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Soft Baby Carriers Must|Meet Tougher Standards

WASHINGTON (CN) - To prevent falls and injuries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has made voluntary standards for soft infant and toddler carriers mandatory.

The CPSC has issued new safety standards for soft infant carriers, which are worn by the caregiver and generally have waist and shoulder straps. The carriers hold the baby in an upright position, often in front of the user. They differ from slings, which do not hold the baby upright, and baby backpacks, which have a rigid frame.

From Sept. 11, 2012 to July 15, 2013, there were 31 incidents reported to the CPSC related to soft infant and toddler carriers. Two of the incidents resulted in fatalities and 24 involved injuries. Both fatalities involved suffocation. In one, a 17-day-old infant was being carried by its mother in a soft carrier, facing the mother while it was breast feeding. In the other death, a 4-month-old baby girl was placed to sleep on a bed in a prone position while still in a carrier.

Among the 24 injuries, four required hospitalization. Three of these cases were head injuries, caused when the child fell from the carrier. More than half of the injuries were the result of either the caregiver falling while carrying the child, or the child falling out of the carrier. Falls like this are the primary hazard associated with soft carriers.

To prevent future suffocation, the CPSC will require warning labels on carriers stating the dangers, which are mainly to infants 4 months and younger. To prevent falls, all straps, stitching, seams, buckles, belts and more would have to be tested for durability and strength. For instance, fasteners will be required to withstand an 80-pound load, and leg openings would have to prevent passage of a 14.75-inch, 5-pound sphere. The carriers will also have to meet flammability requirements for apparel, consistent with slings and other wearable carriers.

The CPSC received five comments when the rule was first proposed. Two stated that the fastener strength test of 80 pounds was excessive, but the agency disagreed, noting that fasteners with less strength have failed. Two other comments suggested that the fasteners that support the head should be exempt from load testing, but the agency noted that these fasteners generally support the shoulders and upper torso as well as the head, and are critical.

The new standards are effective Sept. 29 and applies to all products manufactured or imported after that date.

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