When Danny’s Law was introduced in March 2007, it had all the makings of a universally hailed piece of legislation. First, it stemmed from the tragic story of a child needlessly killed due to the ineffectual workings of the system designed to protect him. Second, it made modest recommendations about how the system might be improved to save lives with relatively little cost to manufacturers. Finally, it was introduced at a time when the public was at heightened awareness of the dangers posed by children’s products.
However, in the years since its passage, Danny’s Law has been considered part of one of the most hated consumer products regulatory changes in history, and is considered symbolic of President Barack Obama’s war against business, despite the fact that it was signed into law by George W. Bush. Despite association with the troubled Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), Danny’s Law continues to lead to safer children’s products and better information for consumers.
The Origins of Danny’s Law
Danny’s Law (more officially the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act) was proposed in response to the death of 16-month old Danny Keysar. The Chicago-area toddler was killed when the travel crib he was in collapsed, choking him. He was not the first child to die in this model of travel crib, he was the fifth. In fact, the crib, which had no record of any safety testing, was already recalled at the time, but neither the parents nor the care facility where Danny was staying knew of the recall.
Danny’s Law was intended to protect other children from suffering a similar fate, and it included relatively simple provisions. For twelve types of products, which it described as “durable infant or toddler products,” it required that manufacturers:
- Provide a postage-paid registration form that was easy to fill out and read
- Maintain a database of all given contact information
- Permanently place the manufacturer’s contact information on the product
- Use its records to notify consumers of recalls
In addition, the act required that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should study the effectiveness of these recall provisions.
Danny’s Law and the CPSIA
Danny’s Law was introduced in the House on March 26, 2007, and passed the House on October 9, 2007. However, it never went any further than that, as it was swept up in the angry tide of the CPSIA, introduced in the House on November 1, 2007. The provisions of Danny’s Law were incorporated into the CPSIA, initially without reference to Danny Keysar and with an important addition.
In the CPSIA, the CPSC was required to investigate current voluntary standards, then develop and implement mandatory safety standards that were as strict as or stricter than the voluntary standards currently used by the industry.
The new requirement was part of the drive for increased child safety that inspired the CPSIA, which included a host of new, strict regulations on a wide range of toys and other children’s products.
Despite the sweeping reach of these regulations and the strictness of standards, the CPSIA passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. It passed 89-3 in the Senate and 424-1 in the House. However, within a year of its passage, the CPSIA was being reviled as a massive failure of regulation that threatened thousands of small businesses.
In August 2011, President Obama signed amendments to the CPSIA that reduced much of the outcry, but left in place most of the requirements in the Danny’s Law portion of the bill, modifying only the timetable for implementation of voluntary standard changes.
Danny’s Law Impact
Because of the provisions of Danny’s Law, new safety standards have been or will be implemented on all 12 categories of durable goods, including:
- Cribs: Effective June 28, 2011; Public accommodations complied by December 28, 2012
- Toddler beds: Effective October 20, 2011
- High chairs, booster chairs, and hook-on chairs: No timetable
- Bath seats Effective December 6, 2010
- Gates and enclosures for confining a child: No timetable
- Play yards: Standards take effect February 28, 2013
- Stationary activity centers: No timetable
- Infant carriers: Comment period for handheld carriers ended February 25, 2013; other rules to be proposed in 2013
- Strollers: Rules to be proposed in 2013
- Walkers: Effective December 21, 2010
- Swings: Effective May 7, 2013
- Bassinets and cradles (bedside sleepers): Comment period ended February 25, 2013
Many of these items have never had federal safety standards before. The standards were supposed to come into effect at the rate of two every six months, but the actual implementation has not been as rapid.
Play Yard Standards Taking Effect February 28, 2013
The new play yard safety standards are particularly important to Danny’s Law, because it was a recalled play yard that killed Danny Keysar. The new standards state:
- Side rails should not form a sharp V when folded (to prevent strangulation)
- Stronger corner brackets to prevent sharp-edged cracks and breaks at corners
- Sturdier mattress attachments that reduce the risk of entrapment and suffocation
A play yard conforming to these standards would have saved Danny. It is hoped that the new standards will save many children in the future.