Baby Bath Seats: Too Dangerous?

Children play Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007 in a daffodil field in Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands. January was the warmest January since they started measuring temperatures in Holland in 1706, the KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) declared Wednesday. ROBIN UTRECHT/AFP/Getty Images

Stephanie Vozinelik says she was a loving mother, but admits one day she made a deadly mistake.

"I walked out of the room. She was in my sink and I walked back in there and the thing had tipped over," Vozinelik was recorded screaming during a 911 call.

Her daughter Olivia was one of 67 babies the government says drowned since 1983 in incidents associated with baby bath seats or bath rings.

"I think the seat made me feel like it was OK to run down the hall," Vozinelik tells CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

Pediatric nurse Carolyn Brummell says she never left the bathroom, only turned away for a moment. But that was enough time for the seat to tip over, and her baby nearly drowned.

"She was all the way under the water," recalls Brummell, beginning to cry, "with the water over her head and I couldn't see anything but her big brown eyes."

It's estimated 1 million of these seats are sold every year in the United States, most made by a company named Safety 1st. Despite its brand name, the seat is not billed as a safety device and carries prominent labels warning parents not to leave babies unattended. "The parents, they're playing Russian roulette, if they think that they can leave their baby or infant alone in the bathtub for any reason whatsoever," says industry attorney Rick Locker.

Six years ago the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) investigated what was then 14 drownings. At that time, by a 2-1 vote, the commission determined there was no reason to consider banning bath seats, but suggested the industry do more to publicize the danger of using bath seats as babysitters.

Subsequent warnings apparently aren't working. Since the CPSC ruling 53 more infants have died.

Armed with a study that concludes bath seats could actually increase the chance that babies will be left alone, critics have petitioned the government to take another look at the potential for danger.

"Even the best parent may have a momentary lapse because they have been lulled into a false sense of security by seeing their babies in one of these secure little seats," says Ann Brown, Chairman of the CPSC.

The CPSC is still sharply divided as to whether the problem is the product or the parent.

"We have to be up front about it," said Mary Sheila Gall of the CPSC. "We have to say this was the behavior of the adult who should have been watching the child. And while that's very painful for a parent to accept, it's a fact."

Now Vozinelik's grief is tinged with anger. She plans to sue Safety 1st, claiming her daughter would still be alive if not for the bathseat.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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