Parents want to do everything they can to keep their children safe. That is no easy task in a danger-filled world, but it is made even more difficult by products that should be safe but turn out to be deadly.
Last year, 40% of all recalls were for products that are dangerous to children. Defective products that result in wrongful death are surprisingly common, despite what many think. Here are five examples of unsafe products that kill kids.
1. Ikea MALM chest
Every two weeks, a child dies when a piece of furniture, a television, or an appliance tips over and falls on the child. Most of the victims are under the age of 5.
Kids like to climb. When they climb a refrigerator to reach fruit stored on top of the appliance, or when they pull the drawers out of a chest in an effort to climb to the top, they may cause the object they are climbing to tip over. Many articles of furniture and appliances need to be secured to the wall or safeguarded by anti-tip devices to assure their safety, but not all manufacturers supply purchasers with that information or with the hardware they need to do the job.
Two children were killed last year when a MALM chest, manufactured by Ikea, fell on top of them. Motivated by the second death, Ikea finally issued a warning about the need to anchor the chest to a wall. That warning comes too late to save the victims of Ikea's negligence.
2. Ball bearing magnets
Children swallow things, leading manufacturers of toys to recall products that present choking hazards. Recent recalls include the My Snuggly Ellie Activity Toy (wooden rings attached to the snuggly elephant break into small pieces), the Bud and Skipit Wheely Cute Pull Toys (hubcaps detach and are easily swallowed), and the Police Press and Go Toy Vehicles (hat comes loose from policeman's head).
Ball bearing magnets may seem harmless, but they are particularly troublesome when kids swallow them, and not just because they pose a choking hazard. When kids swallow two or more, the magnets are attracted to each other within the child's stomach or intestinal tract. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ingesting magnets can lead to “holes in the stomach and intestines, intestinal blockage, blood poisoning and even death.” Surgery is often required to repair damage and to remove the magnets.
The CPSC has noted an alarming number of incidents of children swallowing powerful magnets. High powered magnets have caused at least 2,900 injuries that were treated in emergency rooms. One manufacturer, Zen Magnets, has reportedly defied a court order to stop selling the magnets.
3. Sleep positioners
Babies who sleep with blankets and pillows can become entangled in the fabric and suffocate. Parents who use crib bumpers to protect a baby from hitting his or her head on crib slats also place the baby at risk of suffocation. The safest way for a baby in a crib to sleep is on a fitted sheet covering a firm mattress with nothing else.
Manufacturers nevertheless try to persuade parents that sleep positioners will keep babies on their backs, which is the safest sleeping position. They also claim that sleep positioners (also known as antireflux wedges) keep a baby's head elevated and help avoid acid reflux. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified infant sleep positioners as the cause of many infant deaths by suffocation. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have called for a ban on the sale of sleep positioners, but they are still being marketed to unwary parents.
4. Sling carriers
Parents use sling carriers to carry babies close to their bodies. Sling carriers have been responsible for more than a dozen infant deaths, usually associated with skull fractures after the babies fell out of the carrier. They also create a risk of suffocation if a baby's head is positioned to block his or her airway.
Several models of sling carriers have been recalled in recent years, causing the development of new standards that critics deem insufficient to protect infants. Strollers, soft-front carriers, and backpack carriers are safer alternatives to sling carriers.
5. Infant bath seats
Designed to help children sit upright when they are taking a bath, infant bath seats can tip over, creating a risk that a child will drown. While improved safety standards require bath seats to be secured to the side of the tub with arms that lock in place, not all parents understand or follow the instructions for using them. In addition, children have slipped when climbing out of bath seats and have been trapped when defective seats or restraints allow children to slip through the leg holes.
Because parents believe children are safe in a bath seat, they are not always as watchful as they should be. More than 400 children drowned in a recent 5 year period while taking baths. A hard plastic baby bathtub is a good alternative to bath seats, but it is vital that parents never leave a young child unattended, even long enough to grab a towel from another room, while the child is bathing.