Child Safety Statistics
Unintentional injury remains the leading cause of death among children ages 14 and under in the U.S., and more than a third of those injuries occur in the home. The highest risk of injury or death is found in young children ages 4 and under, with the majority of injuries occurring in evening house when children may be left unsupervised with potentially dangerous toys or household products. Accidents can occur in a matter of seconds, and even homes that are seemingly childproof can have hidden dangers.
On average, children’s products are recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as often as twice a week for defective parts, failure to meet federal child safety regulations, or other potential hazards that can cause injury or even death. Manufacturers often do not advertise recalls, so it is important to check CPSC recall lists frequently and keep a current list of recalled products in an accessible place.
Children’s products that are often recalled include toys with small parts, cribs (especially drop-side cribs), clothing with drawstrings, car seats, highchairs, strollers, baby walkers, and baby gates, as well as hundreds of other products.
Choosing Safe Products
When choosing products that will be used for children, it is important to keep safety the number-one priority. Use caution when purchasing children’s products from resale shops or thrift stores, as older items could have been affected by a recall and may not have been taken off shelves. If any parts are missing or the product contains hazardous materials, an accident could end in serious injury or death to a child. The following tips can help keep children’s products safe and prevent unintentional injuries.
Cribs and Play Yards
All cribs and play yards should meet current national safety standards and be in good condition with a certification seal. Crib slats must be less than 2-3/8 inches apart to keep an infant’s head from becoming trapped between slats. Mattresses must fit snugly and not have any gaps, and soft pillows or large stuffed animals should never be kept in the crib. Cribs are frequently recalled due to various product defects, and past recalls have included Fisher-Price, ChildESIGNS, Dorel Asia, Delta, and Kolcraft cribs and play yards.
Check children’s clothing labels to see if they are flame-retardant, especially if purchasing sleepwear. Children’s clothing is often recalled due to drawstrings in hooded sweatshirts and jackets. Remove all drawstrings from around the hood or neck, as the CPSC has received reports of as many as 27 child deaths from strangulation from 1985 to 2008, in addition to 70 non-fatal incidents.
Items purchased for use with infants are particularly dangerous, especially if the child is left unattended. There are numerous federal safety standards in place for products such as baby bottles, pacifiers, baby walkers, bassinets, and changing tables. Bottles and pacifiers can pose choking or asphyxiation hazards, and pacifiers or other toys should never be tied around a child’s neck. Changing tables should have a safety belt, and baby walkers must have certain safety mechanisms to ensure infants do not tumble down stairways or pass through doorways. Some baby products such as bath seats and bath rings are not recommended for use with young children at all, as there is too much of a fatality risk associated with the products.
Strollers often have defective or dangerous hinge mechanisms that can cause severe pinching of children’s fingers, and many reports of finger amputations have been associated with stroller accidents. Stroller defects and recalls have included such brands as Cybex, Maclaren, Graco, as well as many others.
Car seats, also called booster seats, are used to keep children secure while traveling in vehicles, but car seats are often found to be defective. At least 360 injuries have been reported from defective car seats, including serious head injuries and lacerations. Car seats are often recalled for issues with the carrier handles coming loose and allowing the infant to fall when the carrier is used outside of a car. In the past, car seat brand recalls have included Safety 1st, Century, Evenflo, Cosco, Kolcraft, and others.
Various toys and games form the majority of children’s product recalls, as toys often contain small parts that could come loose and pose a choking hazard. Parents and caregivers should use extreme caution with magnetic toys that have small magnet parts, as the magnets can come loose and cause serious intestinal injuries if swallowed. One death and at least 86 injuries have been reported from magnetic toys. Children should never be given bean bag chairs that have zippers, as the CPSC has recalled more than 12 million bean bags from various manufacturers due to choking and suffocation hazards if the inner foam beads are swallowed. At least five deaths and 27 non-fatal inhalation or choking incidents have been reported from bean bags.
Highchairs should always have a safety belt with a strap for between the child’s legs to ensure the child does not slip and fall from an elevated height. Defective highchairs can present falling or choking hazards, and at least two deaths and more than 10,000 injuries have been reported from highchair accidents.
Child Safety Tips
When childproofing a home, keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Secure tall furniture to the wall or floor to prevent tip-over accidents
- Install window guards on windows
- Keep night-lights away from drapes or bedspreads
- Store medications and vitamins out of reach of children
- Install outlet covers on unused electrical outlets
- Keep refrigerator magnets and other small objects out of reach
- Check that miniblinds and venetian blinds do not have looped cords
- Maintain outdoor playsets and jungle gym structures and check for damage, wear and tear, rotting, sharp corners, or slippery surfaces
- Check product recall lists often
CPSC-Recommended Safety Devices
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends the following products as essential for ensuring a home is child-friendly:
- Anti-scald devices on faucets
- Carbon monoxide detectors in or near bedrooms
- Corner and edge bumpers for walls and furniture
- Doorknob covers
- Window guards
- Safety tassels on window blind cords
- Netting for balconies or decks
- Safety stair gates for stairways (not accordion-style gates)
- Outlet covers
- Door stops
- Safety latches and locks for cabinets
- Pool fences around pools and spas
- Spring-loaded closure devices for toy chests
- The Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth: http://kidshealth.org/parent
- National Institutes of Health, Child Safety: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childsafety.html
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Child Safety Publications: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/chld_sfy.html