CPSC Votes Against Rulemaking For Baby Bath Seats

June 15, 1994
Release Number: 94095

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission voted (2-1) today (with Commissioners Gall and Jones-Smith in the majority and Chairman Brown in the minority) against initiating formal rulemaking proceedings on baby bath seats, which areassociated with 14 deaths and 7 near-drownings since 1983 of babies age 6 to 15 months. The Commission believed that under the Federal Hazardous Substance Act, the design and manufacture of these products do not present a mechanical hazard or an unreasonable risk of injury to consumers.

The commission also voted (2-1) (with Gall and Jones-Smith in the majority and Brown in the minority) to work with industry to initiate a public information campaign focusing on the risks taken by parents and other caregivers who leave children unattended in bathtubs.

Vice Chairman Mary Sheila Gall, noting that parents and caregivers left the victims unattended for lengthy periods of time, stated, "It is clear that the irresponsible actions of those entrusted with caring for these children have, almost without exception, caused their deaths. If the commission fails to address this issue, we will have failed in exercising our responsibility to alert consumers to the primary cause of these tragedies. Parents and caregivers must use these products as labelled and never leave a baby unattended in a bathtub."

Commissioner Jacqueline Jones-Smith said, "Bathtubs and unattended babies are a deadly combination. No product, no device, no convenience of any kind can substitute for the physical presence of a parent or caregiver. The incidents associated with bathtub seats and rings that have occurred were all tragic and preventable events. But these were all human tragedies and not product failures. These bath seats and rings contained no manufacturing or design defects that constituted a mechanical hazard."

Chairman Ann Brown said, "I'm disappointed with the commission's decision on baby bath seats, which encourage dangerous consumer behavior by instilling a false sense of security in a parent, who would normally never leave a baby alone in water - not even for a second. These products possess the hidden hazard of convincing the user that the product creates a safer environment for a baby. And, the sturdier, more durable looking the seat, the more likely the consumer is to leave the baby unattended for a moment."

Today's action will not affect the commission's ability to recall defective products, including baby bath seats, when warranted. With 1.4 million baby bath seats in use today, the CPSC urges parents and caregivers who are using baby bath seats to:

- Never leave a baby alone in the water for even a second. Keep baby in arms reach.

- Never use the baby bath seat in a non-skid, slip-resistant bathtub.

- Check to see that the suction cups are securely attached to the bath seat and tub surface.