Infant Walkers Still Injuring Thousands of Babies

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Despite decades of warnings about the hazards of baby walkers, thousands of toddlers still end up in hospital emergency rooms with walker-related injuries, new research shows.

The study reported that more than 230,000 children younger than 15 months old were treated in emergency rooms between 1990 and 2014. More than 10,000 of those youngsters ended up being admitted to the hospital.

"Baby walkers remain a serious and preventable source of injury to young children and should not be used," said senior study author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"Baby walkers give quick mobility -- up to 4 feet per second -- to young children before they are developmentally ready," he said, stressing, "there are still too many serious injuries occurring related to this product."

Infant walkers are made for use in young children who can't yet walk. Most injuries occur when a baby in a walker falls down stairs. Walkers also allow children access to things they might not otherwise be able to reach, such as an oven door or toxic household substances, the researchers said.

Injuries related to walkers include head injuries, such as skull fractures and concussions, burns, poisoning and drowning, the study team noted.

Stationary activity centers were introduced in 1994. These devices hold baby in a similar upright position, but don't have wheels. Instead, they have different activities within the baby's reach.

In 1997, a voluntary safety standard required the base of baby walkers to be wider than a standard 36-inch doorway, or to have a device that automatically engages a brake if one of the wheels drops over the edge of a step, the researchers said. Canada banned baby walkers in 2004.

In 2010, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued additional safety standards. These standards made it easier for the CPSC to stop noncomplying imported walkers from entering the marketplace. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a ban in the United States but, so far, the devices are still legal.