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IP/09/912

Brussels, 12 June 2009

Consumers: EU to set new safety standards for child care products

Member States across the EU look set next Monday to give a green light to two new child safety standards – for "childproof" locking devices for windows and balcony doors and child bathing articles – as part of a much broader drive to update safety standards for a range of child care products across the EU. There are currently no EU standards for these articles. The new standards will ensure that window and balcony door locking devices are fully "childproof" as well as raising overall safety standards. For nursery bathing articles, for example, bath seats for very young babies, the standards will improve the stability and safety requirements and impose new clear warnings for carers. Member States will vote to give a green light to proceed with the new standards in a vote in the General Product Safety Committee on Monday 15 th June.

EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, said, "It is for each parent or carer to judge how best to manage the safety of their children. Our concern is that for parents who do want to use these products, they must be safe. Instructions must be very clear, products must really be childproof if they say they are, and products must withstand all necessary safety tests. These products are used to take care of our most vulnerable consumers, there is every reason to be extra vigilant when it comes to safety."

The process

The European Commission, working with Member States, is in the process of updating safety standards for a range of childcare products - where currently EU standards do not exist or the existing standard does not cover all the risks. Proposals for additional standards for nursery products will be brought forward over the coming year – including for example on high chairs, booster seats, cots mattresses.

"Childproof" locking devices for windows and balcony doors

These safety devices are designed to reduce or prevent accidents by: (1) blocking the opening of a window or balcony door to a certain limited position; and (2) "childproofing" the lock so it cannot be opened by a child of less than 4 years old.

The current situation: Accidental falls from heights such as windows or balconies represent a leading cause of death or brain or skeletal damage for children below 5 years 1 In the Ile de France region in France, between May and September 2005, 67 such falls were registered. In Denmark and Sweden between 20 and 60 cases are registered every year.

Data from 1996 to 2003 indicates there were 79 accidents per year in Greece, 130 per year in the Netherlands and 25 accidents per year in the United Kingdom 2 . Each year in the United States, 15–20 children under 10 years of age die, and more than 4000 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for window fall-related injuries 3 .

Between 2005-2007, a joint project was carried out by Austria, Denmark and Norway to evaluate the safety of locking devices for windows and balcony doors. The results found that several models were disengaged by a child, despite the childproof claim, other models collapsed, broke or did not withstand the ageing test. All the models tested did not contain some of the required basic instructions.

The proposal: The EU standard will introduce new requirements to test a product's child resistance, their structural integrity throughout the expected lifetime, their resistance to ageing and exposure to weather conditions. The standard will also require the provision of clear instructions and information to users.

Baby bath articles

The current situation: There are currently no EU standards for baby bath articles-bath seats, bathing aid or baths. A limited number of national provisions exist, for example, in France. The US currently has a standard for bath seats. For bath tubs and stands a standard is at the early stages of development.

There is extensive evidence worldwide of accidents and injuries in early childhood associated with nursery products. For example, in the US in 2007, there were an estimated 62,000 emergency department treated injuries associated with nursery products among children under five. Because of these concerns, the Commission carried out a study (2007-2008), following consultations with Member States, which identified nursery products which pose particularly serious risks to infants and young children – and for which there are either no safety standards or the existing standard does not cover all the risks.

These products include:

Bath seats for babies - products which help keep the child in a seated position during bathing. Bathing aids - often used for very young or newborn babies to allow a child to be held in a lying position during bathing. Baths and bath stands for young children up to 12 months. These articles have become extremely popular and are increasingly used by consumers.

The main reason behind the accidents is a false sense of security by the adult users where they assume that these products are safety devices, and can be more likely to leave the child unattended in the bath. The Commission's study also raised concerns about stability requirements. Accidents have also occurred when a carer is present: products collapsed, detached from the surface or were accidentally opened by the child. T he vigilance of the carer remains critical as drowning can occur in a very short time.

Figures from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC (USA) released in February 2009 4 , indicate that 90 deaths occurred between 2003 and 2005 of young children using baby baths or bath rings. 78 children drowned in the bath between 1989 and 2003 in the UK 5 , 123 deaths for drowning and 182 near-drowning were registered in the US between, January 1983 and April 2005 6 . The average age of the victims is between 5 and 10 months

The proposal: The new standard will introduce improved stability and resistance requirements - to minimize the risk of "tipping over" if the child leans in any direction or tries to stand or push the product. It will also require clearer and more visible warnings and instructions to consumers, on the package, on the product and at the point of sale.

What next

The Commission's proposal goes to the European Parliament for a one month scrutiny period and then to the College of Commissioners for a formal decision. A mandate then goes to CEN (the European Standardisation Committee) to start work on new product standards this can take more than 2 yrs.

The vote will take place on June 15 th in the Centre Albert Borschette, Rue Froissart, at lunchtime.

L ink to the study:

http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/safety/projects/ongoing-projects_en.htm#project_results .

1 :

World Health Organisation - European Report on Child Injury Prevention , 2008

2 :

Commission de la Sécurité des Consommateurs-, France Avis relatif à la sécurité des fenêtres et balcons (10/05)

3 :

US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Consumer Product Safety Review, volume 5 (2000)

4 :

http://www.cpsc.gov/library/nursery07.pdf

5 :

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, UK

6 :

US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Bath Seats, September 2006


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