Today, the Commission is warning families and caregivers about hazards associated with the use of baby slings. While forms of slings have been used for hundreds of years, they have become especially popular in recent years as a way to keep your baby close and connected to you. Tragically, a number of babies have died while being carried in slings. Therefore, the agency is warning the public about this risk and emphasizing the proper use of these products.
This raises a problem that we grapple with at the agency on a regular basis—that is, how to sort through all the details of a tragic incident to determine if the product actually caused the death or the death was caused by something else while the product was being used. We do not know the complete answer to this question with respect to baby slings. We do know, however, that slings can pose two different types of suffocation hazards to babies. We also know many of the babies who died in slings were of a low birth weight, were born prematurely, or had breathing issues such as a cold. (see press release)
The other question we struggle with regularly is how much information do we need to make a general warning like the one we are issuing today. We have an obligation to warn the public about risks, and tell them how to avoid those risks. The agency is providing this warning so that families and caregivers can be made aware of incidents that we have received and are provided advice from the agency’s technical experts so they can make an educated decision about how to properly use these products.
In the case of baby slings, information that we were considering a warning was publicly discussed several days before the warning came out without any detail about how parents and caregivers could avoid the risk. Many news stories were written about the future warning that we would be issuing. The concern is that this kind of situation can alarm parents without arming them with the needed information about the risk and how to avoid it.
The CPSC has a public trust to protect consumers from unreasonable risk. That trust includes providing warnings about proper use of products. Ours is a twofold responsibility: when we give a warning, we should also give advice about how to deal with it.