Keyless car owner alert: Carbon monoxide poisonings


keyless ignition photo

If you have a keyless car system, you may be at heightened risk of a potentially deadly problem: More than two dozen people have died and another several dozen others have debilitating illnesses such as brain injuries related to carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a new York Times report: Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll.

Keyless ignitions are very popular. Citing the auto information website Edmunds, the NYT says keyless systems are now standard in over half of the 17 million new vehicles sold annually in the United States. But because the cars are so easy to turn on and off with the flick of a button, it can be all too easy to become distracted and not turn the car off – or to think it has been turned off when it hasn’t. Consumer Reports describes the problem : “If the car is parked in a closed garage attached to a house, especially a basement-level garage, carbon monoxide fumes from the idling engine may seep into the living area, possibly harming anyone in the house.”

The problem can be even worse with silent hybrids:

“A subset of keyless-ignition cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, pose an even stealthier problem, because they are virtually silent when in electric mode, which they may well be when sitting still after parking. A driver doesn’t have to be absent-minded to assume that the car is shut down—after all, the engine isn’t running. But the car may not be truly off. The engine could restart itself, say to address a climate control need, potentially sending carbon monoxide into the residence.”

The risk was identified early by safety advocates. From the NYT article:

“The risk identified initially was theft, because drivers might leave the key fob in the vehicle by accident. (In conventional ignitions, under regulations adopted in the 1990s, the key cannot be removed unless the car is in park.) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s general counsel warned automakers in 2002 that keyless ignitions would be prone to mishaps arising from human error. In 2006, the agency updated its regulations to state that with keyless ignitions, “a warning must be sufficient to catch a driver’s attention before he or she exits the vehicle without the keys.”

Many safety advocates such as Consumer Reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are asking automakers to add safety features to prevent this, such as an audible alert or an automatic shutoff when a driver leaves the car. Some cars have safety features but most don’t – ” … a survey of 17 car companies by The New York Times found that while some automakers go beyond the features recommended by the standards group, others fall short.”

For now in many keyless cars, the burden of safety falls directly on the driver. Here are a few tips:

  • When purchasing a car with a keyless system, ask about safety features
  • Read your owner’s manual to understand how your system works
  • Be aware of the problem and take extra precautions to shut vehicles down
  • Have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home

NHTSA offers more safety tips in this short video:

Experts say: “Put a freeze on winter fires”


Home fires can happen any time of the year, but there are special risks over the holidays. Two very common activities that are popular at the holidays are often the source of fires: Holiday decorating and holiday cooking. For example, the top three days of the year for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. The National Fire Protection Association and the United States Fire Administration urge people to Put a freeze on winter fires. In this post, we focus on holiday fore prevention. We’ve included a video and infographic from the “Put a freeze…” campaign, as well as holiday decorating tips that they suggest.

Decorating for the holidays

  • Only use decorations that are flame-retardant or not flammable.
  • Check holiday lights each year for frayed wires or excessive wear.
  • Don’t link more than three strands of holiday lights.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles.

Christmas tree safety

  • Choose a tree with fresh, green needles that do not fall off when touched.
  • Before placing the tree in the stand, cut 2” from the base of the trunk.
  • Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source, like fireplaces, radiators, candles, heat vents or lights.
  • Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
  • Add water to the tree stand. Be sure to add water daily.
  • Use lights that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Read manufacturer’s instructions for number of light strands to connect.
  • Never use lit candles to decorate the tree.
  • Always turn off Christmas tree lights before leaving home or going
  • Get rid of the tree after Christmas or when it is dry.
  • Dried-out trees are a fire danger and should not be left in the home or garage, or placed outside against the home.
  • Check with your local community to find a recycling program.
  • Bring outdoor electrical lights inside after the holidays to prevent hazards and make them last longer

Dangerous toys: Check these 2018 toy safety reports and tips


young boy with Christmas toys

Don’t let your children’s holiday toy wishlist turn scary this year: every 3 minutes, a child is treated in an emergency room for a toy-related injury. As you compile your holiday shopping list, take some time to check the list online against reviews and product safety reports. And a good place to start are the seasonal safety reports that various consumer safety groups issue.

The Worst Toys for 2018

The World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.)  recently released its 10 Worst Toys for 2018 report. They say that, “… toys like the “Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Superstar Blade” and “Marvel Black Panther Slash Claw,” should not be in the hands of children.” This year’s toy report addresses the types of toy hazards available online and in retail stores so parents know what deadly traps to avoid when buying toys. In addition to their press release linked above, check out the slide show with photos so you can recognize the toys, some of which would have strong “kid appeal.”

W.A.T.C.H. offers the following toy safety tips:

Watch out …

  • for Toys Marketed On The Internet, without warnings, instructions or age recommendations posted on the website.
  • for Battery Operated Toys For Children Under 8 Years Of Age since batteries may leak, overheat and explode.
  • for Toys With “Fur” Or “Hair”, including dolls and stuffed animals, that can be ingested and aspirated by oral age children.
  • for Toys With Small Removable Attachments at the end of laces and strings (e.g., bells, knobs, etc.).
  • for Projectile Toys, including dart guns, sling shots, and pea-shooters which shoot objects and can cause eye injuries and often blindness.
  • for Toys With Pointed Tips, And Blunt Or Sharp Edges that could crush, cut or puncture children’s skin.
  • for Toys With Strings Longer Than 6 Inches which could strangle small children.for Any Crib Or Playpen Toys which are to be strung across cribs or playpens. This type of toy has resulted in strangulation deaths and injuries.
  • for Toys Marketed With Other Product Lines, such as food, clothing, books, cassettes and videos which could have dangerous designs and are often sold with no warnings, instructions or age recommendations.
  • for Toys Composed Of Flammable Material which will readily ignite when exposed to heat or flame.
  • for Realistic Looking Toy Weapons including guns, dart guns, Ninja weaponry, swords, toy cleavers, knives, and crossbows which promote violence.
  • for Toys Which Require Electricity to function and do not have step-down transformers to reduce risk of shock and electrocution.
  • for Toys With Small Parts that can be swallowed or aspirated, causing choking.
  • for Long Handled Toys For Children Up To 4 Years Of Age due to a tendency of such children to place these toys in their mouths and choke.
  • for Toys With Toxic Surfaces Or Components that have the potential to be ingested or cause skin irritations (e.g., some children’s’ play make up kits have components which contain ferrocyanide, a known poison).

CPSC Report for 2018

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also issued a toy safety report for 2018. It says that asphyxiation or choking are two of the most common injury hazards. It is not just important to buy safe toys, it’s also important to supervise children when they use toys. Here are some of their safety tips issued this year, with a few from past years:

  • Magnets – Children’s magnetic toys are covered by a strong safety standard that prevents magnets from being swallowed. High-powered magnet sets that have small magnets are dangerous and should be kept away from children. Whether marketed for children or adults, building and play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children.
  • Balloons – Children can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons. Keep deflated balloons away from children younger than eight years old. Discard torn balloons immediately.
  • Small balls and other toys with small parts – For children younger than age three, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking.
  • Scooters and other riding toys – Riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates go fast, and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times and they should be sized to fit.
  • Check the label: Choose age appropriate toys by reading the age label on the toy. Children younger than 3 should not have access to toys with small parts, which can cause choking. Also avoid marbles and small balls for children under 3.
  • Get safety gear. With scooters and other riding toys, supervision is key along with proper safety gear that includes helmets. Helmets should be worn properly at all times and they should be sized to fit. Avoid riding a scooter on a street or roadway with other motor vehicles.
  • Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings.
  • Battery charging should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any mechanism to prevent overcharging.

See more on toy safety at the CPSC..

 

Don’t let Halloween get *real* scary for your kids


We’re just one sleep away from the scariest, spookiest night of the year – check out our spooky guide for local Halloween happenings. Fake scary is great fun, but you don’t want things to get real scary for your kids. Make sure your activities don’t include a visit the scariest place of all – your local emergency room. On Halloween, for every adult, job #1 is kid safety.

The National Safety Council (NSC) offers this truly frightening statistic:

“Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year. In 2017, October ranked No. 2 in motor vehicle deaths by month, with 3,700. July is No. 1, with 3,830 deaths.”

One of the contributing factors may be that so many Halloween activities take place after dark. The NSC shows this pictorial of when accidents occur, created using federal data.

See more on Halloween Safety On and Off the Road, a sheet of tips to protect kids from the NSC.

If your kids are trick or treating at dusk or dark, make sure that their costumes and masks don’t impede vision and don’t have any tripping hazards. Be sure they carry flashlights and it would be a good idea to put reflective tape on dark costumes. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers more Halloween Safety Tips to help you protect children from dangerous costumes and other seasonal hazards.

In addition to traffic safety, pumpkin carving injuries, trips & falls and choking injuries are all among some of the most common Halloween-related injuries that could make for a scary unplanned visit to the emergency room. Check out our roundup of tips on keeping your kids safe from our prior post: Pumpkins, perils & more. And if you have pets, the holiday holds many dangers for them too – check out our Halloween Perils for Pets.

The Children’s Safety Network offers the following Halloween safety infographic:

What to watch for in extreme heat waves


man sitting in front of fan with hair blowing

Here at the end of July, we’re having a little break from extreme heat, but there’s still quite a bit of summer to go so when it comes to the hot factor, we point to baseball great Yogi Berra’s saying that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” There’s still plenty of beach time, camping time and general fun-in-the-sun time yet to go. If you’re not prepared for the summer heat, it can be more than just uncomfortable – it can be dangerous.

Heat danger comes in many forms and ranges across a whole spectrum from inconvenient and itchy to downright deadly. Thinking ahead and being properly prepared and equipped will help you maximize your fun in the sun.

It can’t hurt to be reminded of the basics: stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and know when to retreat to the shade. Beer, sadly enough, is not hydrating. Drink plain old water. (Sports drinks aren’t significantly better than water for hydration, either.) Sunscreen is a must for everyone who plans to spend any length of time out in the direct sun. Even the darkest skin is prematurely aged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, and while dark skin does offer some protection against skin cancer, the risk is still present. If you’re heading out to the beach, check to see if beach umbrellas are available or take your own. You can’t count on the clouds to cover the sun when you need to sit in the shade and cool off.

Once you’re out in the sun, you’ll want to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of different heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion, which can be effectively addressed with cooling and careful rehydration, can look a lot like heat stroke, a serious and possibly deadly condition requiring urgent medical attention.

It’s nothing to fool around with. Every year, there are stories of people who die from preventable heat-related illnesses – the CDC says that, on average, 658 people a year die from heat-related illnesses. See: ‘This Was Preventable’: Football Heat Deaths and the Rising Temperature

Knowing how heat affects you can help keep you safe when the sun is blasting down. Here’s some stories from some people who were going about their daily business, and suffered illness or collapse due to excessive heat. Learn from them – plan to keep cool when things heat up. Keep an eye out for those you care about who may be susceptible: kids who may not be aware of the danger, the elderly, outdoor workers — even your pets.

Get tips about how to deal with extreme heat from the National Weather Service and here’s a helpful chart from the CDC breaking down the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.