Linda Ginzel’s 16-month-old son died in 1998 when his Playskool portable crib collapsed unexpectedly, suffocating the toddler. Lisa Lipin’s then 5-year-old son was nearly strangled in 2003 when a yo-yo water ball wrapped around his neck.
Their experiences turned the Chicago area moms into warriors in the battle for safer children’s products. Ginzel of Chicago and Lipin of Skokie took their fight to Congress last month when they testified in favor of the Infant and Toddler Durable Safety Act.
The act would require higher safety standards for children’s products, such as cribs, beds, swings, high chairs, car seats, walkers and strollers.
“It would simply require that children’s products are tested for safety before they’re sold,” says Nancy Cowles, executive director for the Chicago-based nonprofit child safety advocacy group Kids in Danger.
Under current law, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issues a set of standards for each product on the market. Individual product testing is not mandatory, and the burden lies with individual manufacturers to ensure their products are safe. Sometimes companies learn of product hazards through consumer complaints.
However, Eric Criss, director of public affairs with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, says it is illegal for a company to release a product into the market that they know is defective or that does not meet safety standards. “Most companies have some kind of review process, otherwise they risk violating the law,” he says.
Ginzel’s son was killed by the Playskool crib, which was designed so the top rails would collapse for easy, flat storage. On the day Danny died, the crib unexpectedly collapsed into a V-shape around the toddler’s neck, cutting off the oxygen supply to his brain.
“This crib collapsed without falling over, without making a sound and my son was dead within a few minutes,” she says.
Lipin started a campaign last year to get the yo-yo water ball banned in the United States because the rubber string could easily get tangled around a child’s neck. She succeeded in getting 7-Eleven stores to pull the toy. Additionally, her efforts spurred six other stores—Walgreens, Toys ’R Us, Claire’s, Wal-Mart, Kmart and Saks Fifth Avenue—to stop selling the toy.
Despite the horror stories, the Infant and Toddler Durable Safety Act will not be discussed further until the new Congress takes office in January, Cowles says, “because it requires additional regulations, it does not stand a chance with this administration.”
The following is a sampling of the products recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission from Sept. 9 to Oct. 14. A complete list of recalled children’s products is available at www.chicagoparent.com. For more information, call (800) 638-2772 or visit www.cpsc.gov.
Infant and baby products • Jaloma pacifiers, Natura Products Downey. The pacifiers may fall apart and possibly choke a child.
• Baby walkers, PlayKids USA. The walkers fit through a standard-size doorway and are not designed to stop at the edge of a stair.
Toys and recreation • Care Bears Lunch Kits with Water Bottles, Sky High International. The pull-up spout on the water bottle can detach and possibly choke a child.
Clothing • Iverson/Answer tennis shoes, Reebok International. The logo on the front of the shoe can be peeled off and possible choke a child.
Other The CPSC announced Battat, Inc. of Plattsburgh, N.Y. will pay a $125,000 civil fine for not alerting the government of the safety hazard involved with its Bee Bop Band Drum Set. The toy, sold between November 2001 and January 2003, contains centipede-shaped drumsticks. The druck sticks can break into small parts, possibly choking a child.
According to a press release, the company received more than 300 consumper complaints, and then modified the drum set six times to eliminate the problem without alerting the CPSC. According to federal law, companies are supposed to alert the CPSC within 24 hours of discovering a product’s hazards.