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Hazards In Child-Care Centers

Two-thirds of licensed child-care centers studied by federal investigators last year had at least one condition that could be hazardous to the safety of children.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it knows of at least 56 children who died in child-care settings since 1990. Two years ago, 31,000 children 4 and younger required hospital emergency room treatment for injuries suffered in school or child care.

The commission found that in 38 percent of 220 centers checked last year, children were wearing coats, sweaters or shirts with drawstrings at the neck. Twenty-four percent had unsafe surfacing on a playground, while 26 percent had loops on window blind cords.

Hillary Rodham Clinton joins commission Chairman Ann Brown Monday in kicking off an effort to alert parents and care centers to such safety hazards. And the commission has prepared a safety checklist for parents and providers of child care to use.

"The child-care safety checklist will provide parents and child-care providers with the information they need to ensure that children are safe in all child-care settings," Mrs. Clinton said in a statement released by the commission. "This effort is part of the administration's commitment to making child care better, safer and more affordable for America's working families."

The commission's study found that 19 percent of the child-care providers checked had cribs that contain unsafe soft bedding; 13 percent did not use necessary safety gates; and 5 percent were using products that had been recalled by the commission.

"Some hazards are obvious, like playground surfacing that has worn thin," Brown said in releasing the survey. "Other hazards are hidden dangers that may not be obvious. Even the best parents and child-care providers may not be aware of these hidden hazards."

CBS News Correspondent Hattie Kauffman spoke with Brown, about what a parent should look for when visiting a potential child care center.

  • On playgrounds, look for soft surfacing. Kids fall down a lot and that's how they get hurt. Brown recommends 12 inches of either wood chips or pete gravel or rubberized surface and it has to be well maintained.
  • Check the loops on the cord used to raise or lower a blind. Children can get caught in the loop of the blind cord and strangle. Brown say to cut the cords and put a little safety tassel on it which she says you can get them free from manufacturers of blinds. Manufacturers have stopped making blinds with those loops, but the old blinds still need attention.
  • Almost one out of five child care centers had cribs with soft bedding. Examples of soft bedding are quilts, comforters, sheepskin and pillows. And even stuffed animals can be a hazard. So take all of those products out of a child's crib until the child is a year old.

    If you're worried about your child being cold put them in a blanket sleeper or put a little blanket on bu put the baby's feet to the foot of the bed and tuck the blanket under the mattress.

    Brown said, "Because we've found that as many as 900 children who are diagnosed with SIDS turn out to have suffocated when their faces get trapped in the soft bedding in their cribs."

  • In cribs, you have to be sure and make sure that you have a firm, flat mattress and that the slats are not too far apart so babies don't get their heads caught.

You can get the child care safety checklist on the CPSC Web site or it is available by writing Child Care Safety Checklist, CPSC, Washington, DC 20207.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report

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