Safety Advice to Consider During National Baby Safety Month
Are wearable technologies safe for babies?
September is recognized as National Baby Safety Month. Whether you are a new parent or a seasoned one with young ones in your home now is just as good of a time as ever to freshen up your baby safety knowledge.
John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL, answers your questions on the latest safety topics regarding little ones.
Dear John: Are wearable technology devices safe for babies?
Baby wearables track almost anything and everything going on in the crib, from sleep patterns to breathing rates, and the use of these wearables on babies is growing. Parents can now buy onesies, socks, ankle bands and other devices you can snap onto clothing. The devices are quite useful and help parents relax while their baby is sleeping. However, it is important to keep in mind that nobody really knows how hot these devices can get, and baby skin is incredibly sensitive. Unlike with adult wearables, a few extra degrees concentrated in one spot could pose a problem for a baby. A lot of the safety issues we’ve been testing for at UL get amplified when it’s a baby because they do not have the ability to roll over because something is getting hot.
Another concern is chemical reactions between a wearable’s synthetic materials and water — either baby sweat or urine. You could put a wristwatch on your arm and wear it all night. But a baby can end up with diaper rash from urine in its clothes. If you’re going to put a sensor on your baby and put the baby to sleep, the sensor’s going to be on that baby for hours.
Research will eventually provide more answers on the safety of wearable baby tech. It could turn out that the advantages of constant monitoring, whatever they might be, are outweighed by the risks. For now, because babies are a special at-risk group, it pays to be cautious.
Dear John: How can we help prevent TVs or other heavy items from falling on children?
This is a great question, as more than 40 children go to the ER each day from furniture falling on them. At least once every two weeks, a child dies from falling furniture.
To help prevent these tragedies make sure TVs are anchored to the wall or on a sturdy piece of furniture that is also anchored to your wall. Never place something like a TV on furniture that’s not stable. For example, don’t put a TV on a dresser or shelves not meant to hold a TV. Children are smart and will open drawers to get to a TV. Don’t put anything on top of your TV like the remote control or candy that will entice children to crawl up to the TV. If you are going to put a TV on a table, put the TV further back towards the wall and not on the edge of the furniture. And make sure to route any cable wires behind the TV and furniture so children are unable to pull on them. Any large pieces of furniture in your house, e.g. dressers, dresser hutches, china cabinets and shelves, should be anchored to your walls.
Dear John: My family is planning a trip to visit elderly relatives. How can I keep my young children safe from a home that has not been child-proofed?
When taking your young children to visit friends and family, it is important to keep safety in mind. Your home may already be baby proofed but this may not be the case when visiting homes without children.
When possible, call your family or friends prior to arriving and ask them to consider any child hazards in their home. If not, bring your own baby-proofing kit. Masking tape is helpful to cover electrical outlets, secure a piece of cloth on sharp edges and to tape cords so a child cannot pull an appliance down on themselves.
When you arrive, one of the best things you can do is to get on your hands and knees and look around from a child’s perspective and see if there is anything dangerous that would entice a baby or toddler. Look for cords, exposed outlets, sharp corners around tables or fireplaces, etc. Also look for loose items a baby or toddler could easily swallow. Anything small enough to fit inside an empty toilet paper roll is a choking hazard for a small child.
Keep the doors closed on rooms with potential hazards such as the bathroom.
Dear John: My husband and I are expecting a baby in a few months. Is it safe to work on remodeling our house in the meantime, or will dust and chemicals linger in the house?
Many expecting parents like to work on large projects around the home prior to their baby’s arrival in fear of not getting to it afterwards. This is something that should be done with caution. The air inside your home can be as much as four to five times more polluted than the air outside, particularly during the winter when the fresh, cold air is kept out to save on heating. Cleaning, painting, and buying new furniture can make matters worse as paints and new furniture may contain materials that release potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.
If you are painting your nursery, do so way before the baby comes home and be sure to ventilate the area. You should also use less-toxic paints. Look for paint labeled low-VOC or no-VOC. To make sure it really is, look for confirmation from a third party. Products with third-party certification include UL GREENGUARD Certified or UL GREENGUARD GOLD Certified paints .
When choosing cleaning products, buy unscented ones. Everybody likes the smell of various cleaning products because they smell fresh, or have a pine smell, a pleasant odor, but that’s something you are breathing in too. Consider using natural products, such as baking soda and vinegar.
If you are refurnishing a room, it’s best to air out the furniture before using it. If possible, do it outside. If that’s not practical because of the weather, put it in your garage for at least a week.