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Many baby products unregulated

| Thursday, March 8, 2012

Millions of baby products, including pint-size hammocks, recliners and some bassinets, aren't subject to federal -- or even industry -- standards.

The Bumbo baby seat, which consumer advocates want recalled and redesigned, isn't covered by existing standards. Neither are travel beds for infants or the Nap Nanny recliner.

"Parents assume that products they use with their babies have been tested for safety, but products such as these fall outside the scope of recognized standards and might pose unknown risks -- even if the company makes up their own testing," says Nancy Cowles of the advocacy group Kids in Danger.

All children's products have to meet standards that prohibit sharp points or edges and restrict hazardous substances such as lead, and product-specific rules help guard against injuries from certain designs.

A 2008 product safety law requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission to turn industry standards for children's products into federal mandates. Industry standards for infant slings were finalized last month.

But it can be difficult for regulators to keep up with all the new baby products, including designs that defy traditional classification, experts say.

The CPSC can recall a product even if it isn't covered by a safety standard if it "presents a substantial product hazard," says commission spokesman Scott Wolfson. He points to the July 2010 recall of 30,000 Nap Nanny recliners after a death and 23 other incidents. The fabric-covered foam bases can be used for sleeping, but CPSC said there were entrapment, suffocation and fall risks.

The Bumbo seat isn't an infant carrier or walker, which will both have federal rules soon. The seat is linked to 33 skull fractures, including two while used on the floor, as recommended. Four million of the seats have been sold in the United States. It was recalled in 2007 to add a warning.

Trade group Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association says it works closely with the industry standard-setting body ASTM International. JPMA's Lauren Pfeiffer notes ASTM has developed 22 voluntary standards for kids' products.

ASTM is developing an industry standard for "inclined sleep products" to address deaths in hammocks and recliners. The standard, which will also cover inclining bassinets, will take effect in about a year and be mandatory in about two.

What's regulated:

Children's products covered by federal safety standards: cribs, baby bath seats, infant walkers, toddler beds and bed rails.

Federal rules in the works this year for: play yards, bassinets, cradles, strollers and iInfant carriers.

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