More Window Blind and Shade Recalls After More Children Die

There’s nothing I find more senseless than children being seriously injured or dying as a result of a well known, and easily fixable, hazard.  Last year, I wrote about the strangulation danger posed by a common household item — window blinds and shades.  Since then, three more kids have died, and there is another recall.  The recall covers 4.2 million roll-up blinds with plastic slats made by Lewis Hyman Inc.; 600,000 Woolrich Roman shades; blinds and shades made by Vertical Land Inc. of Panama City Beach, Fla.; Roman shades by Pottery Barn Kids/Williams-Sonoma Inc.; 245,000 Lutron Shading Solutions fabric roller shades; 163,000 Roman shades by Victoria Classics; and IKEA is recalling 120,000 MELINA Roman Blinds.  The LA Times has a good article about the problem and the recall.

This is so infuriating.  This problem has been recognized for decades, yet shades and blinds are still being produced with this dangerous problem.  A group called Parents for Window Blind Safety has an informative website that focuses on correcting the danger.  It also brings the tragedy home as it shows the many children who have died as a result of these products.

The best solution for parents is to purchase cordless blinds.  Go here for available types, or ask for them at your local home improvement center.  If you have purchased these blinds, go to the CPSC to find out what to do.  At the very least, parents should cut cord loops of existing blinds in half, never leave your children unattended in a room with these blinds, and NEVER put a crib or play yard in the vicinity of a blind.

Safety 1st StairLight Stair Gate Recall

Durel Juvenile Group and the CPSC is announcing a recall of approximately 31,000  Safety 1st stair gates.  Apparently, the hinges can break and give way, which creates a fall hazard if the gate is placed at the top of the stairs.  Here’s what the gates look like:

Safety 1st Recalled Gate.jpg

This gate has a motion sensor which lights up when someone approaches.  The model number for the gate is 42111, and the number is printed on a sticker under the handle panel.  This gate was manufactured between January 2005 and  July 2009, and was sold in many big box stores, including Toys R Us, WalMart, and other retailers.  Shockingly, the gate was made in China.

Consumers should stop using the gate immediately and contact Dorel Juvenile Group (the importer) at (866) 690-2540 or to their website.  While there, check out the company’s numerous other recalls, including the 100,000 of these gates that have previously been recalled.

Child Seat Safety – Part 2

We know child seats are important, but do we know why?  How do they work to keep our children safer in a car accident, and why is it so vitally important that they be installed correctly?

It helps to first examine how seat belts work.  There’s an old saying in injury analysis — “it’s not how fast you’re going, but how fast you stop,”  meaning injuries occur not because you are traveling fast, but because you stop incredibly quickly (like under a tenth of a second).  To give an obvious example of this, a passenger jet lands at something like 150 mph, and everyone is fine because it comes to a stop over a relatively long period of time.  If that same jet crashes into the ground at the same speed, everyone dies instantly. The difference is the time period over which the plane stops.

So let’s apply this to seat belts and child safety seats.  Let’s say John runs his car into a wall at 50 mph, and is stupid
enough to not be wearing a seat belt.  John’s car stops in the blink of
an eye, but poor John keeps moving at 50 mph . . . until he hits the
windshield with his head (for all of you smart alecks out there – his
car didn’t have an airbag).  John has bought himself a ticket to the
morgue, because his skull couldn’t withstand those forces.

Obviously, one thing a seat belt would have done is keep John from striking the interior of the vehicle.  But another, less obvious, benefit of a seat belt is that it would have coupled John to the vehicle and allowed him to “ride down” the forces of the crash.  Vehicles today are designed with crumple zones which are designed to collapse and absorb the energy from a collision, thereby lessening the forces on the occupants. Ideally, the occupant compartment is designed like a cage, and minimizes intrusion from other parts of the vehicle.  As long as an occupant is wearing a seat belt correctly, he will gain the benefit of the cars crumple zones absorbing energy, and, like a jet landing, he will be able to ride down the accident forces over a longer period.

The seat belt retractor is designed to make sure the belt is snug to an occupant’s body at all times.  During normal movement of a passenger, it allows a person to move freely, but in an accident, or with a sudden stop, it locks quickly.  It’s important that the retractor lock quickly.  Let’s use the example of a 50 mph crash.  If the retractor doesn’t lock at the moment of impact, the occupant keeps moving at 50 mph.  When the retractor locks too late, there are tremendous forces put on the person as he slams into the belt.  An analogy would be the snapping of a whip.

This is why it’s so important to install child carseats correctly.   If a carseat is tightly coupled to the vehicle, via a seatbelt or “latch” system, and also a tether, then an infant or child will gain the benefit of the vehicle absorbing most of the accident forces — the forces to the child are lessened.  If the car seat is not tightly coupled, the child is going to keep moving forward at the vehicle’s speed.  Two things can happen – both of them bad. 1)  The child can move forward so far that he strikes a component of the vehicles interior, and, 2) when the retractor does finally catch the seat, tremendous forces are put on the child’s head and neck as he is snapped violently.

So, that’s a quick lessen in seat belt safety, and why it’s so important to install car seats correctly.  In my next posts, we’ll talk about how to install them so that your child is as safe as possible when he or she is riding in a car.

Most people have no idea how violent a high speed crash is.  If you’d like to see the forces involved on a child, click here to see a video of testing done on a child accident dummy.  As you’ll see, it’s still incredibly violent.  Keep in mind that this is slow motion — everything you see takes place in the blink of an eye.

If anyone ever questions the importance of a car seat, or jokes about how they didn’t have them when they were kids, and they turned out fine, show them this video comparing a child in a car seat to one who’s unrestrained.

Car Seat Safety – Part 1 of Many

One of the best ways to protect your young child is to CORRECTLY put them in an appropriate child safety seat.  I emphasize correctly because the statistics show that only 72% of child restraints are properly used.  Here are the most common ways that restraints are improperly used:

  • Inappropriate age and weight for child restraints
  • Wrong direction for the child restraint
  • Child restraint improperly placed relative to vehicle’s airbags
  • Improperly placed or secured child restraints (vehicle’s belt or straps not tight enough)
  • Crotch strap or harness strap of child restraint secure or tight enough
  • Use of a locking clip for certain safety belts
  • Improper vehicle belt fit across child in a booster seat
  • Child restraints with broken parts.

It’s amazing to me that these misuse statistics are so high when we know that proper use of child restraints is one of the most effective ways to protect children against serious injury.  Personally, I personally believe this is a combined failure of government regulation/education and a failure to focus on or address the problem by our vehicle manufacturers.

So, this month will be dedicated to the proper use of child safety restraints.  If there are any particular issues you want me to address, please let me know.

New CDC Report on Child Safety and Injuries

The CDC has released a report on child injuries which is fascinating and very instructive. I’ll write on this in greater detail over the next few weeks, but I highly recommend that parents take a look at the report for themselves. One very sobering statistic – every day in the United States, 20 children die as a result of preventable injuries. This is higher than the number of deaths from all childhood diseases combined. Go to the next page for other highlights.

Other highlights of the report:

  • The majority of deaths were from five causes: falls, being struck by or against an object, overexertion, motor vehicle deaths, and animal bites or insect stings.
  • Falls were the leading cause of non-fatal injuries, accounting for approximately 2.8 million emergency room visits (one of whom was our son Michael when he was 14 months old – but he’s got the walking thing down now).
  • Leading causes of fatal injuries per age group – suffocation was the cause of two-thirds of deaths for children under 1 year of age, drowning was the major cause for children 1-4, and for 5-19 year olds, the leading cause was being an occupant in a motor vehicle crash.

I always preach that the three greatest dangers for parents are cars, water and burn injuries. I will now add falls to that list. We as parents cannot prevent all the bumps and bruises of childhood, but these are the areas where we need to be especially vigilant for our children’s safety.

Child Safety in the Kitchen

It’s the holiday season, and families are coming together from near and far.  Almost without fail, we all tend to congregate in the kitchen.   Certainly people are attracted to the wonderful smells and holiday treats, but it’s more than that – the kitchen table instinctively seems to be a gathering place for friends and family.

It’s also a fun place for kids.  Sweets are often there for the taking, and it’s fun for children to help out with cooking and baking projects.  Cooking with Jane and Libby is one of my favorite activities to do together, and they are having fun learning a skill that they can enjoy for a lifetime (and they also get to taste the sugar).  In addition to making our time in the kitchen fun, there are a few simple precautions that can keep them safe, as well.  Go to the next page for a few tips on how to keep kids safe while they’re in the kitchen.

Child safety tips for the kitchen:

1)  Keep the handle of pots on stove turned inwards.  Scaldings from pots that are tipped over present the greatest danger of serious injuries in the kitchen.  65% of burn injuries to children under four who are hospitalized are the result of scalding.  Toddlers and young children are naturally curious, and are unable to look out for their own safety.  These accidents can happen in seconds, so make sure to develop the habit of turning pot handles inwards.

2)  Purchase a stove guard to prevent young hands from reaching up towards the stove.

3)  If children are standing on a chair or stool to help with a project, make sure they are far enough away from the stove so that they can’t tip and fall onto it.

4)   If children are old enough to be working at the stove, make sure they do not wear clothing that is too loose fitting — be especially careful of sleeves that hang down.

5)  Keep knives stored safely out of reach of young children.  When children do become old enough to responsibly use knives, teach them safe handling techniques.  If you need a refresher course on how to safely handle and use kitchen knives, click here.

6)  Practice and teach safe food handling techniques.  Use different cutting boards (or separate sides of the same board) for meats and produce.  After handling poultry, thoroughly wash your hands, any utensils that touched the meat, and all cutting boards.

7)  Finally, pick projects that are age appropriate.  This tip is more for fun than for safety.  Baking is probably more fun for young kids than cooking.  The projects are fairly quick, and children can participate in simple ways, such as helping add ingredients that have already been measured.  Kids also have fun tasting the finished product.

Here’s a good link for childproofing a kitchen.

Have fun — if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, add them below, or email me, Bryan Slaughter, at bryan@childsafetyblog.org,  Thanks, and have a happy and safe holiday season.

Toy Safety Organization Releases Its Annual Top 10 Worst Toys

Just in time for Christmas, an organization called W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) has released its annual list of the top 10 worst toys.  What amazes me is that all of the hazards here have long been established — choking hazards, projectiles that can damage eyes, etc – yet these dangerous toys still reach the market.  There is no approval or evaluation process by any government agency for toys – the CPSC only steps in when a problem is identified.  Please go to the next page for the list.

Click here for a list of the worst toys of all time (complete with Lawn Darts).  These would be funny if not for the fact that each of these put thousands of kids needlessly at risk.
Animal Alley Purse Pet
Ninja Battle Gear – Michelangelo
Walk’n Sounds Digger The Dog
Pucci Puppies – My Own Puppy House Golden Retriever
Meadow Mystery Play-A-Sound Book With A Cuddly Pooh
Inflatable Giga Ball
Spider-Man Adjustable Toy Skates
Sportsman Shotgun
Extreme Spiral Copters
Go Go Minis Pullback Vehicle

Parents — Check Your Window Blinds – Recalls of Blinds Made by Ikea and Green Mountain Vista

Some hazards are obviously dangerous to kids – the Drano under the sink, a pot of boiling water on the stove, or a car backing out of the driveway.  Those are things we as parents intuitively know can be dangerous to our kids, so we take precautions such as cabinet locks and stove guards to protect them. 

Not all hazards are so obvious, but they can be just as dangerous.  Window blinds are a great example.  They seem innocent enough, and it certainly doesn’t seem like a child could hurt himself (or herself) if left alone with one.  Yet, the cords on certain window blinds can present a serious strangulation hazard to young children.  Over the years, hundreds of boys and girls have been seriously injured and even killed by becoming entangled and then strangled by window blind cords.

On Thursday, the CPSC issued two recall alerts.  Popular furniture maker IKEA is recalling its IRIS and ALVINE Roman Blinds, and Green Mountain Vista Inc of Williston, Vt. is recalling its Insulated Black-Out Roller Shades and Insulated Roman Shades. This past April, a one year old girl in Greenwich, Ct.tragically died as a result of strangulation by the cord of an IKEA blind.  She was found in her playpen with the cord from a nearby fully lowered blind wrapped twice around her neck.  This past June, a two year old girl from Bristol, Ct, was nearly strangled by a Green Mountain Vista blind when she placed a cord loop around her neck and then fell.  Luckily, she was saved by her brother.

The IKEA shades were sold at its stores nationwide for between $7 and $30 from July 2005 through June 2008.  The Green Mountain Vista shades were sold nationwide for between $60 and $200 at the following stores: Target.com, Plow & Hearth, Country
Curtains,
The
Curtain Shop of Maine,
Sturbridge, Yankee
Workshop, Ann & Hope,
The Linen Source, Solutions Catalog, and The Sportsman’s Guide.

IKEA’s recall states that users should return the blinds to one of its stores for a full refund.  Green Mountain says that users should check their blinds to see if the tensioning device is still attached.  If it’s not, they should contact Green Mountain Vista at (800) 639- 1728 or go to its website.

For window blind safety, I found a great site — the Window Covering Safety Council.  I highly recommend checking out this site and then checking your window coverings.  Here are basic safety tips from their website:

Install only cordless window coverings in young children’s bedrooms and sleeping areas. Replace window blinds, corded shades and draperies manufactured before 2001 with today’s safer products

Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall

Keep all window pull cords and inner lift cords out of the reach of children. Make sure that tasseled pull cords are short and continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall. Make sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement of inner lift cords

Lock cords into position whenever horizontal blinds or shades are lowered, including when they come to rest on a windowsill.

If you have any questions or need more information, please email Bryan Slaughter.

A Shout Out and Thank You to Shriners Hospitals for Children

No matter how much we try to educate ourselves and our kids about health and safety, it’s a sad fact of life that serious illnesses and accidents are going to happen.  When they do, we can only hope that a child gets the best health care possible.  One institution that has been singularly dedicated to children for more than 80 years is the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

I’m writing about the Shriners because I had occasion to speak with one of their doctors last week — one of the preeminent pediatric burn doctors in the nation.  I can only imagine what this doctor sees on a day-to-day basis, and it brings up the larger point about what Shriners does and how they do it.  Shriners has 22 hospitals, all dedicated to taking care of children.  They treat children up to age 18 for serious orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries (SCI) and cleft palate and lip conditions.  And the amazing thing — they do this all at no charge and without regard to financial need.

Think about that.  In this day and age where health care costs are gong through the roof, and many children don’t even have access to good care at all, Shriners provides care at no cost to those children who need it most.  In addition to their direct care for children, its mission also includes research into the conditions they treat, and also the education of medical professionals.

Over the years, Shriner’s hospitals have treated hundreds of thousands of children with all types of serious injuries. The institution and its dedicated professionals deserve a huge thank you.  If you are interested in making a donation to this worthy cause, or want more information about doing so, go here.

If you want to contact Bryan Slaughter or the Child Safety Blog, go here.