Kids' Nursery Products Getting Safer, Consumer Agency Suggests
Sept. 19, 2000 (Washington) -- There may now be a bit less
reason for parents to worry over their little ones' safety at home. Injuries to
young children from nursery products have declined for the first time since the
information has been tracked, the Consumer Products Safety Commission announced
The commission staged its announcement inside a suburban
Virginia Babies 'R' Us, as mothers and screaming children shopped their way
through the store.
"Safety standards for products that parents use with their
babies every day -- like cribs, baby walkers, and play yards -- have saved
lives and prevented injuries," said commission chairman Ann Brown. The
commission started keeping records on the safety of these products in 1973.
In 1999, according to the commission, there were 65,400
emergency-department-treated injuries that were related to nursery products in
children under the age of 5. But, that was a drop of almost 20% -- more than
15,000 injuries -- from 1995 numbers.
The improvement, according to the commission, is mostly due to
fewer baby walker mishaps; in 1995, there were more than 20,000 such accidents
in children younger than 15 months, but this number declined to just 8,800 last
Walkers had often propelled young children down flights of
stairs. But in 1997, the commission helped revise a voluntary industry safety
standard that made them less likely to do so. Now, to meet the requirements for
the new safety standard, walkers must either be too wide to fit through a
standard doorway or have features that will stop the device at the top step of
a stairway. Meanwhile, companies have introduced stationary baby "activity
centers," which are less risky than walkers.
"Using an old baby walker is basically a mistake," said
Brown, urging parents to buy new ones that comply with the latest
The commission also announced that crib-related deaths have
plummeted more than 75% since the early 1970s. About 35 children died annually
in the mid-1990s, compared with close to 200 each year in earlier years. Most
of the recent deaths, Brown said, have been caused by old cribs that pose
entanglement and strangulation dangers because of faulty hardware or slats that
are too far apart, which can allow a baby's head to get caught.
Since cribs from the early 1970s lack many of the safety
features that have since become mandatory, the commission tells parents to
invest a little more for peace of mind. "Because the crib is the place your
baby will spend the majority of time alone, the best investment you can make is
a new crib that meets current safety standards," said Brown.
As for the future, she predicts that injuries from nursery
products should continue to decline. "We think that this trend is going to
continue," she said, touting new "double restraint" systems that
are now standard equipment on many high chairs.
"[Nevertheless,] we still see too many injuries from
nursery products," Brown said, calling on manufacturers to test the safety
of new products they are developing. The Consumer Products Safety Commission
itself cannot test products before they are marketed.
The agency is in the process of helping beef up safety
standards for play yards, changing tables, and baby gates. Last year, those
products were involved in more than 5,000 injuries that resulted in trips to
the emergency department. Between 1995 and 1997, 42 deaths were linked to play
The commission is partnering with Babies 'R' Us and the Pampers
Parenting Institute to alert consumers to nursery safety tips. You can find
helpful safety information online at www.babiesrus.com and www.pampers.com.