new areas that need to be improved."

However, big manufacturers are fighting the new amendments, Cowles added, "[because they liked it better when regulation and oversight were weak. The CPSC is still a very small agency, and we believe it needs to be strengthened with additional funds and staff to fulfill their mission."

The KID report recommends Congress should require annual reports on recalls, protect the provisions of the 2008 amendments, and give the CPSC the flexibility necessary to fully carry out the law. The CPSC should also consider action against crib bumper pads, involved in at least two deaths in 2010 and 30 in the past decade, the KID report stated.

The agency is taking a "fresh look" at crib bumpers, Scott Wolfson, CPSC spokesman, stated in an email to WalletPop. "The scientific staff at CPSC are reviewing the case files where a crib bumper was cited," Wolfson added, "and their analysis will be peer reviewed by an outside panel of baby safety experts."

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