Sunday, April 6, 2008

Child Safety Outlet Plugs

One dad is on a mission to make those little child safety plugs we put in our outlets safer. George DeCell said he has spent years researching this topic after his daughter turned blue and almost swallowing one! DeCell now sells larger versions of the safety caps. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said they are not opposed to any product that could be safer for a child, but they do not believe the standard plugs are a risk.

Here's my interview with dad and inventor George DeCell from

Jen: First, please tell me a little bit about your credentials.
George: First and foremost I am a dad. I have spent four years researching choking and the products and sizes that cause suffocation. I researched via on-line,via phone calls and through articles I could find at the library. I own a company called devoted daddy inc that produces SafetyCaps.

(George said he followed vol. standards. when creating the safety plugs. I asked what that means.) The standards to which I refer are voluntary standard. This means that producers are not required to comply with these specifications. If the company wants to, they can have their product tested against these specifications and then place the UL mark on the packaging or the product and it gives the purchaser more reliance that the product is safer.

Jen: You have received some awards for your invention?

George: My theory about wider and ventilated plugs has won several awards to include the National Parenting Centers 2006 Seal of Approval and the Lemelson-MIT Inventor of the Week. My theory also has the approval of 44 of the largest children's hospitals in the United States of America and also from over 100 Safety Personnel and Safe Kids Coalitions. The Home Safety Council recently announced that standard sized outlet plugs pose a choking hazard all because of efforts that I have put forth.

Jen: Tell me what happened with your daughter.
George: My story starts with me working as an executive in Burlington Vermont. Myself and another executive quit our jobs to start a company managing a few of the clients we were working with at our old job. We quit our jobs on September 10th with two of the largest banks in the world agreeing to hire our services. We went to do an exit interview on September 11th and found out the building beside our home office was attacked by terrorist. The big banks refused to move to our new company because they were worried about the financial strength of the U.S. We were of course escorted to the door. I became a stay at home dad because of the 911 attacks.

One day I removed a standard sized plug from the outlet to vacuum and I set the plug on the edge of the table. My daughter, Sage, grabbed the plug when I wasn't watching and of course stuck it in her mouth. When I turned around she was blue on the floor. I was in the room with her the whole time but could not hear her choking as I was running the vacuum. Once she went out, I was able to remove the device from her throat using my fingers and after a short time (seemed like hours though) I was able to her breathing again. I then ran outside and got extremely sick to my stomach.

Jen: What do you think needs to be done?
George: The CPSC needs to step up to the plate on this one. Pressure from the large corporations needs to end.They need to regulate these devices. The Small Part Test Cylinder(SPTC)only applies to product intended for use BY KIDs, not for kids.These plugs have no regulations on them nor do they have to comply with the SPTC. They can be made any size the producer deems fitting. Also,the SPTC is too small. Various research has proven that for a product to be truly safe, it needs to measure larger than 1 3/4 inches in greatest diameter. This research used data from choking incidents from around the world and was lead by RAM Consulting which is the testing company that tests all of McDonald's toys to ensure that the toys are safe. The researchers removed all items from the data of choking incidents and found the 1 percent of deaths are cause by products that fall between the size 1 1/4 and 1 3/4 inches. Not a huge number, unless of course your kids happens to fall in the 1%, then the number might as well be 99% because you still are not going to get your kids back.

Jen: What can we do as parents to protect our children?
George: Look closely at the products being sold to you. Because of the lack of funding at the CPSC, they are becoming reactive instead of proactive which means that products can be produced and sold. Products are basically tested by parents, which is fine for say Microsoft to do with Windows. But I have a problem with this "fix it later theory" when it comes to child safety. If the CPSC finds that there are problems with the product, the CPSC re-acts. Remember, just because it is sold as a child safety product does not automatically make it a safe product.

Jen: Is this campaign you are on a money making venture for you or not-for-profit?
George: It started out as a me just trying to get the makers to produce a product that is not a choking hazard. After about a year of work, the makes kept telling me if I thought the plugs are a problem then do something about it. I discovered pacifier regulations and determined a plug with the same specs would be safe. They laughed at me and again told me to do something about it. I spent a ton of money and had a plug produced. I filed for a patent and received it on July 4th of last year. Because of the money I spent and the lack of effort of the other producers to change, I have created Devoted Daddy, Inc and now sell SafetyCaps as a for profit company. I sell a product that is safer, and made in Vermont by the way, to parents at a reasonable cost as most parents can't afford a whole house full of outlet safety covers.

Jen: I have seen outlet covers where you have to twist the plug part to make the holes appear. Are these another safe option or do you feel there are problems with these also? Those are what my pediatrician uses.
George: These are a reliable option. However, I have heard of stories where the plug is not allowed to be plugged into the outlet all the way as the cover plate is about 1/8 to 1/4 inches in thickness. You see, when you place the cover plate onto the outlet it makes it so that not as much of the plug prongs are touching metal inside the outlet. Because the device turns, it is possible for the plug to only be part way in the outlet and be held there by the resistance of the twisting cover and the plugs can arc starting a fire. Also, they are expensive. Not every family can afford to use them throughout their entire home.

Jen: Do you think they work?
Geroge: Yes. Are they any safer? No, my tests show that kids can figure them out just as easily as they can figure out the safety plugs. Both are really training tools. You use them to keep kids out of the outlet and all require proper adult supervision. They are made to give you time to stop a child from playing with an outlet.The safest option is to use outlets that are child proof. This does not mean to install the outlet that have the reset button like the ones used in kitchens and baths. Instead, they produce an outlet that has a tiny chip inside and will not allow electric flow unless two prongs are inserted into the outlet. However, these are extremely expensive and would cost even more than the outlet safety covers. Of course these are not fool proof because if a child were to stick something into both sides at once, then power would be on and the the kid would get shocked. Once again, proper adult supervision is the key.

The Foreign Body Ingestion in Children study compares two databases of foreign body (FB) objects causing injury in children.

There is also a follow up study with the goal of developing design criteria for consumer products, based on foreign body injury and fatality data, to prevent airway obstruction injuries to children.

REBUTTAL: Scott Wolfson from the Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to reassure parents the standard plugs are safe. He said they are certainly better than not using anything at all to protect children from electric shock and he does not believe they are too small.

"My whole house has those plugs and they work. They are not a choking hazard. Based on the data that CPSC uses-both incident data as well as analysis on what constitutes choking hazards- we would strongly suggest people put safety plugs in their home. Is there technology that are more elaborate than your average safety plugs? Yes. If people want to utilize that, that's great, but they are more expensive. We do not want children sticking their finger or a metal object into an outlet. The ones on the market now are safe and we would be very concerned about parents choosing not to use them. They are more of a benefit than a risk. The data does not support the concerns. "

I asked Wolfson about DeCell's product. If we can afford them, will they better protect our kids? He said, "I am not in a position to comment specifically on his product. There is an array of different safety covers and plugs. Our effort is to continue to bring down a declining number of electrocutions. We feel the safety plugs are one of the safety things that improve a house. Many parents can't afford the more elaborate ones. Parents need to prioritize."

The average conventional safety plugs are about $.50 per outlet. The twisty safety outlet covers are around $3.50 per outlet. George's wider safety caps are about $.50 per outlet.

Which safety plugs do you use in your house?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Maria said...

"He said they are certainly better than not using anything at all..."

Ah yeah, but that doesn't mean they are the best option! He doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him (so to speak).

Template by lollybloggerdesigns. Design by Taylor Johnston.