Traveling sleep tent for youngsters voluntarily recalled

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As the holidays approach, thousands of families will travel with their infants and toddlers.

That is one reason why a Pittsburgh family is happy that its campaign against a portable travel tent known as the PeaPod has resulted in a voluntary recall of 220,000 of the lightweight, foldable sleeping products.

A month ago, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the voluntary recall, which allows owners of the PeaPod and PeaPod Plus travel beds to get a kit designed to fix the problems that might put children at risk of harm.

It does not provide a refund for the product itself.

The Pittsburgh parents, who asked not to be identified, had just bought PeaPods for their twin infants in December of last year when they made a family visit to New York City, said family friend and safety advocate Nancy Cowles.

The mother put the 51/2-month-old baby boy and girl in separate PeaPods, which have a mattress at floor level and plastic sides, along with a zippered mesh opening.

When she went to check on the children the next morning, her son had rolled onto his side. His face was against the plastic lining of the tent and he wasn't breathing and could not be revived. Her daughter was fine.

The mother began to blog about the incident on a mothers of twins website, and that brought her to the attention of Ms. Cowles, executive director of Kids In Danger, a Chicago group that campaigns for safer infant and toddler products.

Ken Kaiser, president of PeaPod maker KidCo of Libertyville, Ill., said the company reported the child's death to the Consumer Product Safety Commission in March, and then worked with the agency to develop the repair kit now being offered.

The kit provides a thinner mattress and four braces for the corners. The idea is to make the sides more rigid and create less of a channel between the inside edges of the tent and the mattress, to lessen the chance a child would become stuck.

The Pittsburgh family's death is the only one associated with the product. There also have been nine reports of children becoming stuck in the tents and being in distress.

Mr. Kaiser said KidCo, which has built its product line on children's safety, does not accept the contention that its product killed the Pittsburgh child.

"The reason for the recall is precaution," he said. "It's not been proven that there have been any injuries from the product. It's a shame the child died. We feel terrible about it. But the coroner's report never blamed our product for the child's death."

Ms. Cowles, on the other hand, said the remedial kit doesn't go far enough.

She wishes the company had offered full refunds on the PeaPods, and "even with the fix we do not think this is an appropriate sleep environment for someone's infant." The PeaPods shouldn't be used until children are 3 or 4, she said.

None of the products is on the market now. The 20,000 that hadn't been sold by last month were taken off shelves, and the company is designing a new version of the tent for release in the future, Mr. Kaiser said.

In the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, one section called for testing and safety standards for all "durable infant products," including pack-and-plays, bassinets and full-sized cribs, Ms. Cowles said, but the PeaPods weren't covered by that requirement.

Information on the recall: www.kidco.com/recall-information/

lifestyle - holidays

Mark Roth: mroth@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1130.


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