Kids In Danger

Kids In Danger

Kids in Danger (KID) is an American non-profit dedicated to educating parents, training engineers, designers, and manufacturers, and advocating for improvements in children's product safety in cribs, toys, bathtub seats, bunk beds, car seats, carriers, costumes, crib bumpers, high chairs, gates, play yards, strollers, walkers, and other potentially dangerous items. Its website supplies listings of products recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as well as providing suggestions and information on how to protect children.

Problems with CPSC methods of recall were noted in 2006:

The most remarkable thing about recalls is how few people respond to them. (The second-most-remarkable thing is that the safety commission cannot say how effective a single recall is.) Companies do not like to publicize that they sold a defective product. But because few companies know who bought a product, publicity is generally the only way most can reach customers. “The whole system in which the government, particularly the C.P.S.C., communicates to the public is fatally flawed,” said Rachel Weintraub, director for public safety at the Consumer Federation of America, an advocacy group. “They send press releases out and hope people see it on TV or on the radio.”

It does not help that the safety commission, the federal agency charged with protecting consumers, is severely limited in what it can say about safety investigations. Even after a recall is announced, it cannot disclose any information that the recalling company does not want disclosed, agency staff members say.

[Darlin, Damon, "Reluctance and Silence on Recalls, NY Times, October 28, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/28/business/28money.html?scp=1&sq=marla+felcher&st=nyt]

Children's product recalls in terms of units were observed as a motivation for Wisconsin to enhance current legislation:

The challenge of getting recalled items away from children is monumental. In 2007, 46.5 million units of children's products were recalled - but in the best cases, only 20% of recalled products are returned, according to Kids in Danger, a Chicago children's product safety advocacy group.

This summer, the state Department of Health and Family Services will seek legislative approval of a rule adding recalled products to a general requirement that facilities be free of hazards.

"The last time that we revised the rules, the recalled products and the recalled items weren't nearly what they are today," said Jill Chase, director of the Bureau of Regulation and Licensing. The rules were last revised in 2005.

[Forster, Stacy and Patrick Marley, "Bill Targets Tainted Daycare Toys: Rash of Recalls has Officials Fearing for Children's Safety, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, JSOnline, http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=759708, June 7, 2008]

One report quantified the number of recalls as well as the number of toys that were included in these recalls:

Last year (2007) the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced 473 product recalls, which included 25 million toys. And this year is expected to again break records, according to the Consumers Union.

[Komuniecki, Sarah, "Stroller Rally: Pushing Legislation for the Next Generation," Medill Reports Washington, May 15, 2008, http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=89351]

The CPSC produced a report that measured the impact of this problem of dangerous children's products. One summary of this report noted:

Nursery products were involved in 66,400 injuries that sent children to emergency rooms in 2006, an 11% increase from the year earlier, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The agency said in a report yesterday that the number of injuries to infants and children under age five involving cribs, high chairs, walkers and other items rose by 6,600 from 59,800 in 2005.

[McQueen, MP, "Rise in Nursery-Product Injuries Baffles US Safety Watchdog," Wall Street Journal, February 29, 2008]

Delayed responses to consumer requests for actions were noted by the Chicago Tribune as follows:

Beginning in 1996, consumers repeatedly told the CPSC that the top railing of a different style of playpen -- one that hadn't been recalled -- was collapsing, posing the same suffocation hazard The commission didn't recall those Cosco playpens until after a baby died in June 2001, more than five years after the first warning. An 11-month-old Ohio boy suffocated when his grandparents' Cosco playpen collapsed on him.

In addition, the CPSC failed to act promptly on years of warnings about a Rose Art soapmaking kit that severely burned children. An attorney implored the CPSC's top safety enforcer at a conference, sent him internal company documents and outlined the serious injuries of seven children. Still, the CPSC waited another 1 1/2 years to recall the toy -- allowing another two children to suffer severe burns.

[Callahan, Patricia, "Toy Magnets Kill Young Boy," Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2007, p. 1, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/chi-safety-magnets1-story,0,1354881.story?page=1]

During September, 2007, popular cribs were found to be potentially hazardous and were recalled by the CPSC. As one report noted

"Federal regulators recalled about 1million cribs Friday because the drop rail on some of the nation's best-selling models can detach from the crib's frame, creating a dangerous gap that has led to the deaths of at least three children."
Possley, Maurice, "Deaths Spur Huge Crib Recall," Chicago Tribune, September 22, 2007, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-cribs_for_satsep22,1,5343398.story] The stance taken by the CPSC was stated in the Chicago Tribune as follows:
'We want parents to know,' CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said in an interview. "We do not want your child in that crib tonight."
One legislator added, 'When parents put their children to bed at night, they trust that the crib they're using will be the safest place for them, outside of their arms,' said Senator Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.). 'When you look at the series of recalls of children's products over the last few months, one thing becomes clear: Greater steps need to be taken to test and certify the safety of products designed for children.'"

During a recall of playpens also in September, 2007, the CPSC highlighted the central issue of design problems with children's products as follows:

“This is not a made-in-China issue,” a safety commission spokeswoman, Patty Davis, said in a telephone interview. “This is a defect in the design of the product by the U.S. company.”

[Bloomberg News, "Baby Furniture Maker Recalls Playpens," printed in NY Times, September 28, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/28/business/28recall.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=cpsc&st=nyt&oref=slogin ]

In the middle of 2007, toymaker Mattel recalled 19 million toys in a series of recalls for problems with potentially dangerous magnets and lead paint. As Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota noted the dimensions and depth of this problem in one article :

"This summer alone has seen well over 13 million toy recalls, popular toys removed from our homes and our stores because they have been found to be extremely dangerous, in some cases lethal, to our children"."
[Senator Amy Klobuchar in Story, Louise and David Barboza,"Mattel Recalls 19 Million Toys Sent From China," NY Times, August 15, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/15/business/worldbusiness/15imports.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=mattel&st=nyt&oref=slogin]

In June, 2008, 320,000 cribs were recalled by the CPSC which noted:

Hazard: The wooden crib slats and spindles can break, creating a gap, which can pose an entrapment and strangulation hazard to infants.

Incidents/Injuries: There have been 42 incidents of crib slats and spindles breaking. Four children became entrapped in the space created by a broken slat or spindle. Two of the children had abrasions and bruising.

[ [http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml08/08312.html Jardine Cribs Sold by Babies"R"Us Recalled Due to Entrapment and Strangulation Hazard ] ]

Background

KID was founded in 1998 [http://KidsinDanger.org KID - a nonprofit dedicated to protecting children from dangerous children's products ] ] by two Chicago parents who are professors at the University of Chicago after their son Danny was killed by a crib that had been recalled five years previously. [Mohl, Bruce and Patricia Wen, "Are Consumers Getting Enough Protection? Chicago Toddler's Death in a Portable Crib Puts the Issue of Product Safety in the Spotlight," The Boston Globe, July 30, 1998, p. 3] Danny's parents resolved to take action and founded KID. In 2004, one of Danny's parents gave a statement before a committee in the House of Representatives that outlined and explained how some of the problems within the product safety system could be rectified through legislation:

There is absolutely no reason for another child to die due to the lack of information about unsafe, recalled products. Manufacturers use advertising to reach into our homes everyday when they want to sell us their new products, why can't they could do the same to retrieve their recalled products?

But beyond informing parents and caregivers about recalls, we learned that recalls are only a symptom of the real problem: a lack of adequate pre-market safety testing. Here's what we learned about the crib that killed our son:

The Playskool crib was originally designed by Ed Johnson, a draftsman with a high school education. Kolcraft could not produce documents to show that any safety tests were actually performed. There was no evidence that any safety engineer tested the crib before it was sold.
Hasbro did not verify that any testing was conducted. They asked Kolcraft to provide test data but they never received any. Despite putting their Playskool brand name on the crib, Hasbro never tested the product.

[Testimony of Linda Ginzel Before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, " Child Product Safety: Do Current Standards Provide Enough Protection?" October 6, 2004, Washington DC, http://energycommerce.house.gov/reparchives/108/Hearings/10062004hearing1393/Ginzel2262.htm]

Congressman Bobby L. Rush and Senator Dick Durbin, both of Illinois, held hearings on the topic of dangerous children's toys in June, 2007 at which KID's Executive Director Nancy Cowles testified along with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and others. [http://www.house.gov/list/press/il01_rush/Chicagohearingtoys.html]

In September, 2007, the head of the CPSC testified on product safety in Congress and one report noted "After years of sparsely attended congressional hearings, Nancy A. Nord, acting chairman of the CPSC, was greeted by a standing-room-only crowd at her September appearance before a Senate subcommittee. By then, retailers had begun retesting their inventory and recalls of lead-laced toys became almost daily events." [Shin, Annys, "Senate Votes for Safer Products," Washington Post, March 7, 2008, p. A1,http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/06/AR2008030604081.html]

A research study released in September, 2007, conducted by two business school professors supported the view that product design faults led to more recalls than other sources of problems. [Olesen, Alexa, "Mattel Says its Design Flaws to Blame for Some Toy Recalls, Apologizes to China," USA Today, September 21, 2007,http://www.usatoday.com/test/test4/news/2007-09-21-test_test_N.htm]

KID has won many awards such as the Allstate Safety Leadership Award in 1998, the Civil Justice Leadership Award in 1999, and the Parenting Leaders award in 2003. The founders of KID received the President's Service Award in 2000 for their volunteer service to help solve critical national problems. [ [http://www.kidsindanger.org/aboutus/award.asp#1998a KID - Awards ] ]

The Consumer Product Safety Commission began to act on lead in children's toys in January, 2008. KID's Cowles observed that quicker action in this area "would have made safer products available sooner". [McQueen, MP, "Some Stalled Safety Rules for Products May Be Enacted," Wall Street Journal, January, 12, 2008, p. A2,http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120011105356285949.html ]

Some of the steps that the CPSC took were noted in the Washington Post:

"For the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the path to greater vigilance over hazards posed by lead-tainted toys, defective water heaters and flaming deep fryers starts with 10 X-ray fluorescence analyzers (cost: about $30,000 apiece), a couple of dozen port inspectors ($3.2 million) and a new testing lab (initial cost $8 million).

After decades of budget cuts left the agency ill-equipped to police a rising tide of imports, the CPSC has begun to recover. Congress last fall gave the CPSC $17 million on top of its $63 million annual budget -- the agency's biggest one-year cash infusion in more than 20 years."

[Shin, Annys, "CPSC Rebuilds After Years of Decay," Washington Post, April 5, 2008 p. D01.]

In March, 2008, the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act was part of the Consumer Product Safety law that passed in the US Senate. In describing this legislation, US Representative Jan Schakowsky from Illinois explained,

"My bill, Danny’s Act, would help us prevent those needless and preventable injuries and deaths by making the recall of children’s products more effective. H.R. 1699 would require that each durable infant and toddler product – high chairs, cribs, and strollers – come with a postage-paid recall registration card. This will allow the manufacturers to directly contact each parent who bought their product should any problem arise that could put their children at risk"."
[US Representative Jan Schakowsky, http://www.house.gov/list/press/il09_schakowsky/pr_060607_dannys_act.shtml] The importance of this legislation was noted in the Senate by its lead sponsor Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas who said,
"My legislation allows parents and the CPSC to fight back against the tide of dangerous toys and products. It provides new safety safeguards that emphasize resources, accountability, disclosure and testing -- from the factory floor to the store shelves."
." [Press Release "Pryor Scores Major Victory for Kids, Consumer Safety," March 6,2008,http://pryor.senate.gov/newsroom/details.cfm?id=294382& ]

One report noted, "The Senate bill includes a provision requiring mandatory safety standards for nursery products. The change, introduced by Sen. Klobuchar, matches a provision in the House bill and gained urgency with last year's recall of one million cribs that lawmakers said were linked to three infant deaths." [McQueen, MP, "Senate Moves to Beef Up Consumer Safety Agency," Wall Street Journal, March, 6, 2008, http://wsj.com] In addition, this report noted, "The Senate bill specifically forbids the importation of toys that have not been tested and certified. The Toy Industry Association, in cooperation with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), announced last month that it had developed its own voluntary industry testing and certification program. The Senate bill turns voluntary toy industry safety standards into mandatory ones; the House bill requires the CPSC to assess the effectiveness of voluntary standards." [McQueen, MP, "Senate Moves to Beef Up Consumer Safety Agency," Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2008, http://wsj.com]

A similar Act was approved by the House of Representatives in December, 2007. [ [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-4040 H.R. 4040: CPSC Reform Act (GovTrack.us) ] ] This law :

"Requires replacing voluntary standards for durable products for children under five with consumer product safety rules that are the same or more stringent. Requires manufacturers of such products to: (1) enable consumers to register products so as to improve recall effectiveness; and (2) label the products with the manufacturer's name and contact and other information. Requires a CPSC report to Congress on the effectiveness of the consumer registration forms in facilitating product recalls and whether such forms should be required for other children's products."
[ [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-4040&tab=summary H.R. 4040: CPSC Reform Act (GovTrack.us) ] ]

Also, in March, 2008, the US Senate joined the US House of Representatives in the passage of additional measures that proposed broad reform and enhanced funding of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. [Op-Ed,"To Your Safety," Chicago Tribune, March 11, 2008] The importance of this legislation was noted by the Chicago Tribune in a Pulitzer Prize ["The Pulitzer Prize Winners, 2008: Investigative Reporting", http://www.pulitzer.org] and Polk Award winning series of children's product safety articles under the title of "Hidden Hazards." [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-polk_awardfeb19,0,7138789.story]

Even with the potential for new legislation, one commentator noted,

"The most important proposals appear to be tough enough. But the fact that they weren't in place raises serious questions: Why was the agency allowed to be so ineffective for so long? Why did the agency employ more than 800 employees in 1980, but fewer than 400 at the start of this year? Why are so many of its safety rules voluntary rather than mandatory? Why aren't toys required to undergo thorough safety tests before reaching store shelves?"
[Vasquez, Daniel, "Will the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Overdue Overhaul Be Tough Enough?", South Florida Sentinel.com, May 18, 2008, http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-flhlpvasquez0518sbmay18,0,348797.column ]

What KID Does

KID is dedicated to improving the protection of children through improving the safety of children's products.. KID focuses on three primary areas. One focus involves educating parents and caregivers in how to protect their children with a three step program that includes: 1-Learning about recalls through checking with consumer agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and at KID's site, 2-Searching inside the home for dangerous products and 3-Staying alert to potential problems and making others aware of what has become known. [ [http://kidsindanger.org/protect/3steps/index.asp KID - 3 Steps to Safety ] ]

Second, KID actively participates in programs that promote training in this area for a variety of groups. "Safe from the Start" is a program that teaches parents and caregivers about product safety. [ [http://www.kidsindanger.org/programs/hcpop/index.asp KID - HCPOP education on unsafe and recalled children's products ] ]

KID's third program "Teach Early Safety Testing" is geared toward designers and engineers who create and develop these products. [ [http://kidsindanger.org/programs/test/index.asp KID - TEST integrating children’s product safety into engineering curriculum ] ] A third program run by KID is called "Test It Now". This program is a grassroots awareness campaign for ensuring that the public is aware of current dangerous practices, encouraging policymakers to produce change, and challenging the Consumer Product Safety Commission to sharpen its current operations. [ [http://kidsindanger.org/programs/tin/index.asp KID - TIN Awareness Campaign for Children's Product Safety ] ]

Context on Children's Product Safety

KID produces monthly newsletters that cover recent developments and recalls in children's products. [ [http://kidsindanger.org/news/ KID News stories about developments in children's product safety in 2008 ] ] In depth research on product safety topics is another ongoing project of the group. [ [http://kidsindanger.org/news/#200801 KID News stories about developments in children's product safety in 2008 ] ] Funded by an ethics grant from the Kemper Foundation, a case study entitled "The Playskool Travel-Lite Crib" was published. [ [http://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/linda.ginzel/more/ The Playskool Travel-Lite Crib ] ] .A book entitled "It's No Accident" [ [http://kidsindanger.org/aboutus/events/2001_1BFAward/index.asp KID - 2001 Best Friend Award Fundraiser ] ] , [ [http://kidsindanger.org/protect/noaccident/index.asp KID - It's No Accident - Marla Felcher ] ] was written on this topic.

State legislators have passed and are in various stages of passing laws known generally as "The Children's Product Safety Act." One feature of these laws is the prohibition on the sale or lease of any children's product that has been recalled. [ [http://kidsindanger.org/advocacy/state_progress.asp KID - Advocacy - State Activities ] ] Illinois, for example, passed this legislation in 1999. [ [http://www.carolronen.net/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B96228A19-4C35-4E98-B0FE-AF91F741E0D7%7D State Senator Carol Ronen - Kids in Danger ] ] Arkansas, in addition to passing its Child Product Safety Act, maintains a special website located at http://www.childproductsafety.com/ that provides details on the legislation, recalls by year, recalls by category, and recalls by company.

In late July, 2008, federal legislators reached agreement on improving children's product safety. The course of KID's role in the legislation and the portion of the law named in honor of Danny Keysar was described in the Chicago Tribune as follows:

Ginzel has spent the last decade pushing for tougher testing of children's products before they're sold and more effective ways of sweeping dangerous products off store shelves...."We'd rather have our son," Ginzel said, choking up. "But whatever we can do to protect other families-it's not really a choice we can make. It's something we have to do"....

That part of the law (named after Danny Keysar) forces the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to enact tougher safety rules for durable nursery products, including cribs, and requires that manufacturers test their products to those standards before they're sold.

[Callahan, Patricia, "Safety Bill a Boy's Sad Legacy," Chicago Tribune, July 29, 2008, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-consumer_activistjul29,0,1781492.story]

Further reading

*Chicago Tribune, "Hidden Hazards," a special series on Children's Product Safety, 2007-8, [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/chi-magnetpart1-special,0,1564070.special]
*"How Danny Died", Jonathan Eig, Chicago Magazine, November, 1998.
*It's No Accident: How Corporations Sell Dangerous Baby Products, E. Marla Felcher, Common Courage Press, 2001.
*Toy Safety Publications, [http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/toy_sfy.html] .
*"Why Danny Died: Cribs and Other Potentially Dangerous Products-the Advocates' Perspective," Boaz Keysar and Linda Ginzel, Pediatric Annals 27:9, September, 2008, pp. 646-651.
*http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120484981228518133.html

References

External links

* [http://KidsinDanger.org website]
* [http://faculty.chicagogsb.edu/linda.ginzel/more/ Linda Ginzel]
* [http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-4040]
* [http://www.cpsc.gov]
* [http://www.consumersunion.org/]
* [http://www.consumerfed.org/]
* [http://www.childproductsafety.com/]
* [http://energycommerce.house.gov/reparchives/108/Hearings/10062004hearing1393/Ginzel2262.htm]


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