- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) — The American Academy of Pediatrics says better designs and stricter government regulation are needed to reduce the number of children who are treated each year for shopping cart-related injuries.

Most of the injuries — about 23,000 a year — occur when children aren’t strapped in and fall while standing in shopping carts. But many shopping carts are designed with a high center of gravity, making them prone to tipping over even when children are properly placed in the seating area, said Dr. Gary Smith, chairman of an academy committee that wrote the new policy.

Falls onto hard grocery-store floors can result in head and neck injuries, and fractures also are common, according to the policy published today in the August edition of Pediatrics.

Many injuries involve concussions and are life-threatening, said Dr. Smith, an emergency-room physician at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy there.

“Because of that, and because we don’t have a standard that adequately addresses the major mechanisms of injury, the best we can do is to caution parents that these injuries are very real, they’re very frequent, and if you have a possible alternative” to standard shopping carts, use it, he said.

Alternatives include strollers, wagons and modified carts that some stores provide that have plastic minicars or trucks attached to the front, allowing children to ride much closer to the ground.

Dawn Tolan, a Columbus, Ohio, woman whose 2-year-old daughter fell from a shopping cart in April, said the new policy is needed to make parents aware of the dangers.

Miss Tolan said her daughter, Ellie, stood up in a cart and fell to the floor on her head just as she reached for the child. Hospital tests revealed no serious injuries, but Miss Tolan said the accident “has definitely changed the way I shop.”

Now she avoids stores that don’t have carts with minicars.

Dr. Smith said injury specialists have been aware of the problem for at least 30 years, but no industry standard was adopted until 2004. It is voluntary, doesn’t require specific designs and lacks “clear and effective performance criteria” to address cart stability and prevent falls and tip-overs, the academy policy says.

State and federal laws should be enacted to require minimum safety standards for shopping carts, according to the policy.

In the meantime, pediatricians should warn patients and parents about the dangers, it says.

Children should not be left unattended or allowed to stand up in shopping carts and shouldn’t be allowed to ride in the main grocery basket of the cart or on the outside, the policy says. Seat belts and other restraints should be worn at all times in the cart, it advises.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a similar safety alert in May. CPSC spokeswoman Patty Davis said the agency shares pediatricians’ concerns but added, “Our mandate from Congress is to pursue voluntary standards before we take a mandatory route.”

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