Safety Archive

Magnet Ingestions – when attractions go bad

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The term “opposites attract” is usually reserved  for dating websites or corny Hallmark cards, but right now I’m going to apply it to something you probably don’t think about on a regular basis:

Magnets.

More specifically, neodymium magnets, or rare earth magnets.

buckyball-magnets

Sometimes these are sold in toys (think Magnatiles, etc) but were more often sold as desk toys or stress relievers for adults. While the magnets within children’s blocks are safely encased and tightly regulated by the CPSC, the magnets marketed for adults only are easily ingested by children. They are small, pretty, and apparently very tasty looking. When a child (or pet!) ingests 2 or more, they attract each other within the digestive tract. This can result in an obstruction, a perforated bowel, and necrosis of the tissue which can lead to sepsis and death. Picture two magnets being in opposite ends of the intestine. They come together with the intestine pinched in between. Either the intestine tears (a perforation) and the contents seep into the abdominal cavity, or the pinched tissue is deprived of blood flow and becomes necrotic (dies). Either can result in sepsis, which is an infection within the blood stream that can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

The scary thing about these magnets is if your child doesn’t tell you they ate them, you won’t know until they start showing symptoms. The initial symptoms are abdominal pain and vomiting and basically mimic a common stomach virus. Parents and pediatricians just give symptom support and assume it will subside in a few days. When the symptoms instead intensify , warranting an x-ray, the damage is already done.

Most of the desk toys marketed for adults have since been recalled and removed from the market, such as BuckyBalls. However millions still lurk in desk drawers and offices. Make sure to remove them immediately and place them out of reach (or better yet, get rid of them!) if you do have them in your house. Magnetic toys are becoming more prevalent on store shelves with the trendy rising of STEM education aspects. Tegu blocks, Magna-Tiles, Magformers, etc are all toys that have magnets safely encased in plastic or wood. Remember to check the integrity of these toys regularly, and supervise when your children are playing with them. Wood is easily chewed by family pets, so keep them out of reach and immediately search the area for magnets if a block is damaged. These toys are amazingly fun, just make sure to play safely!

If you think your child may have ingested a magnet, alert your pediatrician immediately or go to the ER. Also note that on an x-ray, multiple magnets can appear as only one when they’ve attached to each other. The damage caused can be irreversible and as evidenced by several recent stories I’ve read on parenting message boards- life changing.

F1.large

Kids are crazy and seem to be able to hurt themselves with almost anything. This is truth, and with all these blog posts about the things that can pick off your kid, it seems overwhelming and that you may as well put your kid in a bubble. I get this, my own kids are 5 and 2. And if it makes you feel any better, I’m currently watching them beat each other with sticks through the kitchen window. Someone may lose an eye. But so far, no one has recalled sticks so I’m gonna let it slide. However, knowledge is power. Even as a nurse myself, I never would have thought of magnets as anything other than a choking hazard. Buckyballs are small enough to pass, so that’s what I would be waiting for. Arming yourself with knowledge and being proactive is the best thing you can do. I will be forever grateful that I wasn’t one of the parents that was given this knowledge by a doctor while my child was critically ill. I wish every parent could be spared that.

Carseat Recalls – the good, the bad and the ridiculous

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Recall-stampYour carseat is recalled. Those words strike fear into the hearts and minds of safety-conscious parents everywhere. After all, no one wants to hear that there is a potential problem with their carseat – a product that they’ve entrusted to protect their child’s life under the worst possible circumstances. For child restraint manufacturers, recalls are more than just fixing compliance or safety issues – they tend to be costly and chock full of bad publicity. In short, recalls are bad for business. However, voluntary recalls are also a part of the business and almost every manufacturer has to face a recall issue sooner or later. It’s important to understand that not all recalls are for serious safety-related problems although some clearly are.

A carseat could be recalled for having a small hole in the shell (for attaching the cup holder) if enough kids get a finger stuck in that hole. A seat could also be recalled for having an incorrect phone number for NHTSA listed on the label. Or for having a mix-up with the English/Spanish sticker labels. Labeling errors are actually pretty common but rarely are they a safety concern.

Most consumers have no idea how many nit-picky little criteria are in FMVSS 213 that must be complied with. One perfect example, if the carseat is one that is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft then the label is required to state that. But it’s also required to state that in red lettering. If someone, somewhere, screws up and that wording winds up printed on the label in black or gray, or any color other than red, then… you guessed it – the seat will be recalled for failing to comply with federal standards.

Britax Frontier 80 FAA Certification Label

Meanwhile, every store around the country that carried that particular carseat will probably have that “WANTED – DEAD OR ALIVE” recall notice poster with a picture of the culprit hanging in the aisle or posted on a bulletin board – alerting consumers to the failure of that product to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. I bet the money spent on that recall campaign could buy a whole lot of red ink. And probably a few years worth of gas and groceries too.

It’s ridiculous that all recalls get lumped together and there is no differentiating between a misdemeanor and a felony. How many parents get totally freaked out because of some minor issue that has nothing to do with the safety of their child restraint? On the flip side, there are plenty of legitimately scary recalls that can affect the product’s ability to protect children in crashes. Almost every manufacturer has to deal with something that falls into this category sooner or later. No product or production process, no matter how good, is guaranteed to be flawless 100% of the time.

What REALLY matters in these situations is how the manufacturer responds once it becomes apparent that there is a problem (or at least the potential for a problem). Do they quickly identify a solution and issue a voluntary recall right away – before any children are seriously injured? Or do they drag their feet, arguing back and forth with NHTSA for years until they are forced to issue a recall?

I have to say that there have been a lot of properly handled recalls recently that reaffirm my faith in some carseat manufacturers. Timely and appropriate responses combined with good customer service really go a long way to calm fears. Obviously, the more severe the problem or defect, the more it will take to regain the trust of consumers but good customer service is always the best place to start whenever there’s a problem. Well, that and an acceptable solution to whatever the problem is. I’ve seen some really lame “solutions” to recall issues over the years but that’s a topic for a whole different blog.

So, what can consumers do to protect their children from faulty products? Spending a lot of money on a CR doesn’t make it less likely to be recalled. Really, your best protection is to be an educated consumer. Whenever possible, buy products from manufacturers who have a good reputation for recalling seats quickly when problems arise and for handling problems with excellent customer service. It is also critical that you register your child restraint with the manufacturer so that you will be notified in the case of a recall.  If you move – don’t forget to call them and update your contact info!

If you’d like to check your carseat or booster for recalls – there are several resources available. Keep in mind that recalls may occur years after the product has been purchased. Here are links to the 2 most popular recall lists:

NHTSA Recall List:  http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm

University of North Carolina HSRC Recall List: http://www.buckleupnc.org/car-seat-recall-list/

You can also sign up for email alerts whenever a new recall is announced:  http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions/index.cfm

2016 Graco Extend2Fit Recall

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Graco Extend2Fit - stockThe Graco Extend2Fit just hit the shelves, but there’s already a recall on some seats. Not to worry, though: The recall is very minor and does not affect the safety of the seat.

The issue is that seats sold in the U.S. need to have labels in both English and Spanish. On some Extend2Fits, the wording on some of the recline labels (identifying positions 1-6) got mixed up, so there’s English on the Spanish side or vice-versa.

If you have an Extend2Fit, check to see if the labels are entirely in English on one side of the seat and entirely in Spanish on the other. If the languages are mixed together, you can call Graco for replacement labels. The seat is perfectly safe to use in the meantime.

Wording of the recall from the Graco website:

Potential Problem:

Over the past 60 years, safety has been and will continue to be our priority at Graco. As part of our continuous effort to provide quality and safe products, Graco has discovered that the recline label on a small portion of the Extend2Fit convertible car seats manufactured between November 27, 2015 to January 20, 2016 does not meet regulatory guidelines. While the affected products represent less than one percent of those produced, Graco is recalling the recline label on the affected car seats and providing owners with a free replacement label that can be applied directly to the car seat. The affected Extend2Fit convertible car seats are part of the Campaign fashion sold in the United States.

Injuries Reported: 0

Number of Units Affected: 15,064

Dates Produced: Manufactured between November 27, 2015 – January 20, 2016

MSRP: $199.99

Models Affected: 1954477

Solution:

To verify if a car seat is included in this recall, caregivers should check their model number and date of manufacture. In addition, caregivers should confirm whether their recline label is correct by examining all labels on the side of the car seat (including the recline label which identifies positions 1 through 6) to determine they are in the same language (i.e. all English (including the recline label) on one side of the car seat and all Spanish on the other side of the car seat). If the languages are the same, caregivers can continue to use their car seat without hesitation as instructed in the owner’s manual; the car seat does not need a new label as provided by the recall. If the recline label is incorrect because the languages on the side of the car seat do not match, then caregivers can contact the Graco consumer services team at 1-800-345-4109 (Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm ET) to order a free replacement recline label.

Click here to see if you are affected, or contact Graco toll-free at 800-345-4109 Monday – Friday from 8 am to 5 pm EST. The model number and date of manufacture can be found on the white label located on the bottom of the car seat.

Driver’s Edge: The One Driver’s Ed Class Your Teen Should Take

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Drivers Edge signEvery time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that I am indeed old enough to have a kid who is driving age. I still feel young and spritely—as long as I get my nap every afternoon after lunch—and it gives me the energy I need to ride shotgun as my son gets behind the wheel every day after school for the long drive home.

Our state did away with driver’s ed in high school long ago—theoretically to save money (note how well our drivers are doing: we’ve set a new record last year for pedestrian deaths, vehicle crashes and resulting deaths are at a crazy high, red light runners rule the intersections, and if you stop at a red light or stop sign before turning right, you are very likely to get hit or honked at). Instead of learning on simulators in classrooms and learning common sense rules and the laws of the road, new drivers literally get tossed behind the wheel of a multi-ton steel box and you’d better hope, folks, that the person teaching them is a decent driver.DrivingSimulator

In-sanity. There are driving schools, of course, and a student driver must either attend a school or take an online class provided through the DMV, plus log 50 hours behind the wheel. Many choose to take the online class because it’s easy. That’s one reason why we have so many red light runners, non-existent turn signal users, and drivers who can’t think past the hood of their vehicle. Enter Driver’s Edge.

Driver’s Edge is a non-profit 4-hour program that gives drivers ages 21 and younger hands-on experience in panic driving situations. I first heard about this program at a Lifesavers Conference many years ago when I saw their booth. I knew when my kids started driving, I’d have them go through the program. Here we are.

Before we even went outside, Jeff Payne, the founder and CEO of Driver’s Edge, talked to us about statistics and the importance of driver’s training. We’re in the safety business around here and we know kids don’t graduate to safe status once they are out of boosters. On the contrary, that’s usually when they are at their most vulnerable: they start making their own decisions about safety and due to brain and emotional immaturity, those decisions sometimes aren’t the best. Jeff outlined some examples:

  • Inexperience: teen drivers simply don’t have the driving experience adults have
  • Drinking and driving: still a leading cause of crashes and kids are still riding with drivers who have had alcohol
  • Texting and driving: less of a problem than it’s been in the past, but it’s still there
  • Seat belts: not buckling up

Driving simulators and political correctness don’t exist at Driver’s Edge. These guys realize that lives are on the line and they cut past the BS; I appreciated the bluntness. Classes are conducted in real vehicles by real race car drivers and there’s an indoor session with local highway patrol and police. Car crashes are the number 1 killer of people under age 21 and DE wants to combat that by teaching life-saving skills. When in the vehicles, young drivers practice evasive lane change maneuvers, ABS and non-ABS braking exercises, panic braking, and skid control. Some parents are still teaching their kids old school techniques of pumping the brakes to stop, so these classes combat that bad advice and while the kids wait for their turn, they also learn what to do if they’re pulled over by the police, basic car care, how to optimally adjust their seats and mirrors, and other things older drivers take for granted.

Driver’s Edge offers events around the country, but mostly in the Las Vegas and Reno areas, the Bay Area, CA, Detroit, Atlanta, and Washington, DC, were on their 2014-2015 schedule. Registration was easy, but tends to fill up quickly since it’s a free event (donations are always accepted since it’s a nonprofit organization). Parents are invited and encouraged to attend to watch their child drive and listen to the experts give advice during the activities. Because Driver’s Edge is only a 4-hour program and doesn’t replace a good driving school, DE recommends these schools specifically if they’re available in your area. If not, do some research and find the best school for your new driver; it could save their life and the lives of those around them.

  • Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving (Chandler, AZ)
  • Mid-Ohio School (Lexington, OH)
  • Simraceway Performance Driving Center (Sonoma, CA)
  • Skip Barber Racing School (various locations)

Pre- and post-tests are given to assess both parents’ and kids’ knowledge and driving comfort levels and they say we’ll receive follow-up questionnaires after one and two years to see if the skills learned have needed to be used. God I hope not.

I know my son is better equipped as a driver now that he knows he can control the car in a panic situation. It doesn’t rain much here in Las Vegas, so I can hardly wait for the next time that it does so we can go out to an empty parking lot to practice our panic stops (unlike that first time in the parking lot where I practiced looking cool as I tried not to yell as he nearly ran over the curb). My son was hesitant to attend the class—probably due to teenage inertia more than anything—but he was so glad that he did afterwards. And I know he was glad to learn from bonafide experts rather than these “experts”: (language warning 😉 )