Friday, December 14th, 2012
Even though I’m the mother of three small children, I’ve never been a huge fan of child safety regulations. I often roll my eyes at warnings on labels. I think back to my own childhood, when Fisher-Price Little People were shaped like cylinders instead of marshmallows, and we still managed to survive. I think back to my helmetless bike riding days. I often tell my kids that I believe in germs and dirt, by which I mean I bypass antibacterial hand wash, and I allow them to play with other kids who have the sniffles (though I avoid stomach bugs like the plague). I also allow them to take calculated risks that sometimes result in skinned knees and sometimes result in greater strength, balance, and flexibility.
So I read the recent Safe Kids Report on the effect of sequestration (aka the fiscal cliff) on children’s health and safety with some degree of skepticism. And yet, despite my own laissez faire parenting, this report convinced me that our current budget impasse could lead to arbitrary and senseless cuts to government programs because these programs are necessary, appropriate, and largely cost-effective for ensuring the health and safety of children across our nation.
According to the report, “Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 19,” and “programs with a direct programmatic relationship to child safety would be cut by $4,586,863,600 in the remaining months of FY 2013.” The report goes on to explain the effect of sequestration upon three government agencies, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Each of these agencies (among dozens of others with some responsibility for kids’ health and safety) will receive sweeping eleven percent cuts if Congress is unable to avoid the fiscal cliff.
The report includes a helpful infographic that relates some of the potential safety risks to children. These risks include a reduction in the oversight of imported and domestic toys and baby gear that, statistically speaking, could mean “4.2 million more dangerous products for kids left on market shelves.” Highway deaths for kids under 19 have decreased by a dramatic 29% in the past decade, due at least in part to the NHTSA’s efforts to support car safety.