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Feds approve new rules on baby walkers

Posted May 28, 2010 10:22 a.m. EDT

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approved some new rules on baby walkers this week.

They codify current voluntary standards for baby walkers and also put in place some new requirements for manufacturers as they test the products. The testing relates to what happens if the walkers fall down stairs and the parking brakes.

Baby walkers, which have wheels, have been a controversial topic for years. In the early 1990s, several groups asked the commission to ban them completely. And that's something that Canada did in 2004.

According to the commission, baby walkers are the cause of serious injury to more children than any other nursery product. In 1997, walkers were involved in 14,300 hospital emergency-room-treated injuries to children younger than 15 months. Walkers also have been involved in 34 deaths since 1973. Most children were injured when the walker fell down stairs.

Since then, new voluntary guidelines have been in place that require walkers to be wider than a standard doorway and also include a gripping mechanism to prevent them from falling down the stairs. From 1994 to 2008, there has been an 88 percent reduction in injuries, the commission said.

But the guidelines didn't prevent dangerous walkers from getting on the market. There were ten baby walkers recalled between 2001 and 2010 because they did not meet the stair-fall requirements, said Commissioner Thomas H. Moore in a statement.

And many experts say babies don't belong in walkers at all, regardless of the rules. While some parents might think the walkers help their youngster learn how to walk, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that in fact they can delay those first steps. The academy has called for a ban on the manufacture and sale of baby walkers with wheels.

Even Moore said the commission isn't done looking at walkers.

"We will need to continue to monitor the injuries and establish a plan for revisiting the baby walker standard in the future," he said.