Common Household Hazards for Children


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Child Choking from Toys & Dolls

Current CPSC standards have addressed the normal choking hazards of toys having small parts, which can separate from the main product, or which are part of the many components making up a game or assembly package, such as Lego blocks. With the availability of electronic dolls and complex soft toys, additional potential hazards have been introduced. Button type batteries pose a serious choking/ingestion hazard to young children whose older siblings have electronic toys and remotes. In performing safety analyses for some manufacturers, Miller Engineering has recommended design changes where less easy access to electronic parts and battery chambers is possible.

Infant Carriers & Child Car Seats

State laws typically require infants to be constrained within car seats, and federal/consensus standards establish criteria that qualifying car seats must pass. Specific features of some manufacturers’ car seat models have resulted in notifications and recalls by the CSPC. Proper sizing and installation of infant and child safety seats are crucial to the user’s safety during an accident. A different aspect of this issue is the interaction of products labeled as “infant carriers,” which are not intended and should never be used for child restraint in a car. Miller Engineering found that warnings relative to product intended use may be necessary, both at the point of sale and on the products themselves.

Entertainment Center & TV Stand Tipping

Entertainment centers and TV stands have been frequently associated with tip-overs involving children. A few U.S. groups have started to address this issue from a standards perspective, and international safety groups have created stability standards. Miller Engineering has done independent testing on such furniture to determine their susceptibility to tip over by children playing in and around such furniture. Dynamic testing is probably necessary to establish reasonable standards in that static children weights themselves may not take into account the activities that lead to tip-over accidents.

ASTM F-15 Committee – Dr. Miller’s Membership

The most prolific organization in the U.S.A. developing standards relative to children is the American Society for Testing Materials. This organization has taken it on itself to set up an elaborate structure of committees to address the construction and design of toys, furniture, and play equipment and has radically improved their safety. Dr. Miller is a member of the ASTM F-15 Main Committee and has an opportunity to review, comment, and vote on the various standards under development or in revision. In the past few years, those standards have included playground swings, sliding boards, matches, bunk beds, child seating, dressers, and entertainment centers.

Swimming Pools as a Hazard for Children

Swimming pools pose many hazards for young children. Unsupervised children have the potential of drowning. Head, neck, and back injuries occur when swimmers dive into areas of the pool with insufficient depth. Miller Engineering has worked with several permanent and inflatable swimming pool manufacturers to develop warning labels and identify label placement on the product for maximum effectiveness. Pumping systems in pools and hot tubs have also been analyzed.

Child Strangulation – Toys, Mini-Blinds, & Packaging

Strings and rope capable of child strangulation appear from unexpected sources, including each of the above named areas. Mini-blinds have hidden strings that have the capability to accidentally engage children left unsupervised to play in their vicinity. We participated in developing the warnings that are now provided on these products. Strings that are a part of toys are no different from ties that are used as part of the packaging. While the length of pull and suspension strings on toys have standards, we have recommended to manufacturers of certain child susceptible products that either package ties be limited in length or warnings be placed relative to immediate and proper disposal of all packaging parts to prevent child contact.

Electronic Game Controller & Repetitive Hand Trauma

It may be too early to appreciate the health consequences to children who spend an excessive amount of time using electronic game technology. One consideration is the eventual development of hand/wrist repetitive trauma caused by specific designs of game controllers. Miller Engineering has recommended preemptive warnings to parents about taking the same precautions in usage as might be recommended for adults using products that have the potential for cumulative repetitive trauma injuries.

Child Choking Hazard of Food

Being a necessity that cannot be eliminated, nearly any food has the potential for choking if not properly served and its consumption not sufficiently supervised. There are certain foods that have statistically been pointed out through the NEISS system and pediatricians as having higher levels of risk for children during consumption, i.e., peanuts, whole grapes, and hot dogs. Currently there are no government agencies known to us which investigate, regulate, or take responsibility for child food choking hazards, although CPSC has regulated toy choking hazards. Manufacturers producing those products particularly susceptible to child choking have been advised to review whether their particular product justifies any change in formulation or warnings on exterior packages. A few food product manufacturers have in the past few years begun to include such warnings on their products. Included in such warnings have been issues of parent supervision, form and quantities being served, danger of older children feeding younger siblings, and location and limitations of levels of activities while consuming food.

Miller Engineering Experience Example

Miller Engineering developed a corporate-wide policy for warning labels on plastic bags used in all packaging by a major computer product manufacturer. The policy ensured compliance with all existing state, federal, and international standards. The warnings were written in five different languages to reflect the broad base of marketing that characterizes this company.