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Thursday, August 13, 2020  

WELL-EDUCATED... not necessarily safe Published 4/7/2003

I know you’re thinking I’m going to write about my favorite topic again – booster seats and Oklahoma’s lack of a law. I’m not. In fact, I don’t even want to talk about it. I’m still sulking. Suffice it to say, the bill did not pass. Enlightening lawmakers takes time and patience. But I have plenty of both. In fact, they have no idea how persistent I – and my fellow "safety geeks" – can be.

Coincidentally, I sat down next to an acquaintance yesterday at a Downtown Rotary Club meeting and she proceeded to launch into a discourse on how she couldn’t believe all of her college-educated, otherwise intelligent friends who place their 4- and 5-year-olds in seat belts, not booster seats, and how seat belts are not made for young children.

"They all say to me, ‘If it was that important, it would be the law’," she said, "but I told them that’s not the case."

Good for her! I was impressed! She was almost as passionate as I am about the subject. Her timely tirade did lend credence to my theory that parents assume if it’s legal, it’s safe . . . I’m feeling a little better already.

On a completely unrelated note: It’s almost time for the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual "Recall Roundup." The public awareness campaign is held every April, and this year is scheduled for April 29. The idea is to urge people, while they are doing their spring cleaning, to go through their house and eliminate hazardous and/or recalled products.

Recently, while debating with my neighbor whether to have a joint garage sale or simply call a local charity and have them bring their big truck, she took me on a tour of her garage. "What do you think about this? How much could I get for it?" she said, pointing to a baby crib that obviously did not meet the current safety standards.

"Well, I’d pay you 20 bucks just to throw it in your fireplace. Or, you could keep it folded up and use it for a quilt rack," I replied. She was thoroughly confused. Once again, being the safety geek that I am, I proceeded to explain why that obsolete crib with its 5-inch-wide spaces between the slats and protruding corner posts should not be sold to any unsuspecting parent or caregiver. Infants have actually died in these things.

Once again, here is a well-educated person without a clue about the latest safety recommendations.

The problem is it’s very difficult for the government to get the word out about recalled or unsafe products. If you fill out the registration card for every product you buy, that helps. Believe it or not, that serves a purpose besides getting your name on yet another mailing list. If the toaster or coffee pot you buy tends to set houses on fire, the manufacturer can notify you when the CPSC issues a recall.

Otherwise, consumers have to rely on the media to learn about recalls. Although media outlets have been very helpful in conveying such information, that system is hit-or-miss at best.

If in doubt about a product, consumers can go to the CPSC Web site (www.cpsc.gov) for a complete list of recalled products. But let’s get real: How many people are going to surf the Web in their spare time, with the name and model number of their toaster in hand?

In addition to registering new products, here are some things you can look for that might pose a hazard and should be thrown out in your spring cleaning:

• hairdryers that are not equipped with an immersion protection plug.

• Child safety seats that are more than seven years old, or that have been recalled (check out www.carseat.org)

• Frayed extension cords.

• Old cribs that don’t meet the current safety standards.

• Children’s clothing with drawstrings, which can cause strangulation on playground equipment, school bus doors, etc.

• Older infant walkers that actually move across the room instead of just bounce.

• Smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old.

Some conscientious thrift store managers routinely sort through donations to eliminate such hazards, but most do not. In addition, I think it is safe to say that people having garage sales (like my neighbor) do not think about selling unsafe products.

Remember: Like the booster seat law (or lack thereof), which I wasn’t going to discuss, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s safe.

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