Injuries still occur after Bumbo baby seat recall

Bumbo chair still causes injures after recall
February 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It's been nearly five years since a 7 On Your Side investigation uncovered serious safety problems with a hugely popular baby chair, the Bumbo baby sitter. The investigation led to a nationwide recall of the Bumbo chair in 2007. But since then, dozens more children have fallen out of the chair and many suffered serious injuries. Now the federal government has put out a new warning about the potential dangers of this chair. 7 On Your Side has this important warning.

The Bumbo chair is not only back on the market, it's even more popular. About four million Bumbo chairs have been sold in the United States so far. Parents love how it allows babies to sit upright for the first time. However, it's exactly the same product as the one we investigated, but now it comes with more warning labels.

In spite of those warnings, at least 45 more babies have flipped themselves out of Bumbo chairs and at least 17 babies suffered major head injuries. Bumbo continues to say the chair is safe, but the U.S. government is warning serious accidents are still happening. Consumer groups now say they want Bumbo off the market entirely.

The last time we saw little Dylan Lamm of Santa Rosa, he was a bouncing baby boy -- one who just nearly died.

"By the time we got him there, he had no pulse. They said three minutes more and he would be dead," said Kevin Lamm, Dylan's dad.

Kevin told us the horrifying story. He put Dylan in a Bumbo baby seat, sat the chair on the kitchen table and sat down right next to the baby. It happened in a split second.

"He had arched his back and tilted the Bumbo until it was in this position, the back folded and he toppled over backwards," said Kevin.

Dylan landed head first onto the hard kitchen floor.

"I couldn't believe it," said Kevin.

The baby was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Oakland where doctors said he was near death.

"I can't lose him. I don't know what I'd do if I lost him," said Mary Catherine Doherty, Dylan's mother.

An emergency surgery saved Dylan's life. He still has a long scar on the side of his head. Today his parents say he's doing well, though they're still watching his development.

After the Lamms contacted 7 On Your Side, we launched our investigation and found dozens more cases of children falling out of Bumbo chairs and serious injuries when the seats were placed up high.

"She arched backwards and then at that point one of her legs went out and she tumbled over," said Analyn Stewart of Napa.

We told you about Stewart who was feeding baby Heidi in a Bumbo on a picnic table when she suddenly tumbled out, barely escaping injury.

After our reports aired, the Consumer Product Safety Commission pulled Bumbo chairs off store shelves in 2007, but then allowed the chairs back on the market within weeks. It was the same product, just with a bolder warning that said "PREVENT FALLS: Never to use on any elevated surface."

"It's insufficient to keep kids safe," said Jon Fox of the California Public Interest Research Group. "The parents still need to know there is serious risks."

Fox says continued accidents prove the warnings aren't enough.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said that since the recall, at least 45 more children have fallen out of Bumbos that were placed up high. Seventeen of those babies suffered serious skull fractures. That compares with 46 similar accidents before the recall, in which 14 babies suffered skull fractures.

"The Bumbo is definitely a safe seat. We believe it's safe and it is to be used on the floor, never on elevated surfaces," said Bumbo International spokesperson Rene Tolmay to us via Skype.

Bumbo International is the South Africa-based company that makes this popular chair. Tolmay says that the chair is safe as long as it's used properly.

"You always have to supervise your child, which you do with a small baby anyway, any parent or any mum would do that. And never ever use it on an elevated surface," said Tolmay.

However, even without an elevated surface, there have been issues. Throughout the years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has received 50 reports of infants falling out of Bumbos that were placed on the floor; two suffered skull fractures and one had a concussion.

"Clearly the company knows that these chairs pose risks to children falling out," said Fox.

He says the product should be redesigned or removed from shelves and CALPIRG isn't the only group calling for action. A coalition that includes Consumer's Union, Public Citizen, Consumer Federation of America, Kids in Danger and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group sent a letter to the federal government this week urging officials "to remove these potentially hazardous products from the market." The groups are waiting for a response.

However, a recall might shock legions of Bumbo fans.

"It's great, it's very handy; I was able to set my daughter in it and play with her," said Angelique Nasser, a parent in San Francisco.

Millions of parents love the Bumbo because it lets babies sit upright for the first time and interact with the world.

"It was nice to be able to read to her," said Nasser.

Five years after little Heidi fell from a Bumbo, her mother still feels the panic of that split-second tumble.

"Get rid of them, don't use them. Don't use those Bumbos. It's too dangerous, too risky," said Stewart.

Bumbo says the chair isn't meant to fully restrain children. It's made of soft foam, and surprisingly it has no safety straps.

In spite of accidents, Bumbo has not changed the design. The chairs are exactly the same except the old chair had a warning in small red print saying "never use on a raised surface." The new one has a similar warning on the back, but adds an alert symbol on the side saying "PREVENT FALLS: Never use on any elevated surface."

The new box shows that warning and others saying, "The seat is not designed to be totally restrictive and may not prevent release of your baby in the event of vigorous movement."

"Parents are already so stressed as it is, that reading every single thing on a product is... I don't think it happens," said Dafna Golen Carbone of San Francisco's Carmel Blue Parenting Center.

Carbone says many don't notice all the warnings, like one new mother we spoke with that said she hasn't read the box for her new Bumbo.

"So they're still marketing it even though there was a recall? That's surprising," said the mother.

"Well we've had the warnings put on the front of the seat in 2007 and we've seen a great decline in any injuries," said Tolmay.

Bumbo International claims many of the latest accidents happened in older Bumbos. Out of 45 new accidents, Bumbo claims only 14 involved chairs that do include the new warnings.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it could not corroborate Bumbo's statistics. CPSC Spokesman Scott Wolfson did not want to appear on camera, but said warnings or not, babies are at risk.

Wolfson says, "You have to be concerned about exposure to a potential hazard. It's concerning to the CPSC the number of children who have been hurt."

"It's obviously a great concern to us and that's why we are still working together and educating people," said Tolmay.

"To think about what could have happened is scary," said Stewart.

So, how effective are the new warning labels?

"I just turned around for a split second and I just heard a thump and there she was on the floor," said Marshall Gill of Seattle, Washington.

Gill's little girl flipped out of her Bumbo seat from a countertop.

"Even if you're by their side, they could have a quick movement and fall backward or to the side," said UCSF pediatrician Dr. Christine Cho.

Cho demonstrates how the worst can happen.

"The child is not necessarily restrained in the Bumbo seat. They really need to know that the child can get out of it, that the injury can occur," said Cho.

YouTube is full of home videos showing babies up high in Bumbos. The videos were made after the recall. This one dated in 2010 shows a baby on a table top. Another one shows an infant in a kitchen sink. It's not clear if all of them have the new warnings on the box and on the chair.

"Why don't they just fix it?" asked Sharone Mendes Nassi of the Carmel Blue Parenting Center. She says labels aren't the problem and thought, "Fix the product versus just keep warning parents."

"Parents sometimes don't fully understand the extent of the warnings on those labels," said Fox.

Fox notes there are no federal safety standards for children's chairs.

Bumbo claims that many of the latest accidents occurred in older Bumbos without the added warnings. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it can't confirm that and stands by its firm warning to parents -- bad falls can happen.

CLARIFICATION: The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Bumbo International agreed to a voluntary recall in 2007 in which Bumbo International removed all Bumbo chairs off store shelves and put stronger warnings on the product. Bumbo seats were allowed back on the market with new labels warning the chair should never be used on any elevated surface.


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