Pacified for Good

Between 1964 and 1975, at least 7 healthy American babies choked to death on pacifiers, according to medical journal reports and Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics. During that time, hundreds of babies experienced near-fatal suffocation, cardiac arrest, brain damage and lesser injuries after swallowing poorly designed pacifiers.

It wasn’t until October 20, 1976, after many more accidents and several additional fatalities, that the Consumer Product Safety Commission proposed pacifier safety standards.

CPSC’s proposed regulations required, among other things, that a pacifier have a shield large enough to prevent it from being swallowed and have two ventilation holes on the shield to ease breathing if swallowed. Not one single pacifier on the American market satisfied the new standards. Pacifier manufacturers were furious.

CPSC approved the regulations and in June of 1977 announced a virtual ban on the manufacture of old-style pacifiers. Although American manufacturers could legally continue to sell their inventories until February 1978, American babies were somewhat protected, according to one CPSC official, because companies hesitated to sell stockpiles here — “for marketing reasons.” To protect their credibility at home they chose, instead, to export them.

Even before the ban became final, the dump began. The Evenflo Product Co. of Ohio, famous for its baby bottles, exported more than 163,000 hazardous pacifiers throughout the world, making its biggest dumps in Iran, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Binky Baby Products of New Jersey dumped 50,000 pacifiers in Canada, South Africa and Venezuela. The Reddy Co. of Vermont unloaded several hundred thousand in Afghanistan, the Arabian Gulf and Iran. The Baby World Co. of New York admitted dumping its stockpiles, but couldn’t specify to which nations.

Now, with the ban more than a year old, the dump continues. Last winter, Reliance Products of Rhode Island notified the CPSC that it intended to export to Australia 120,000 teething rings. Reliance had pulled them off the market before the CPSC began testing for safety.

Caveat emptor, Australia.