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Another problem recall: Dangerous inclined sleepers that have killed 36 infants

Fisher-Price Rock N Play Inclined Sleepers That Have Killed InfantsOn Tuesday, I wrote about problems with the recall of the MacBook Pro computer that I experienced.

I only learned about the recall, the replacement of batteries due to a fire hazard, because I write weekly about recalls and saw it listed on the website of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. I complained to an Apple store manager that more needs to be done to inform consumers about the recall. On average, consumers follow up on recalls 6 percent of the time.

The recall of infant sleepers that is killing babies is an even more significant problem recall.

Three months after nearly 5.4 million infant sleepers were recalled for causing 36 infant deaths, a survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education and Kids in Danger or KID, a group working on product safety for children, showed that some day care centers continue to use the dangerous inclined sleepers.

One in 10 of the 376 survey respondents that have children under age 1 indicated they were using at least one of these dangerous sleepers in the day care center. The survey began after PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber discovered that his own son’s daycare in Philadelphia was using the recalled products.

“Every day, millions of parents drop their kids off, assuming their daycares have the information they need to keep their kids safe,” said Garber. “This failed recall is a wakeup call that our current system leaves too many infants at risk from these dangerous sleepers.”

U.S. PIRG and KID blamed the situation on confusing messages about the recall. Initially, a consumer warning for the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play on April 5th linked deaths to infant rollovers, leading some parents and facilities to conclude that proper use would keep babies safe.

But a more complete analysis revealed some deaths occurred when the child was buckled in, leading the company and the CPSC to fully recall the 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play sleepers soon after on April 12. On April 26, nearly 700,000 units of the Kids II Rocking Sleeper were recalled.

The current recall system relies on parents and day care centers seeking out information or seeing recall notices in media, rather than direct notice from the recalling company – although companies could easily find lists of child care facilities just like U.S. PIRG and KID did, or directly notify parents.

All these issues may explain why Mattel is predicting only a small percentage of Rock ‘n Plays will be returned, he said.

”Announcing a recall does little to keep children safe if companies don’t make efforts to reach the users of their faulty products,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of KID. “Laws to prohibit the use of recalled products in child care is a good first step, but an effective recall depends on companies taking aggressive action to reach all users of their products and encouragement to participate in the recall.”

Some states, including Wisconsin, Texas, and Washington, have laws requiring removal of any recalled product from a child care facility. But the survey found that day care centers in some of those states continued to use these recalled sleepers. 

U.S. PIRG and KID recommend the following policy solutions:

  • The CPSC should work with recalling companies to include day care centers in any corrective action plans for toys and nursery products. In addition, the CPSC needs to work with state agencies to ensure that all day care centers are automatically notified of recalled children’s products and have instructions on how to participate in the recall.
  • Mattel and Kids II should redouble their efforts to reach any known users of these deadly sleepers and encourage participation in the recall.  
  • States should pass legislation or institute rules banning the use of recalled products in day care centers and provide a robust process to get information to each provider and ensure compliance. 

“If companies are going to collect so much private information on consumers for marketing purposes, they should at least use it for some good by directly warning parents and child care providers, and other consumers, about dangerous products they recalled,” said Garber.

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