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With dozens of children injured as a result of falls or other mishaps associated with frame child carriers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued new safety standards for these popular products.
These are carriers made mostly of fabric as well as tubular metal, and they are designed much like a backpack. They are designed primarily for children who weigh between 16 and 50 pounds and can at least sit upright on their own. The child faces either front or back, and the frame is worn on the caregiver’s back, often for use in outdoor activities like hiking. Generally, they cost anywhere from $100 to $300. The 16 identified manufacturers that produce these carriers either focus their efforts on child nursery products or camping and hiking gear.
The new safety standards, which were approved in February, don’t go into effect until August 2016. The updates address a number of injury-causing issues identified with these child products, including:
- Exposed coil springs
- Small parts
- Lead paint
- Structural integrity and stability
- Leg openings (preventing smaller children from falling through a single leg opening)
- Weight limits (ensuring product can hold three times the listed weight limit)
- Proper restraints
- Unintentional folding
- Sharp points
The agency has reported that in the last decade, there have been approximately 50 reported child injuries resulting from accidents associated with these particular defective child carriers. The actual number is suspected to be much higher since those were only the incidents that were reported.
Seven of the manufacturers identified already follow the updated safety standards voluntarily. The new rules will make those standards mandatory if the manufacturers wish to continue selling their products in the U.S.
While there haven’t been any recalls issued with regard to these carriers, they remain a top area of concern, considering not only the potential for children to be harmed by defects, but also because of the popularity of these products. Data culled from the Durable Nursery Product Exposure Survey in 2013 revealed there are an estimated 2.4 million of these frame carriers in households with children under the age of 6. About 55 percent of those are believed to be in active use.
While the exact number of total injuries involving these carriers isn’t known, it’s estimated there are about 120 serious injuries each year, although obviously not all are reported to federal regulators.
Of those that were reported, however, some were quite serious. In one case, a 14-month old child fell out of the carrier and sustained a head injury.
Although soft carriers and slings are not listed in the new standards, they too have been subject of concern for parents and caregivers. The CPSC issued a warning in 2010 notifying parents that babies – newborns in particular – were at risk of suffocating if the fabric was pressed against their noses or mouths. This was of particular concern for small babies who had weak neck muscles and could not yet turn their heads. Falling was also identified as a problem when the devices failed, resulting in serious head injuries, including skull fractures.
CPSC Approves New Federal Safety Standard for Frame Child Carriers, Feb. 24, 2015, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
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