Nursery Today magazine

Stephen Richards responds to report

Industry expert and car seat safety lobbyist Stephen Richards gives his viewpoint on the recent Professor Fleming and Dr Ayra report.

Following in the wake of the report by Professor Peter Fleming (Bristol University) and Dr Renu Arya (Swindon Great Western Hospital) which revealed that putting babies in an upright position during long journeys might cause breathing difficulties industry expert and car seat safety lobbyist Stephen Richards has the following to say:  

“In my opinion the industry has been reckless. The issue of breathing difficulties and oxygen desaturation in relation to newborns in car seats has been known for over 16 years and I have been lobbying for flatter car seats for 15 of them. Only God knows how many newborns have passed away or been brain damaged because of it.

“The industry has been driven by crash and user tests and the fear of negative publicity if a seat fails in a crash test.  There has been very little consideration for the health of the baby whilst in the car seat and to the best of my knowledge only four manufacturers worldwide have sometimes taken the breathing issues into account when designing and marketing a new car seat model.

“This is not a problem solely manufactured in the UK.  I genuinely believe there are car seat experts mainly based in Switzerland and Germany who have blood on their hands because they got the European testing procedures wrong. They forget that crash test dummies don’t breathe and don’t grow into kids.  

“The car seat testing protocols need urgent change. Only lie flat seats, car carrycots and very low angle car seats are in my view safe and healthy for a new baby and just now there are only six of them in the UK market.” 

The issue of newborns suffering oxygen desaturation in steep angle car seats is not new but what Professor Fleming’s research does show is, that quite alarmingly, blood oxygen levels can fall to as low as 85% in a matter of under 30 minutes and this sort of lowering levels (if maintained) could in some newborns possibly induce brain damage and in extreme cases a SIDS incident.

In 2012 not a single baby under 12 months died in a UK road traffic accident and on average that is the case most years. Regrettably, this great statistic does not ring true as the child gets older and child deaths and serious injuries increase significantly. But looking at the same year, 2012, it is sad to report that 265 newborns died in a SIDS incident in the UK and that in some cases a car seat (or other sitting device) was involved.

It is clear that the industry, parents and carers need to take heed of Professor Flemming’s advice, because perhaps what is not so well known is that he is accredited with having saved worldwide over 100,000 newborn baby lives in relation to his previous SIDS advice. Over two decades ago he instigated and completed the research in regards to the “Back to Sleep” campaign that subsequently reduced SIDS by over 80% in the UK, reducing mortality rates from epidemic levels to averaging 253 deaths a year.

News story supplied by Nick Butler, Practical Media Services. For further information please email: in the first instance.

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