It could be argued that child safety and the prevention of accidental injury are a part of children's health that is as important as vaccines. Unintentional injury continues to be the number one cause of death and the leading cause of non-fatal injury in children over 1 year of age in the United States (click here for direct link to CDC website with listing of leading causes of death by year).
The regulation of consumer products targeting children is one of the approaches that the United States government has taken in an effort to reduce the number of unintentional injuries and deaths each year.
The movement to increase parental information and improve children's safety began to accelerate in the 1960's and early 70's. Regulation of consumer products was part of a larger movement that included federal laws requiring safety features in cars, poison control acts that promoted safer medication packaging, bicycle regulation, and state laws requiring that all infants and children use child car seats.
Since the 1960's, the US government has passed several acts allowing further regulation of consumer products.
- In 1972, the Consumer Product Safety Act enabled the federal government to issue standards, enact product recalls, and provide consumers with information regarding the safety of the products they were purchasing.
- In 1994 and 1995, the Child Safety Protection Act was passed that focused on choking hazards in children's toys and bicycle helmet safety.
- In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act expanded the 1972 act with an emphasis on the safety of children's products including further restriction of the lead and pthalate content of these items. The CPSIA also explicitly required nearly all children's products to comply with all children's product safety rules and to be tested by a Consumer Product Safety Commission-accepted laboratory.
These acts are working. Since the 1960's, the number of childhood mortalities caused by accidents has decreased at an exponential rate.
How Does Product Recall Work?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the federal regulatory body in charge of investigating the safety of children's products. The CPSC has the authority to require that a manufacturer recall and cease manufacture of a product that is found not to comply with federal safety regulations.
Additionally, the manufacturer must notify the public of the product hazard and offer to replace, repair, or refund the price of the product.
Important reasons for product recall include:
- Choking and strangulation hazards
- Lead and other toxin content
- Durability of infant and nursery products intended for extended use.
A recent development has been the identification of strong magnets as safety hazards for young children. The following is a recent example:
Magnetix is a magnetic construction toy consisting of a combination of plastic building pieces containing embedded neodymium magnets, and steel bearing balls that can be connected to form geometric shapes and structures.
On April 19, 2007, the CPSC ordered further Magnetix recalls, recalling over 4 million sets. To date, CPSC and Mega Brands are aware of one death, one aspiration and 27 intestinal injuries.
The success of these regulations in improving child safety is dependent on two aspects of the act: the actual enforcement of safety requirements and the education of the public.
How Can a Physician Help?
Parent education! Physicians can include information regarding child product safety recalls and what parents should look out for (potential choking hazards, for example) in their discussion regarding child safety during well child visits.
There are several websites parents and physicians can use to learn more about recent product recalls.
Click on the links below to go to their respective sites:
An official Federal Agency website that contains information about recalls, safety education, regulations and research statistics. Also available in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.
Consumers may search for specific products or browse larger categories such as cribs, strollers, infant carriers, etc. They can also report an unsafe product.
Recalls listed by year and month. Website includes a wealth of accessible information regarding child safety at every age.
An easy-to-navigate website for parents with an updated list of child's product recalls as well as a list of the “most important” recalls of the last six years.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2012). 10 Leading causes ofdeath, United States: 1999-2010, All races, both sexes.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2012). 10 Leading Causes of Nonfatal Unintentional Injury, United States 2001 - 2011, All Races, Both Sexes, Disposition: All Cases.
- Child Safety Protection Act. Accessed at http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/105423/cspa.pdf
- The consumer product safety improvement act. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2013. http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Regulations-Laws--Standards/CPSIA/The-Consumer-Product-Safety-Improvement-Act/
- Glied, Sherry. The value of reductions in child injury mortality in the United States. Medical Care Output and Productivity. University of Chicago Press. January 2001.
- Grossman, David. The History of Injury Control and the Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Injuries. The Future of Children. 2000; 10: 23-52.
- Leone,Frank and Berger, Bruce. The consumer product safety improvement act, its implementation and its liability implications. Defense Counsel Journal. 2009. 300.