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CPSC Fails To Act as Shopping Carts Pose Hazards To Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just announced the release of a policy statement, "Shopping Cart-Related Injuries to Children" which makes a lot of sense. It shares evidence that has been known for 30 years, but the CPSC has dragged their feet doing much about. The CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) is our government's arm which monitors products and issues orders to recall ones that are not safe.

By the CPSC's own admission, "an annual average of about 17,300 children ages five and under are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for falls from shopping carts. Injuries range from minor abrasions to concussions" which ER physicians report can be life threatening. In response, in July 2004 the CPSC issued a voluntary standard for this 70 year old design of shopping carts, addressing performance requirements for restraint systems and labeling requirements. Does this go far enough?

I'd argue no, and agree with the AAP, who believes that up to 3,400 more per year are injured. Kids who fall from, or are trapped in tipped-over carts are subject to the possiblity of serious injury to their head and neck. Shopping carts need to be redesigned. Why should 1 child suffer when we have the ability to design safer carts? Until they are, I agree that you need to strap kids in securely and never leave their side. That sounds draconian, but if you've ever seen the effect of a serious head injury on a child, and the potential lifelong effects, it's heart wrenching.

Some suggestions from the AAP make sense, such as carrying babies in baby bjorn. Some suggestions aren't very practical, asking parents to leave their kids at home with others, where most parents don't have someone to rely on in that fashion. A suggestion I'd add would be avoiding the use of the cute and comfortable pads that fit into the cart seats, but prevent the use of seat belts. A possibly dangerous suggestion is to leave younger kids with older ones while in the cart, since I remember all too well my adolescent years trying to "pop a wheelie" by standing on the back of carts to lift up the front wheels and try to balance - a perfect way to tip it over.

I hope the CPSC goes further than they have. I agree with the AAP:
"Parents are strongly encouraged to seek alternatives to transporting their child in a shopping cart until an effective revised performance standard for shopping cart safety is implemented in the United States."

Update: Vincent Iannelli, the pediatrician of about.com, agrees in his post "Shopping Cart Safety."

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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.