Inclined infant sleepers are 'a tragedy waiting to happen' warns consumer watchdog

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE says babies are being used as lab rats to try out dangerous products, and is urging the Australian government to initiate law reform around product safety.

The call comes after 73 infant deaths were linked to inclined sleepers in the US recently, with subsequent research leading experts to conclude that "inclined sleepers are so dangerous for young babies, they should be completely avoided."

CHOICE says more needs to be done by the Government to prevent dangerous products reaching the Australian market.

While two products have been recalled - the Rock 'N Play and Kids2 sleepers - the baby products industry continues to supply hazardous products to Australian parents, who often mistakenly assume that the products are regulated by the government for safety.

Product safety campaigner, Amy Pereira says, "At the moment, the public is being treated as a testing lab for dangerous products. Safety tests should be conducted in factories, not in people's homes." 

Photo: The Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play and Kids2 rocking sleepers, as well as other inclined sleep products for babies, have been recalled globally following deaths / CHOICE

Photo: The Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play and Kids2 rocking sleepers have been recalled globally following deaths / CHOICE

Of major concern is the continued presence of inclined sleepers, sold as sleeping aid solutions for babies, with exhausted parents the obvious soft targets.

"Inclined sleepers are particularly hazardous because of their soft, sloped surface. This kind of surface may increase the risk of sudden and unexpected death, as babies can roll over or have their head fall forward while in them and suffocate," explains Pereira.

The image below illustrates how an infant's airways can be compromised while sleeping in an inclined sleeper.

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"We've seen countless examples of unsafe products flooding our homes," says Pereira.

"It shouldn't be up to the person buying the product to check whether it's going to harm them or not. They should be able to assume it's safe." 

"Australians need a new product safety law to put responsibility where it should be - with the manufacturer, to ensure that their product is safe before it's sold."

According to a report issued by CHOICE in December 2019, "There is currently no explicit market-wide requirement in the Australian Consumer Law for manufacturers or retailers to proactively ensure that the products they sell are safe."

It named nine categories of baby products as being dangerously unregulated, and noted that even baby products which did attract mandatory safety standards still failed CHOICE's testing.

"CHOICE is calling for a General Safety Duty," the consumer group wrote in a press release. 

"This involves introducing a new section on product safety into the Australian Consumer Law so that all products will be subject to basic and sensible safety checks before going on sale."