A brand of baby bicycle seats sold at popular retail outlets such as REI was recalled this week after the federal government learned that two children nearly had their fingers amputated because of the product’s design.
The voluntary recall, reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, involves Topeak Babyseat II, distributed by Todson of Massachusetts. The agency reported two incidents that resulted in stitches and a crushed finger. As the seats’ grab bars were lifted to remove the youths, their fingertips got caught in the hinge mechanism of the bars.
While these types of injuries do not rank among the most serious safety threats in children’s products, they often elicit immediate reaction from regulators because of their gruesome nature. They are also rather widespread, having been linked to an array of juvenile products — everything from strollers to toddler chairs that clip onto tabletops.
“It is an incredibly horrific injury but it’s not all that rare,” said Rachel Weintraub, product safety director at the Consumer Federation of America. “There have been different rashes of recalls and unusual outlier cases.”
In 2005, four companies voluntarily recalled millions of kid’s folding chairs after some of those seats unexpectedly collapsed. Several children had their fingertips severed after their hands got caught in the hinges or slots of the chairs. The industry reacted by adopting new standards designed to address these problems.
Since 2009, four firms have recalled strollers that posed amputation risks. Among them was Maclaren USA, which yanked about 1 million of its strollers out of the stores in November 2009 following 12 reports of fingertip amputations. The federal government said the fingers were trapped in the stroller’s hinges when the strollers were unfolded or opened.
In February, federal regulators re-announced that recall after learning of 37 additional amputations and other injuries involving these strollers, all of which were sold before 2009. Newer models have a different hinge design.
Other popular strollers were pulled from the market for similar incidents, including 1.5 million Graco strollers in 2010.
In the coming weeks, the CPSC plans to ask the group that sets voluntary standards for a variety of household products to address the amputation hazards linked to strollers, said Alex Filip, the agency’s spokesman. The group is already working to improve stroller safety.
Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, said failure to anticipate the real-world use of children’s products is often to blame for these types of injuries. These design flaws extend beyond just chairs and strollers, as the government’s records show, she said.
Last year, for example, “metoo” infant and toddler tabletop, clip-on chairs imported by phil&teds were recalled after some of them detached from table surfaces. In a few cases, children’s fingers were severely pinched, lacerated, crushed or amputated when they were caught between the nylon chair’s metal clamp and the bar in front of the seat.
“You have to anticipate the use of the product in less than ideal circumstances and how likely it is that a child will have his or her hand in the wrong place,” Cowles said. “That’s what it amounts to in most of these products.”
The Topeak baby bicycle seats already have been re-engineered and redesigned and the new version is headed to stores, said Rick Schad, marketing director at Todson.
This week’s recall involved 40,000 seats sold nationwide from January 2009 to this month. Consumers should stop using the flawed seats — model numbers TCS2100, TCS2101 and TCS2102 — until they have installed the company’s free hinge cover retrofit kit. The kits can be found in some stores, by calling the company at 800-250-3068 or by ordering them online at store.todson.com/safety.html.