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Uncovering Daycare Dangers

If your child is one of the nearly 13 million under age 6 who spend some of their day in childcare, do you know everything you should about your facility's safety standards? According to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), at least two-thirds of the 220 licensed programs they visited across the country had safety hazards in one or more of these areas:

Cribs: 8 percent of the inspected facilities had cribs that did not meet current safety standards, with problems such as slats spaced too far apart and decorative foot- and headboard cutouts that could catch a baby's clothing.

Bedding: 19 percent used soft bedding (quilts, comforters, pillows); these materials may present a risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Child Safety Gates: 13 percent didn't block stairs and other dangerous spots from infants and toddlers.

Window Blinds: 26 percent had loops on their window blind cords, which pose a strangulation threat to children under 5.

Recalled Products: 5 percent had toys, cribs, bean-bag furniture, and other products that had been recalled by the CPSC.

Playground Surfacing: 24 percent lacked safe ground covering, such as wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel.

Playground Maintenance: 27 percent failed to keep the playground surfaces well maintained.

The study examined federal, non- and for-profit, and in-home centers. Though there were some differences (unsafe cribs were found in more nonprofit facilities than for-profit sites, for instance), no one type of center ranked better than the others overall.

"The key to improving safety at all childcare centers is to improve awareness," says Ken Giles, a spokesperson for the CPSC, which has sent a safety checklist to the National Child Care Information Center and state licensing authorities. For a free copy of the checklist, send a postcard with your address to Child Care Safety Checklist, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC 20207, or visit their website at www.cpsc.gov.

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