May 11, 2007

Congratulations, You're Our 679th Faller! Evenflo Recalls Concussion-Prone Car Seats

evenflo_embrace-carseat.jpeg

The CPSC, NHSTA, and Evenflo have announced the recall of 450,000 Evenflo Embrace car seats because when the seat is used as an infant carrier, the handle can unexpectedly release, rotate the seat forward, and dump the kid on the floor. Nice.

Evenflo has received reports of 679 such incidents, resulting in 160 injuries, including a skull fracture and some concussions.

If you use the Evenflo Embrace, check the model number of your car seat and do not use the handle until you contact Evenflo for a repair kit. [The full details of the CPSC announcement are below.]

So a question: Why now? Did the Embrace finally dump one baby too many? Was there a sudden rash of dumpings across the country last week? Was it not the tally, but the severity of the injuries, so once a few kids got concussions, the company had to come clean that, yeah, actually, we've heard about that 492 times so far.

The fact that models made before April 8, 2006 but sold from Dec. 2004 to Sept. 2006 are affected means the faulty design persisted for at least two years. But it also shows that Evenflo changed or fixed the design over a year ago. Which means they had to put the fix into the design/testing/production pipeline months before that.

The incident rate is about 1 in 663 car seats, and the injury rate is 1 in 2813. If we say Evenflo sold 20,000 car seats/month [450k, 22 mo.], they were presumably getting at least 30 reports/month, plus 1 injury ever 5-6 weeks. Or does it work by probability, and the more car seats get out there and get used, the more chances of kids getting dumped? Every time you pick it up, it could rotate and drop your little Ivy Leaguer on her head, all but locking her into a state school.

So # of incidents/month = [# of car seats in the market] x [the probability of an incident that month, about 1-in-12,000], with a 23% probability [160/679] that the incident will result in injury.

evenflo_embrace_n_dump_dt.jpg

If this graph is at all representative--and since I just whipped it up using the data from the recall notice, I have no idea--Evenflo started moving to fix the Embrace's drop-on-head feature after receiving reports of as few as 100 incidents. But in the year-plus the fix worked its way through the production and distribution pipeline, the number of dumps had quadrupled.

Even after the defect was fixed, it took another year--and another 250 dumps--before the CPSC and Evenflo got around to actually telling almost half a million parents that their car seats might split their kids' melons open.

What's the takeaway on this? Evenflo seems pretty quick about spotting and a defect [assuming the fix wasn't the random by-product of some other design change, that is]. But they also made a calculation about the risk and the cost; rather than upset their system, they decided to make and sell another 250,000 defective car seats--and to keep letting unsuspecting parents use them for two years.

But what are they gonna do? Throw on the brakes, empty the shelves, clear the supply chain? I mean, so they catapulted a few kids to the ground; it's not like it's SARS. And honestly, how many of you would buy a car seat that came with an authentic, anti-dumping repair kit, ABSOLUTELY FREE? So it's strictly business: a business makes a business decision based on business factor. Is anyone surprised? They're operating within a market and a system.

What I don't know is when the CPSC gets involved in this process: When Evenflo stopped making the dumpers? When they stopped selling them? When the number of dumpings crossed some reporting threshold? When the number of concussions did?

It doesn't really instill a lot of confidence in the product safety process--for safety equipment, these are car seats we're talking about here--to know that 85% of the incidents and injuries occurred after the risk was recognized, or that it takes two years and 600 additional baby dumpings before anyone decides to tell parents there's a problem.

Fall Hazard Prompts NHTSA, CPSC and Evenflo to Announce Recall of Embrace™ Infant Car Seat/Carriers [cpsc.gov via consumerist]
What, they're totally fixed now! Buy an Evenflo Embrace Travel System [amazon]

Fall Hazard Prompts NHTSA, CPSC and Evenflo to Announce Recall of Embrace™ Infant Car Seat/Carriers WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in cooperation with Evenflo Company Inc., today announced a recall of the following consumer product.

Name of product: Evenflo Embrace™ Infant Car Seat/Carriers

Units: About 450,000

Manufacturer: Evenflo Company Inc., of Vandalia, Ohio

Hazard: When used as an infant carrier, the handle can unexpectedly release, causing the seat to rotate forward. When this happens, an infant inside the carrier can fall to the ground and suffer serious injuries.

Incidents/Injuries: Evenflo has received 679 reports of the handle on the car seat/carriers unexpectedly releasing, resulting in 160 injuries to children. These reports include a skull fracture, two concussions, cuts, scrapes and bruises.

Description: The recall involves Evenflo Embrace™ Infant Car Seat/Carriers made before April 8, 2006. The recalled car seat/carriers have model numbers beginning with 317, 320, 397, 398, 540, 548, 549, 550, 556, 597, 598 or 599. The model number and production date information can be found on a white label on the bottom of the carrier and on the top of the convenience base. Models beginning with “5” are units sold with the travel system (compatible stroller). “Evenflo” is on the carrying handle and car seat base. Embrace™ infant car seat/carriers made on or after April 8, 2006 are not included in this recall.

Sold at: Department and juvenile products stores nationwide sold the car seat/carriers from December 2004 through September 2006 for between $70 and $100 when sold alone and between $140 and $200 when sold with a compatible stroller.

Manufactured in: United States and China

Remedy: Consumers should not use the handle until the repair kit has been installed. The product can continue to be used as a car seat when secured in a vehicle. Contact Evenflo to receive a free repair kit that strengthens the handle latch. Recall notice will be sent to all registered owners of the recalled product. The recalled units should not be returned to the retailer.

5 Comments

When did the CPSC get involved in this process? Probably when someone sued and the word got out. But are we really shocked by this? Another piece of junk from Evenflo?

The best though was when I was at JPMA this year. They literally would not let me leave their booth without lecturing me for a full 15 mintues about their new car seat safety program they are launching in 2007/2008.

[lol, for heaven's sake, whatever you do, don't take the kid out of the car! -ed.]

How can a child fall out of a car seat if the child is strapped in? I would think that even when the car seat tilts suddenly, the straps would prevent a fall. Or are people actually stupid enough to carry their baby in a carseat without latching the belts?

Of course the seat should be recalled and the problem fixed. But. If people had used the belts, maybe >160 babies would not have been injured as badly.

You missed the most sad, hillarious part of the recall.

They have already had a recall for the exact same issue. Actually, they had two.
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml01/01137.html
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml98/98076.html

Being that Monster's car seat dumped/almost dumped him twice, I can answer why parents don't have their kid strapped in. The first time, I was lifting him, in the seat onto the sofa so that i could strap him in. The second time, he was strapped in, but the seat lurched forward and gave him one hell of a jolt. Know what? We stopped using that car seat at 6 freaking weeks old!

[holy crap, it's like they just changed the date and the number of skull fractures. unbelievable -ed.]

(greg, feel free to amalgamate my comments)

I also wanted to add that the NHSTA was investigating this almost a year ago.
http://www.consumeraffairs.com/recalls04/2006/nhtsa_evenflo.html

The answer to the breaking handle.
FALCON Infant Car Seat Carrier
http://www.flyingfalcon.net/products.php

It is so much easier and no stress on the car seat at all.

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