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Why Don't Recalls Happen Faster?

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    Why Don't Recalls Happen Faster?

    If deaths are linked to a potentially hazardous product and the government knows about it, you'd think that information would always be made public. And you'd be wrong. Consumer Reports reveals surprising restrictions in the very law governing the agency that is supposed to protect us from dangerous products. (Published Friday, June 28, 2019)

    Evan and Keenan Overton lost their five-month-old son, Ezra, just a few days before Christmas in 2017.

    They blame their son's death on the Fisher-Price Rock'n Play sleeper, which Ezra slept in that night.

    "His face was, planted into the back of the seat, like into the monkey's face, I guess, of the rocker. And his feet were straight, standing into the dip of the seat. And when I picked him up, he, he felt like a doll," said Keenan Overton.

    Shockingly, Ezra's death isn't an isolated incident. Initially, Consumer Reports identified at least 19 infant fatalities linked to the Rock'n Play Sleeper and similar products made by Kids II, in data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the government agency charged with protecting the public from dangerous products.

    Ultimately, Consumer Reports was able to uncover more than a dozen additional deaths through its investigation.

    Yet the identities of the companies whose sleepers were linked to infant deaths were kept hidden from the public for years because of Section 6-B of the Consumer Product Safety Act.

    "Section 6-B requires the CPSC, in most cases, to get permission from manufacturers before releasing their names or any information that could reveal their identities, even when products are linked with injuries or fatalities," said Rachel Rabkin Peachman, Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter.

    In 2016, Ikea recalled millions of its dressers, but only after seven deaths and dozens of injuries dating all the way back to 1989.

    And more recently, it took Britax-owned BOB Gear, seven years to finally offer consumers a potential fix to their jogging strollers, which had been linked to at least 97 injuries to children and adults. The company still hasn't recalled the strollers.

    In both of these cases, the CPSC knew about the problems with Ikea dressers and BOB strollers. All of this has led to Consumer Reports calling for the repeal of section 6-B.

    "One of the critical next steps is for Congress to just simply eliminate this 6-B provision," said David Friedman, Consumer Reports VP, Advocacy.

    "Everyone should know. If there's one baby that died in a product, you should know about that," said Overton.

    Fisher-Price's statement:

    "We are voluntarily recalling the inclined sleeper accessory included with the Ultra-Lite Day & Night Play Yard in partnership with the CPSC. Even though there have been no reported injuries or fatalities involving this product, we approached the CPSC to initiate this recall. Consumers should immediately stop using the inclined sleeper accessory included with the product and contact Fisher-Price at www.service.mattel.com and click on 'Recalls & Safety Alerts.' Safety is our highest priority and for almost 90 years, generations of parents and caregivers have trusted Fisher-Price to provide safe, high-quality products for children. We work hard to earn that trust every day."

    CPSC's Statement:

    "Because our statute requires us to give consumers reasonably accurate and fair information, we first investigate incidents, then try to identify causes and possible defects, to better inform consumers of the risk and help them evaluate the comparative safety of consumer products."

    IKEA's statement:

    "We received the letter from Parents Against Tip-over earlier this week. We are working with our internal team here at IKEA to ensure we provide a thoughtful, detailed response."

    "The full impact of the recall cannot be measured by dressers returned or wall attachment kits distributed alone. This recall includes chests of drawers sold as early as 1985, and it's very likely that many of the products are no longer in use. In addition, consumers who have already attached their chests or dressers to the wall would not need to participate in the recall, though we would certainly honor their request if they still chose to return the product. Since the recall was announced in June 2016, we know that IKEA has provided the recall remedy for 1.42 million dressers, by providing either a refund for returned dressers or a free wall-attachment kit. IKEA has distributed 1.02 million wall-attachment kits, and issued 400,000 refunds for returned dressers."

    "We estimate that our outreach efforts through the recall resulted in 7 billion impressions. Through digital media, national advertisements, videos, brochures, emails, co-worker training, and services, customers have been and continue to be made aware of the recall and importance of securing chests and dressers to the wall. The millions of dressers that IKEA has sold for decades came with tip-over restraints and instructions to attach the dresser to the wall."