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From Products Liability Law Daily, February 19, 2014

Children’s product recalls decrease while injuries increase, report finds

By Joe Bichl

In a report examining children’s product recalls in 2012, the safety advocacy group Kids In Danger (KID) found that the number of product recalls dropped 20 percent since 2011. However, the report, “Safe Sleep, Safe Play: Children’s Product Recalls in 2012,” found that incidents and injuries reported before a recall was issued increased.

Among all the children’s product types recalled in 2012, nursery products, such as cribs, strollers, high chairs, and pacifiers, claimed the highest number of recalls, accounting for 31 percent. Children’s clothing accounted for 23 percent of all children’s product recalls, with outdoor equipment/sports gear and toys accounting for 18 percent each.

Recalls decreasing. Children’s product recalls in 2012 totaled over 13 million units, according to the report, including two recalls that involved two million or more units. For the first time since 2004, children’s product recalls numbered fewer than 100. In 2012, there were 346 recalls issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)—97 of which (28 percent) were for children’s products—indicating a 12-percent  increase in overall recalls from 2011, but a 20-percent drop in children’s product recalls. In addition, for the first time since 2001, children’s products represented fewer than 30 percent of all recalls.

“We believe that the impact of new safety regulations can be seen in reduced recalls this year,” Nancy Cowles, Executive Director of KID, said in a news release.

New safety regulations. The new regulations were part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). In 2013, CPSC issued final rules for infant swings, play yards, and children’s portable bed rails. It also finalized periodic testing rules for children’s products and product registration of infant and toddler durable products. CPSC is expected  eventually to promulgate mandatory safety standards for 25 durable infant and toddler products. There are currently eight final rules: cribs, non-full-size cribs, play yards, swings, bed rails, walkers, bath seats, and toddler beds.

Cowles also suggested that SaferProducts.gov—the consumer incident database mandated by the CPSIA in 2008 and operational in 2011—has encouraged more reporting of incidents.

Incidents/injuries prior to recall. While the reduction in the number of recalls points to stronger standards and mandatory testing, the report found that the number of incidents (up 49 percent), injuries (up 42 percent), and deaths (up 200 percent) associated with those products prior to their recall increased from 2011. Overall, 38 percent of children’s product recalls involved injuries prior to recall, a total of 232 injuries. In addition, over half of both recalled outdoor and sports equipment and recalled nursery products involved injuries. Among recalled children’s products, nursery products had the highest number of recalls (18) with injuries.

Cowles said that “more analysis is needed of reports of injuries and incidents, to understand why so many injuries are sometimes involved before a product is removed from homes and childcare facilities.”

Other findings. Additional findings of the report include:

  • One product, the Flexible Flyer Swing Set, had 1,232 reported incidents before consumers were alerted to the dangers through the recall.

  • Eight children and one adult died prior to the recall of these products. This includes five deaths involving the Nap Nanny or Chill Infant Recliners. Other products involved in deaths were crib tents, travel beds, strollers, and an inflatable water slide, which killed an adult.

  • Sleep environment products continue to pose a significant hazard, with seven deaths associated with these products.

  • CPSC collected a total of $3 million in fines from companies that violated safety regulations, mostly for failing to report hazards from products such as drawstrings, baby boats, and magnetic toy sets.

Two report trends. According to KID, the report suggests two emerging problem areas. Manufacturers continue to place products on the market that violate well-established standards, such as clothing items that violate flammability standards, the small parts standard, lead paint standards, or the CPSC prohibition on drawstrings. In addition, products are being sold for use by very young children but are not subject to any safety standards, such as the Nap Nanny and Chill Infant recliners, which were involved in five infant deaths prior to recall.

“Parents assume infant sleep products have been tested for safety if they are on store shelves,” continued Cowles. “A few families paid the ultimate price to find out this was not true.”

Political reaction. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over consumer product safety issues, said: “The year 2012 showed continued progress after passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, but also raised questions about ongoing safety standard violations and the high numbers of injuries and deaths prior to recalls.”

“We’ve come a long way in our work to protect our children from dangerous products, but every year new hazards are discovered,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Through the work of Kids In Danger, parents and caregivers can stay informed of new risks and learn how to provide a safe environment and avoid tragedy.”

The report recommends that parents and caregivers check products against the recall list or reports filed by other consumers at SaferProducts.gov and make reports if they have an incident with any children’s products.

MainStory: TopStory IndustryNewsStory CPSCNewsStory ChildrensProductsNews ProductRecallsNews

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