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Fewer children’s products recalled in 2018, study shows

The number of children’s products and the total number of those products recalled in 2018 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission declined more than in any year in the last decade, according to a report by Kids In Danger, a children’s safety advocacy organization.

The report reviews 2018 recall data from the commission, which show a reduction of activity at the agency. Fifty-two children’s products were recalled in 2018, down 44 percent from the 93 recalls in 2017.

“It is tricky to say whether low recall numbers are a good thing – pointing to safer products – or a sign of lax enforcement, leaving dangerous products on store shelves and in our homes,” said Nancy Cowles, executive Director of Kids In Danger. “Indicators this year, such as less effective actions in lieu of recalls and fewer findings of design defects in the recalls that were announced, make us worry it is the latter.”

The report, “A KID Report: 2018 Children’s Product Recalls,” shows:

  • The commission took less effective action than a recall with: (1) a warning in May 2018 about infant inclined sleep products associated with infant deaths and (2) an announcement in November 2018 of a limited information campaign as part of a settlement with Britax over the BOB jogging strollers. The strollers had a front wheel that came loose, causing nearly 100 injuries.
  • Sixty-two percent of children’s product recalls this year were for violations of mandatory rules – flammability, lead paint, or violation of a standard – rather than a design flaw that led or might lead to injuries. Design flaws take more time and effort to recall. In 2018, 90 percent of the incidents reported before a recall and 100 percent of the injuries were because of unsafe designs.

The report also found:

  • Nursery products made up the highest number of children’s product recalls in 2018. Thirteen, 25 percent, of the 52 children’s products recalled, were nursery products.
  • Lead recalls are increasing. While one children’s product was recalled for lead in 2017, five were recalled in 2018, even though there were fewer recalls.
  • A total of 2,312,750 children’s products individual items were recalled in 2018, down from 11,854,605 in 2017, the lowest number since KID began tracking them in 2001.
  • The commission and manufacturers posted recalls on Facebook at lower rates in 2018 than the previous year. The commission posted 45 percent of 2018 children’s product recalls on its Facebook page, while 75 percent were posted in 2017, the first year the commission used Facebook. While 48 companies issued recalls in 2018, only 31 percent were posted on the company’s Facebook page, down from 51 percent in 2017.

The report didn’t include recall effectiveness numbers this year because the commission didn’t respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, Cowles. However, numbers available at www.CPSC.gov show a low rate of recall participation, as has occurred in past years.

Parents can check SaferProducts.gov for recalls and injury reports and sign up for safety updates at KidsInDanger.org. Parents can also report problems with a product to the manufacturer and commission at SaferProducts.gov.

One child dies every 10 days from a furniture or TV tip-over, according to the commission, but there were no recalls for furniture instability in 2018. 

In 2017, Conner DeLong died when an IKEA Hemnes 8-drawer dresser tipped over. Since that dresser still hasn’t been recalled, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, has introduced the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act or STURDY Act.

It would require the commission to create a mandatory rule for free-standing clothing storage units to protect children from tip-over incidents. The rule would:

  • Cover all clothing units, even those under 30 inches.
  • Require testing to simulate the weights of children up to 72 months old.
  • Require testing measures to account for scenarios involving carpeting, loaded drawers, and the dynamic force of a climbing child.
  • Mandate strong warning requirements.

The bill would require the commission to issue the mandatory standard within one year of its passage.

“Our homes should be the safest place for our families, especially our children,” said Schakowsky.

The STURDY Act is needed because manufacturers must be accountable and ensure the products in homes are entirely safe, she said. Too many families have experienced the death of a child, because the commission has deferred to inadequate voluntary standards for too long and failed to effectively execute recalls.

Lisa Siefert, a founding member of Parents Against Tip-overs, lost her son Shane in a tip-over accident. Crystal Ellis’ son Camden died when a 30-inch dresser tipped on him. Meghan Delong’s son Conner was killed by a dresser that met the voluntary standard and is still for sale today. All three support the STURDY Act.

“KID’s excellent report identifies that both the CPSC and product manufacturers are not doing all that they can to effectively recall products,” said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America. “That no furniture has been recalled for killing or injuring children is unacceptable. This is why the STURDY Act is so important. We need a strong mandatory rule to ensure the stability of our furniture and to prevent tragedies.”

“There’s no easy way for a consumer to simply look at a dresser and tell whether it is likely to tip over,” said Meg Bohne, organizing manager for Consumer Reports. “A more effective, mandatory standard would help consumers trust that dressers on the market resist tipping over onto young children. Consumer Reports strongly supports the STURDY Act and urges its swift passage to help prevent these avoidable tragedies.”

Copyright 2019, Rita R. Robison, Personal Finance Writer

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