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Crib & toy recalls: Keeping kids safe

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Finding safe products

How can you keep your children safe amid crib and toy recalls? As a parent, your main focus is always on keeping your child safe, whether its in the home or on the playground. But safety at home has become more and more challenging in recent years as recall after recall has occurred on everything from cribs to toys. How can a parent keep their child safe?

Baby with Toy and Crib

Cribs used for kids as many as four years ago were recalled earlier this year. Scores of toys have been recalled in past years. And most recently, Kolcraft has recalled one million play yards that have been sold for the better part of a decade due to a fault locking mechanism that can lead to falls from the safety device. All around us, products are being sold for years that are known to be dangerous and even defective, yet parents are often the last to know.

We are living in a world where it's hard to tell what's safe and what isn't.

How concerned should parents be?

Purchasing items for your children can't be avoided. Kids need a place to sleep, clothing and stimulating things to help them grow and develop.

Parents say that in the desire for children to have the best things, manufacturers sometimes let the buying public down. "Sometimes it's the most educational toy, others the coolest outfit. But the one thing that I would never willingly sacrifice is my child's safety. Why then, does it seem that manufacturers will do just that in order to make a bigger profit? It might be cheap labor, inferior quality materials or even shoddy workmanship. These reasons are simply unacceptable and make me furious that there are not ramifications. I feel that the manufacturers should start being held responsible for intentional negligence," says parent Lisa Sipes of CruiseOne (www.cruiseone.com/lsipes). However, she also says that some recalls are the result of intentional design flaws that manufacturers are quick to fix -- something she has experienced in the past with toys and bedding.

The number of recalled products make up a small, but significant, portion of the marketplace. Some of the world's most trusted brands have been involved -- which means that familiar brands aren't immune from faulty products.

Ensuring safety

It goes without saying that parents need to be diligent in ensuring that they only purchase safe toys and gear for their children. That means filling out product registration cards and keeping an eye out for recalls all the time. Check out our updated list of recalls involving children's products.

With the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), more protections are in place so that toys and baby gear will undergo more rigid testing procedures and ensure fewer recalls. (However, the law does have the unintended consequence of impacting smaller manufacturers who can't afford the stringent testing regulations, but that is an entirely different issue.)

Look for indications that a product comes from a verifiable manufacture that pays attention to safety laws. Director of Consumer Safety for Underwriters Laboratories (UL), John Drengenberg, says that parents should take a keen eye to toy packaging before purchasing anything. "Be wary of products in boxes or packages that do not offer the brand name, the product name and the manufacturer's name with contact information for reporting problems," says Drengenberg.

Furthermore, he also says to keep an eye out for the UL symbol on toys with electronic components, which means that the product has undergone testing and met certain safety standards set by UL.

In terms of furniture, it's important to know what you are purchasing. "I would recommend that parents look for products made with sustainably forested wood products that use no VOC paints and coatings. Cribs should not have sides that come down, they should be stationary as with older cribs the sides can slide down when children are holding onto them, which can cause injury or death. With these specific items it is best to buy new, when buying used you have no way of knowing if that product has been recalled, how it was used or what the dangers may be," says Penny Schafer, owner of Taraluna, a Fair Trade, Organic & Green Gifts store found at Taraluna.com.

Details on the Kolcraft recall

The aforementioned Kolcraft recall happened on July 8, after there were 347 reports of play yard side collapses, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 21 of those incidents, children were injured. The impacted models include Kolcraft Travelin' Tot play yards, as well as similar models sold under the Carter's, Sesame Street, Jeep, Contours, Care Bear and Eric Carle brand names. The units were made between January 2000 and January 2009. Yes, for nine years.

For more details on the recall, check out the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website or Kolcraft.com. You can also phone Kolcraft at (866) 594-4208.

Read more on toy & crib safety:

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