Posts tagged ‘Trading Standards’

27 November, 2012

Don’t be too relaxed around nappy sacks

Nappy sacks – flimsy plastic bags used to dispose of soiled nappies – are a relatively recent phenomena for parents.

nappy sacks dangers suffocation choking RoSPA

Parents are advised to never place nappy sacks in a baby’s cot or pram, and to keep them a safe distance away from babies’ and young children’s inquisitive hands at all times.

But these sacks have been implicated in causing the suffocation and choking of babies who are less than one year old, prompting a campaign by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to warn parents in England and Scotland on the possible dangers.

This issue was first brought to light in September 2010 when a baby died from asphyxia due to a nappy sack. Beth Beynon, child accident prevention co-ordinator for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (NHS CIOS), heard about the case through the local Safeguarding Children Board and was part of the NHS team which immediately set about gathering information to develop an understanding of the circumstances and to identify whether similar deaths had occurred elsewhere.

This exercise highlighted that asphyxia from nappy sacks had caused up to 10 known deaths in babies across England and Wales alone.  However, none of these cases had come to the attention of national accident prevention bodies, nor had they been logged on the national Trading Standards database. Each area had assumed their incidents were one-off, isolated cases. Sadly, since then two more deaths have been added to the list bringing the total to 12.

The typical scenario associated with the deaths involves sacks which are stored within the baby’s reach, close to the baby’s cot – including under the mattress usually for convenience. In some of the cases, the nappy sacks had been left near to or in the cot for ease of changing the baby’s nappy in the night.

Babies are at particular risk because despite naturally grasping items and putting them in their mouths, they find it difficult to let go or remove them when in trouble. Once in their mouths, the nappy sack can lead to obstruction of the nose and mouth and prevent babies from inhaling fresh air. The flimsiness of nappy sacks also makes them small enough to fit into little mouths, plus they do not rustle in the same way as plastic bags and can be easily breathed in by babies without parents realising.

Informal feedback from parents and carers and professionals demonstrated that the risk to young babies is compounded by the fact that widespread usage of nappy sacks is a relatively recent phenomenon. Parents and carers are generally aware of the dangers posed by plastic bags, but do not make the same link to nappy sacks and so they are less likely to take the same safety precautions.

The risk of this potential hazard is increased by the lack of mandatory suffocation warning advice on the packaging and the product’s frequent availability as loose bags in a packet, as opposed to supplied on a roll.

Parents are advised to never place nappy sacks in a baby’s cot or pram, and to keep them a safe distance away from babies’ and young children’s inquisitive hands at all times.

Thousands of RoSPA posters and leaflets, warning families of the dangers of leaving plastic nappy sacks lying near babies, are currently being distributed to GP surgeries, parent and toddler groups and other family centres. Any organisations involved with children’s services in England and Scotland can apply for these nappy sack safety leaflets by visiting RoSPA’s nappy sack safety advice page.

Sheila Merrill, RoSPA’s public health adviser

18 April, 2012

“Baby Bling” – a dangerous new fashion trend

Having a baby can be a wonderful experience and every parent wants their child to look as beautiful and special as possible. Although most baby clothing and accessories are perfectly safe, RoSPA has noticed a worrying new trend emerging among parents who are opting to use “bling dummies” to soothe their children and are accessorising further with “bling clips” or “bling bottles”.

bling dummies baby bling

Adding “bling” to dummies can create a choking hazard.

These eye-catching items are of the usual design but with one important difference – they have been decorated with stuck on beads, gems and other items in order to add a touch of “sparkle” to their baby’s look.  Adding “bling” to dummies serves no useful purpose, it is purely a cosmetic addition. But there are some very serious hazards associated with these products which many parents may not be aware of.

Bling dummies, clips and bottles are of great concern to Trading Standards officers.  A huge amount of enforcement action has been taken against suppliers of these products, primarily to address choking hazards posed when the “bling” becomes detached. As these are relatively new products there is considerable scope for research, advice and awareness-raising in this area for RoSPA.

The key issue here is that the decorations that are attached to the dummies, clips and bottles are often easily detachable and once detached can pose a choking hazard to a baby. The decoration can become stuck in the throat of the child or can be ingested and cause internal problems. Parents should not take the view that these products are safe because they regularly monitor their children – this is simply not possible every second of every day.

Many of these products are manufactured by legitimate companies and start life in accordance with the highest safety standards. But it is what happens next which is the concern. The items are then being bought by other companies who glue on the gems, beads and other decorations. There are strict controls on adding beads, gems or stickers to soothers, bottles and other baby products and as such these customised products are potentially unsafe.

An additional concern is that some of these dummies and bottles are being imported from the Far East and as such may not have been subjected to the same testing for chemicals and durability as UK dummies and bottles. These products have been made available on websites and in independent shops and market stalls.

bling dummies baby bling

“Bling” dummies, clips or bottles are widely available for sale on the internet, but this does not mean they are safe for your baby.

It is very important to remember who these products are designed to please. They are sold for the gratification of the parent, not the child. RoSPA is adamant that parents should always put their children’s safety before any desires to accessorise or “bling” them up.

There have been cases of these products being taken off the UK market because they pose a choking hazard. In RoSPA’s view, the biggest problem is that these products are widely available on the internet, but the fact that these products are being offered for sale and delivery to your home does not mean that they are safe for your baby.

If consumers have concerns about any products they have seen advertised, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline, on 08454 04 05 06.

Philip Le Shirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.

20 March, 2012

Amber teething necklaces – is your child at risk?

It is a common conundrum for parents all around the world – what is the best method to help soothe my baby? While there are many ways and means out there which are both safe and effective, from gentle rocking to a tuneful lullaby, RoSPA has noticed a worrying new trend emerging among parents who are opting to use amber bead teething necklaces.

Amber teething necklace

An example of an amber teething necklace.

These eye-catching beads are made from natural Baltic amber and are placed around a baby’s neck to help soothe the pain of teething. While there is evidence to show that these beads can have an analgesic effect, there are some very serious hazards associated with the product which we wish to make parents aware of.

Baltic amber contains between three and eight per cent succinic acid. Those that subscribe to this method of soothing argue that the acid, which has been shown to stimulate neural system recovery and bolster the immune system, is released from the beads and into the baby. The succinc acid is said to have an analgesic effect, reducing the pain of teething.

While RoSPA is not in a position to comment on the accuracy of these claims, in the past concerns have been raised about amber teething necklaces representing a choking hazard. The main concern relates to the beads and clasps which can become detached. There are also inherent strangulation hazards associated with having any type of cord placed around a child’s neck, especially babies. Some proponents have argued that the risk of strangulation is mitigated by only allowing the baby to wear the necklace when he/she is awake and under supervision. RoSPA does not support his view. Aside from the fact that babies spend a substantive part of their time sleeping, RoSPA does not advocate any cord being placed around any baby’s neck at any time. Our ongoing work on the risks posed by blind cords highlights the terrible tragedies of infant strangulation and the speed at which it can happen.

amber teething necklace baby

Amber teething necklaces are placed around a baby’s neck to help soothe the pain of teething – but it could pose a choking hazard.

RoSPA is fully aware of the stress parents can be under when their babies start teething, but there are many other options out there to help soothe teething pain, such as the use of medically approved creams applied directly to the gums. Other methods include teethers and teething toys which are often filled with a liquid and are sometimes kept refrigerated before being given to a baby to chew on. In all cases, RoSPA advises parents to seek advice from health workers (even before the baby is born) on the best and safest ways of soothing teething pain.

There have been cases of amber teething necklaces being taken off the UK and European market some years ago due to choking hazards. In RoSPA’s view, the biggest problem is that these necklaces are widely available on the internet, but the fact that these products are being offered for sale and delivery to your home does not mean that they are safe for your baby.

If consumers have concerns about any products they have seen advertised, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline, on 08454 04 05 06.

Philip Le Shirley, RoSPA’s product safety adviser.

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