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Mandatory Standard on Baby Bath Aids Urged

Media Release
Wednesday June 1, 2005

For immediate release

Mandatory Standard on Baby Bath Aids Urged

Plunket, Safekids New Zealand and Water Safety New Zealand will urge the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to introduce mandatory safety standards for infant bath aids.

The organisations want a safety standard for baby bath aids here in line with that introduced in Australia earlier this month. The mandatory safety standard, enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) requires manufacturers to display a warning label on any baby bath aid sold in Australia. The label must be visible whilst a child is in the product and warn that children have drowned at the time of using such products. Labelling must also warn that babies should never be left unattended in the bath, and that infant bath aids are not safety devices.

Baby bath aids such as bath rings and infant bath seats are readily available in New Zealand. They are intended to hold and support a baby in a sitting position while in the bathtub, freeing an adult’s hands. However, there is no safety standard for them here.

Plunket’s National Child Safety Advisor, Sue Campbell, says two New Zealand babies have drowned in the last 18 months after being left unattended in the products. It’s not known how many near drownings there have been. Ms Campbell says labelling on products here is not consistent nor does it go far enough in warning about the dangers of using bath aids.

“While some products here do warn bath aids are not safety devices, and that children should not be left unattended in them, they don’t go far enough. Labelling isn’t of a consistent standard - and on some products, it’s not even visible when a child is using the aid.”

Plunket, Safekids and Water Safety New Zealand will be writing to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs here seeking an urgent review of the products and recommending a mandatory safety standard, like that for Australian-sold products, be introduced.

Safekids New Zealand Director Ann Weaver says her service sees no benefit in the products and in 2004 produced a Position Paper on bath seats and their use in New Zealand.

“They provide caregivers with a false sense of security and the belief that children will be safe in them. Last year Safekids warned the public about these products and at that time strongly recommended caregivers did not use them. Caregiver education is important, but it’s not enough. We need a standard for these products.”

Executive Director of Water Safety New Zealand, Alan Muir, agrees and stresses the need for adult supervision of babies and young children at bath time.

A new report into drowning in New Zealand, Circumstances surrounding drowning in those under 25 in New Zealand (1980-2002) released earlier this month shows preschoolers in this country have an alarmingly high rate of drowning. The study found 67% of infants aged under one year who drowned did so in the bath. Lack of supervision is a factor in a large number of home-based drownings, Mr. Muir said.

“Children under four years should never be left unattended in a bath and products such as bath seats and floatation devices do not keep them safe – nor are they a substitute for adult supervision. Additionally, parents and caregivers should be in constant contact with infants whilst bathing, never to leave them unsupported or unattended.”

Internationally there is growing concern about the use of infant bath aids, in particular bath seats. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of 78 deaths and 110 non-fatal incidents and complaints involving bath seats and rings from January 1983 to May 2001. Of these non-fatal incidents, 41 happened when a caregiver was present. Other estimates of more recent years suggest that there are currently up to eight deaths a year in the USA associated with the use of infant bath seats.


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