Five years ago last month, President George W. Bush signed a sweeping law, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, that was designed to stop the scourge of dangerous toys, deadly cribs and other harmful consumer products. Today, the law is a remarkable success story.
We write with a personal stake in this: Our son died when the top rails of the Playskool Travel-Lite crib he slept in at his licensed childcare home in Chicago collapsed around his neck, strangling him. Danny was 16 months old when that poorly engineered, inadequately tested and recalled portable crib took his life in 1998, and he was not the only child killed by that product.
After we buried our son, we learned that 1.5 million portable cribs of similar collapsing, top-rail design, produced by five manufacturers, were sold and then recalled, but most remained unaccounted for and may still be in use.
As educated parents who believed that we took all necessary safety precautions for our children, what we learned after Danny’s death shocked us: There was no requirement that children’s products be tested for safety before they were sold. At that time, the U.S. regulatory system allowed untested and dangerous children’s products to easily make it into the marketplace, their flaws tragically discovered by our children. Stop and think about that for a moment. Until just five years ago, most of the products parents purchase for their children to play with or help protect them from injury did not have to meet any mandated safety standard or be tested for safety. The list of unregulated products was stupefying: toys, play yards, bassinets, cradles, bathtub seats, car seats, carriers, cribs, crib bumpers, highchairs, strollers, swings, walkers and more.
Since Danny’s death, we have worked to improve America’s children’s product safety system. We rejoiced when Congress finally passed the CPSIA, including the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act – Danny’s Law – named after our son. The broader law assured parents that for the first time juvenile products had to be independently tested before manufacturers put them on the market and we brought them into our homes. It included strong new standards to assure that the required testing would find potential flaws and make certain the products were safe. Parents would be given the opportunity to register their products with the manufacturer either through a postage-paid card or online form – making sure they would by notified about recalls. Very dear to our hearts were provisions that ensured childcare facilities and other public accommodations could use only safe cribs that met federal standards. Danny died in a licensed childcare home that had been inspected by the state just days before.
The CPSIA also led to the creation of a powerful product safety tool, Saferproducts.gov, a website that allows consumers to submit and search reports of harm about products. Before the database was established, the only information the government made available to the public was a list of products that had been recalled. Today the database enables individuals to scan all reports about products and spot potential safety problems long before reported incidents trigger a recall. Saferproducts.gov has brought an unprecedented level of transparency and access to potentially lifesaving product safety information.
Enforcing standards to protect Americans from harm and holding companies that make unsafe products accountable is simply good common sense. The CPSIA has been a success: It has led to new, stronger safety standards and safer products. The increased oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency charged with implementing the law, has also helped product manufacturers that are trying to do the right thing. That is, when the agency deters unscrupulous businesses from trying to gain a competitive advantage through unethical business practices, it establishes a level playing field for all businesses.
We lost our beautiful son to a broken U.S. product safety system. On this fifth anniversary of the CPSIA, we believe this lifesaving legislation has helped to prevent our tragedy from happening to countless others.
Linda Ginzel and Boaz Keysar are co-founders of Kids In Danger, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting children by improving children’s product safety.