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Children put at risk by faulty toys and nursery products

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HAZARDOUS PRODUCTS: Toys, leisure and sporting goods were among the most-recalled faulty goods last year.

The recall of 25 faulty toys and leisure goods last year shows why New Zealand needs stricter controls around consumer products, watchdogs say.

Toys, leisure and sporting goods were among the most-recalled faulty goods last year, with at least 25 voluntarily recalled by manufacturers. And a Consumer NZ study of 57 nursery products between 2007 and 2011 found a third of them had serious faults.

There was a strong case for the introduction of mandatory safety controls, Consumer NZ researcher Jessica Wilson told the Sunday Star-Times. "There are too many products that don't meet voluntary standards. We need to look at what products we have on the market and be more proactive in monitoring them."

The Consumer Law Reform Bill which has just had its second reading in Parliament, introduces mandatory standards for all products which are not already specified under existing legislation.

Portable highchairs and cots, strollers, safety gates and barriers are among products not already covered.

But even those monitored using mandatory regulations don't always pass the test, Wilson said.

"Baby walkers are tested using a mandatory standard but we've found that most don't meet the test." Nine out of 10 walkers failed Consumer NZ tests last year, with many failing to balance on steps.

Two had openings that could trap children's fingers.

Safekids New Zealand, a research and advocacy organisation established by Starship children's hospital's health trauma service, said policies on product regulation were too relaxed.

"Compared with other countries, New Zealand is very under-regulated," director Ann Weaver said. "We'd like to see more strict controls."

Every week two New Zealand children die from unintentional injuries. And every day about 35 kids are admitted to hospital with accidental injuries.

Baby walkers and bath seats were two of the most lethal nursery products available, Weaver said.

"Baby walkers are linked with burns because people don't realise babies can reach things and pull them down, like kettle cords.

"They can fall down stairs and off balconies.

"Bath seats cause so many falls because they give parents a false sense of security.

"But if a child flips, they can't get out and sit up if they're left alone for a few moments."

Kids' and babies' products featured heavily in recalls last year, including baby food, clothing, soft toys, strollers, carry seats and walkers.

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Babywise child car seats were recalled after it was discovered the harness buckles could come loose.

Green Monkey organic baby food 100-gram pouches were recalled after plastic was found inside the pouch.

Bumbo baby seats were recalled by their South African maker in November following international reports of babies falling from them and fracturing their skulls.

And this month a Kmart kicker and bubble child flotation set was recalled due to faulty stitching.

One product which has Safekids' attention is lithium batteries, the small circular batteries found in toys and other products which are easily swallowed.

Safekids is working alongside manufacturers and distributors, health organisations and educators to come up with a solution. It was an example of how collaborative monitoring could work, Weaver said. "We're sitting on standards committees. We're looking at design and packaging, and ways to identify if a child has swallowed a battery.

"The difficulty is with imported products - you don't know about them until they hit the shop shelves. Especially through smaller businesses like $2 shops."

TOTAL RECALL

Recalled products in 2012, listed by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.

Toys, leisure and sporting 25

Tools, appliances and machinery 24

Food 21

Vehicles and equipment 9

Clothing and textiles 9

Nursery 7

Paints, chemicals and cleaners 3

Jewellery, crafts, decorated objects and ornaments 2

Explosives, fireworks and caps 1

Household goods 2

Building materials 1

Tobacco, matches and lighters 0

Fuels 1

Total 105

Note: doesn't include medicines and vehicles which are covered by other agencies.

- Sunday Star Times

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