Little ones may prove to be a handful to get around, but grownups need to be wary of products to make babies mobile.
Child safety advocates have not only re-upped their warnings, in particular, about infant walkers, but based on a new study of data from hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits between 1990 and 2014, experts have called on federal regulators anew to ban the manufacture and sale of this product across the country.
Researchers found that “more than 230,000 children under 15 months old were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for skull fractures, concussions, broken bones and other injuries related to infant walkers,” National Public Radio reported.
The walkers, in various shapes and using four supports with wheels on their base, put tots on the path to harm because they topple over when youngsters tackle uneven or steep terrain. Children in walkers also have gotten hurt when they toddled into dangerous spots — staircases, swimming pools, kitchens, and bathrooms.
Walkers are a known hazard and critics long have called for their ban, dating to the 1990s. The U.S. Product Safety Commission, in response, imposed tougher safety requirements on makers (including ordering recalls of models like the ones shown above), causing injury reports to plunge.
But 2,000 or so children suffer injuries still each year, including significant skull and brain damage, due to walker-related falls that could and should be prevented, say pediatricians, whose U.S. academy has called for regulators to ban the product’s sale and manufacture.
Safety commission officials, citing the decline already in injuries, said they were monitoring the product but have no immediate plans for stepped-up actions against walker makers.
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the havoc that can be wreaked on them by defective and dangerous products, as well as the heartbreak families experience due to injuries to babies and children. It’s unacceptable that federal watchdogs, presented with data that demands action, dawdle and, effectively, act in the interests of industry over consumers.
Decades of experience has shown how, even when rigorous new safety requirements are imposed or products are banned from manufacture or sale in this country, they hang on as hazards — and worse. This has been true of goods targeted at vulnerable youngsters, notably with strollers but also with infant furniture, barriers, walkers, devices, and equipment used for transporting, bathing, or caring for a child. Cheap, shoddy goods aren’t made any more just on American shores. They enter markets globally now, and consumers, sadly, may even seek them out, seeking savings and bargains.
We need to do much better and more to safeguard our children — and if regulatory bureaucrats can’t be helpful, we need to ensure their elected bosses get them moving, pronto, in the right direction.