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Deaths associated with children’s product recalls soared in 2019, report finds

More work is needed to publicize unsafe products, Chicago group says.

A photo of a pink Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play infant inclined sleeper. About 4.7 million were recalled by the CPSC in 2019. The item has been implicated in numerous baby deaths.
About 4.7 million Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play infant inclined sleepers were recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2019. The item has been implicated in numerous baby deaths.
CPSC

The number of deaths reported before a children’s product was recalled soared in 2019, due mainly to problems with infant inclined sleepers, according to a new analysis by a Chicago advocacy group.

Thirty-eight children’s deaths were associated with children’s products recalled in 2019, up from zero in 2018, according to the nonprofit Kids in Danger.

The inclined sleeper deaths were mostly with the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play, a popular product that saw 4.7 million units recalled in 2019 amid at least 32 deaths over the years, and the Kids II Rocking Sleeper, which accounted for five deaths, the report found.

The total number of deaths associated with all inclined sleepers of any brand over the past decade is now thought to be as high as 92, according to Consumer Reports.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission last fall announced its intention to ban all inclined sleepers and legislation is pending in Congress, but for now it’s still possible to buy certain brands.

The Itasca-based American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to not use any inclined sleepers due to the risk that a baby can slump forward and suffocate. Babies should sleep alone on their backs, lying on a firm, flat surface without any soft bedding or crib bumpers, the pediatrics group says.

Overall, the number of children’s product recalls was up about 11.5% in 2019 compared to 2018, the report found. Other highlights:

  • Furniture tip overs continue to be a problem, accounting for one child’s death in 2019 and 556 deaths between 2000 and 2018. In 2019, 10 furniture products were recalled, with six of those accounting for a tip over/entrapment hazard. According to the CPSC, a child is sent to the ER every 37 minutes due to falling furniture. Parents are urged to buy furniture with a wider base, heavier back panel or interlocking drawers and anchor all furniture and TVs to the wall. Also: Keep toys off the tops of dressers, so toddlers aren’t tempted to try to climb up.
  • Children’s clothing can include unseen hazards, such as detachable buttons or snaps that can cause choking, strings that could pose a strangulation hazard or fabric that doesn’t meet the federal flammability standard.

The KID report calls on the CPSC and manufacturers to use more social media to publicize recalls. Last year, just 52% of children’s product recalls were posted by the CPSC on Facebook, 59% on Twitter and only 5% on Instagram. Manufacturers used their social media accounts far less often to publicize recalls, and some only made vague announcements that failed to drive home the danger, the report says.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who chairs the House subcommittee on consumer protection, said the report “paints a sad and scary picture for parents in America.”

“The message is crystal clear — it’s past time to strengthen the CPSC for families across the country. As our nation grapples with COVID-19 and spends more and more time in their homes, we should be able to count on federal agencies to help protect our children from risks associated with products we use every day in our homes,” Schakowsky said.

Parents and caregivers can find more information about recalled products at KidsinDanger.org and CPSC.gov and can report hazards at SaferProducts.gov.