Is Your Child Safe?
Cat. No.: H128-1/06-461-1E
HC Pub.: 4990
Children are naturally curious and do not easily recognize and avoid hazards; therefore, they need extra protection and care. Many injuries can be avoided by supervising children carefully and by making their surroundings safer.
The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act is administered by Health Canada. Its purpose is to protect the public by helping to address and prevent dangers to human health or safety that are posed by consumer products in Canada. The Act replaces Part I and Schedule I of the Hazardous Product Act.
The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and its regulations do not distinguish between new and used products. Any person who sells, distributes, or gives away products not complying with the legislative requirements would be contravening the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and be subject to compliance and enforcement action.
Around the house
Blind and Curtain Cords
There are possible strangulation or entanglement hazards for babies and young children who have access to looped or long blind and curtain cords. There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of this type of tragedy happening in your home.
Whether your blinds or curtains are new or old, do not leave cords hanging. Keep the cords high and out of the reach of children.
- Consider using only cordless window coverings, especially in children's bedrooms, play rooms and in homes where children visit.
- Choose window coverings that do not have exposed cords on the back.
- Never put a crib, bed, high chair or playpen near a window or a patio door where a child can reach a blind or curtain cord. Do not put sofas, chairs, tables, shelves or bookcases near windows. This will prevent children from climbing up to reach the blind or curtain cord.
- Keep the cords out of the reach of children, whether the blinds are up or down.
- Cut cord loops in half, and cut the cords short when blinds are fully down or when curtains are fully closed.
- Wrap the cord around a cleat or two screws in the wall near the top of the blind, out of the reach of children.
- Use a clip, clothes pin, or a big twist tie to keep the cords high and out of the reach of children.
- Install tie-downs for vertical blinds. Follow the manufacturer's instructions that come with the product. Make sure that the tie-down device is securely attached.
Lighters, Matches and Candles
Keep lighters and matches out of the sight and reach of children.
- Keep in mind that child-resistant lighters are not child-proof.
- Keep burning candles out of the reach of children and pets. Burning candles should always be attended to by an adult.
- Never place burning candles on or near anything that can catch fire.
Check with the manufacturer and Health Canada for recalls before buying or using a second-hand product.
- If you are buying or inheriting a used crib, playpen, stroller, or other children's products, make sure that:
- the product is in good condition and meets the current safety regulations.
- the manufacturer's instructions for safe use are included.
- the labels are attached and in a condition where they can be read.
- all of the safety features of the product are present and working.
- Health Canada does not recommend using cribs older than 10 years because they are more likely to have broken, worn, loose or missing parts, and to be missing warnings or instructions.
- Never accept or buy baby walkers.
- Never use a product that has missing warnings or instructions.
- Health Canada does not recommend the use of bath seats.
Trampolines should not be considered toys; there is a serious risk of injury to children using them. Most trampoline related injuries happen at private homes, usually in backyards on full-size trampolines. The hazards that result in injuries and deaths include: colliding with another person on the trampoline, landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts on the trampoline, falling or jumping off the trampoline, and falling onto the trampoline's springs or frame.
- Supervise children when they are using a trampoline.
- Keep children under 6 years of age away from a trampoline, even when supervised.
- Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time.
- Teach children not to perform somersaults and other stunts.
Household chemical products, such as bleaches, paint thinners, ammonia, and abrasive cleaners are among the top causes of injuries and deaths in children under the age of 5. Even a small amount of a chemical product can be harmful to a child. Bad taste and odours do not keep children away from chemical products. Chemical products can be poisonous, flammable, corrosive, or the containers can be explosive when exposed to a heat source.
- Teach children that the hazard symbols on the containers mean DANGER! DO NOT TOUCH!
- Keep all chemical products in a locked cupboard that is out of the reach of children. Never let children play with the containers.
- Keep household chemical products in original containers. Do not transfer or store chemical products into beverage containers. Never cover up or remove labels. Keep all safety information.
- Make sure that child-resistant closures are working properly.
- Keep in mind that child-resistant closures are not child-proof.
- Close the cap on the container tightly even if you set it down for a moment.
- Read the label and follow the instructions before each use of a chemical product.
- Never mix chemicals together as some mixtures can produce dangerous fumes.
- Keep the phone number for the poison control centre by your telephone.
- Keep other harmful products, such as cosmetics, drugs, vitamins and first-aid treatment products, out of the sight and reach of children.
For more information, see Stay Safe - An Education Program About Hazard Symbols! on the Health Canada Web site.
Baby Slings and Baby Carriers
The use of baby slings and baby carriers (worn by the caregiver) has led to serious injuries, and in some cases, the death of babies in Canada. Slings and carriers can pose safety risks. Premature babies, babies under 4 months of age or those who have pre-existing medical conditions, such as a cold, are especially at risk of suffocation. Consult a health care professional before using a sling with a premature baby.
- Ensure that the baby's face is always visible, free of obstructions and above the fabric of the sling at all times.
- Choose a baby sling or baby carrier that:
- is appropriate for the age and size of the baby.
- is the appropriate size for the adult carrying the baby.
- comes with detailed and easy to understand instructions. Follow them carefully and keep for future use.
- will not allow the baby to slip through the leg openings or fall over the side of the product.
- comes with safety straps or fasteners. Make sure that they are always securely fastened.
- Check for ripped seams and other signs of wear that may make the product unsafe before each use.
- Take caution when bending over. Hold onto the baby with one hand and bend at the knees to prevent the baby from falling out of the sling or carrier.
- Never zip up a coat around a baby in a sling or in a soft infant carrier to keep the baby warm. This can result in the baby suffocating.
- Check on your baby often.
- Ensure that the baby is in a slightly slanted or upright position, otherwise they can curl into a position with the chin resting on or near their chest which can interfere with breathing even if nothing is covering the nose or mouth.
The supply of baby walkers is prohibited in Canada. It is an offence to manufacture, sell, advertise or import new or used baby walkers, even for your own use. It is also an offence to give them away.
Make sure the temperature of the hot water from the tap is no more than 49ºC (120ºF). If possible, set your hot water heater thermostat at 49ºC (120ºF) or lower.
- Turn on the cold water first and then the hot water when filling the tub. When finished filling the tub, turn off the hot water first and then the cold water.
- Test the water before placing your child in the tub.
The use of infant bath seats and bath rings has been linked to the drowning death of infants in Canada. Babies have drowned when the suction cups on the bath seat came loose and the bath seat tipped over, when the baby slipped through the leg openings, or when the babies were able to climb out of the bath seat. These deaths occurred when the babies were out of their caregiver's sight and reach for only seconds. Health Canada doesn't recommend their use.
- Supervise children in the bath tub at all times. Keep them in sight and within arm's reach.
- Never rely on a bath seat to ensure the safety of a baby in a bath tub.
- Take the baby with you if you have to leave the room for any reason.
Car Seats and Booster Seats
All car seats must display a National Safety Mark that indicates they meet the applicable and current Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Do not buy a seat that does not have a National Safety Mark.
Remember that in the moment it takes you to reach for something, the baby can roll over and fall. To limit the risk of falls, you may choose to use a changing pad on the floor instead of a change table. If you choose to use a change table consider the following tips:
- Choose a change table with safety straps.
- Take the baby with you if you have to leave the room for any reason.
- Never place the baby in the main body of the playpen or crib while the change table insert is still in place.
- Check for the stability of the change table when it is attached to the main frame of the playpen. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Cotton and cotton-blend fabrics catch fire and burn more quickly than most synthetic materials. Nylon and polyester are more difficult to catch fire and burn more slowly.
Loose-fitting cotton and cotton blend sleepwear for children do not meet flammability requirements. If you prefer cotton and cotton blends make sure the sleepwear is a tight-fitting style, such as polo pyjamas or sleepers. Tight-fitting clothing is less likely to catch fire than clothing with flowing skirts, wide sleeves, or large ruffles.
Teach your children about the dangers of fire. If their clothes catch fire, teach them to "STOP, DROP, and ROLL".
- Other safety considerations for children's clothing:
- Dress children in actual sleepwear when putting them to bed rather than in T-shirts or other day clothes. Day clothes may not meet the more stringent flammability requirements for sleepwear.
- Remove drawstrings or cords on children's clothing. Children can strangle on drawstrings and cords that get caught around their neck or on other objects.
- Check that belts, ties, or sashes on children's robes are stitched firmly to the centre back of these products. Young children are at risk of strangulation from any type of cord that can be detached from the clothing.
- Check for loose buttons or other small parts as they could become a choking hazard.
- Check blankets and sleepers regularly for loose threads and fix them immediately, as threads can wrap around a baby's finger or neck and cause injury.
Inspect pacifiers daily. Check the nipple for changes in texture, tears, or holes. These can appear with age or exposure to heat, certain foods, or sunlight. Check that the nipple and any ring or handle remains firmly attached when it is pulled upon forcefully.
- Never tie or hang a pacifier or any other object around the neck of a baby or a young child. This can result in strangulation.
- Replace pacifiers at least every two months rather than waiting for signs of breakdown.
- Throw out any pacifier displaying signs of breakdown right away because the broken or loose pieces are choking hazards.
- Choose a teething ring as a safer alternative to chewing on a pacifier for children who are teething.
- Health Canada does not recommend using necklaces to prevent or reduce teething pains.
- Plastic covers for pacifiers can be suffocation hazards.
Always supervise a baby while they are playing in a playpen.
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions and recommendations for weight and age restrictions.
- Never leave a baby in a playpen with the side down; the baby can roll into the space between the mattress and the mesh side and suffocate.
- Never use playpens that have sharp edges or hinges that can pinch, scrape, or cut fingers.
- Make sure side latches are in their fully closed position when setting up a playpen. If the sides are not locked in place, a "V" shape can be created in which a baby can strangle.
- Never put scarves, necklaces, or cords in a playpen or around a baby's neck. These items can catch on the playpen and strangle a baby.
- Remove mobiles and toy bars when the baby begins to push up on their hands and knees.
- If using a model with mesh sides, make sure the playpen is a model with small holes in the mesh.
Some gates manufactured before 1990 have wide V-shaped openings along the top, or large diamond shaped openings along the sides, and do not meet current regulatory requirements. These gates pose safety risks and should not be used. Openings in the gate should be small enough that a child's head or body cannot fit through.
- Select a gate that is recommended for the child's age and is appropriate for the area of the house in which it will be used.
- Install safety gates according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Use a secured gate at the top of the stairs and a pressure gate at the bottom of stairs and doorways.
- Make sure the gate is secure each time it is closed.
- Avoid using gates with holes that can be used by children to climb over the gate.
Keep these points in mind when choosing or using a stroller:
- Supervise children when they are in the stroller.
- Choose a sturdy stroller and follow the manufacturer's instructions for the child's weight and height.
- Always use the safety harness and lap belts, and make sure that the child is seated properly in the stroller.
- Use the brakes when stopped, and when placing the child in or removing the child from the stroller.
- Make sure that the child's hands and feet are not in the way before making adjustments to the stroller especially while folding or unfolding the stroller.
- Check the stroller regularly for signs of damage and to make sure the wheels are securely attached and the brakes are in working order.
- Never use pillows or blankets as padding as they pose a suffocation risk.
- Never carry additional children, items, or accessories in or on the stroller, except as recommended in the manufacturer's instructions.
- Never use a stroller on an escalator.
- Never leave children unattended to sleep in the stroller.
Suspended Baby Jumpers
Babies have been injured by falling when the jumper was not secured properly to the door frame, used in the wrong type of door frame or when parts of the jumper broke.
- Supervise a baby while they are in a baby jumper. If you have to leave the room for any reason, take the baby with you.
- Look for a model that comes with well written and detailed instructions. Do not use the product if you cannot setup the product as described in the instructions. Keep these for future use.
- Take down and store away the jumper when not in use.
- Adjust the jumper so that the baby's toes are touching the floor when they are not jumping.
- Follow all of the manufacturer's instructions when installing the jumper, including the guidelines for:
- age, weight and physical abilities of the baby.
- dimensions and strength of the door frame.
- Check all parts of the jumper regularly to be sure that it is secure.
Keep cosmetic products, such as nail polish removers, diaper creams, mouthwash, and perfumes, out of the reach of children. Some cosmetics can be harmful to young children if swallowed.
- Keep powders such as talc and cornstarch away from the baby's face and out of reach to avoid inhalation, which can cause breathing problems.
- Avoid excessive or prolonged use of bubble bath or bath oil preparations. If a rash, redness, or itching occurs, stop using the product and see a doctor. The use of bath products can result in skin irritation and urinary tract infections.
- Use only cosmetic and other personal products suitable for the age of your child. Some products should only be used by adults, such as those containing alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), hair removal products (depilatories, waxes, etc.), hair dye, and tooth whiteners.
The safest place for a baby to sleep is on his or her back, in a crib, cradle or bassinet. Health Canada recommends room sharing for the first 6 months of your baby's life.
Health Canada does not recommend baby sleep products that are intended to be placed in the adult bed or attached to the adult bed. These products present a risk of suffocation and entrapment. Instead use a crib, cradle or bassinet next to your bed. Do not use bed-side sleepers with the sides lowered.
Babies and young children should never be placed to sleep on standard beds, water beds, air mattresses, couches, futons or armchairs. A baby can suffocate when sleeping on these types of surfaces. Health Canada has received reports of injuries and deaths related to the improper use of many products mentioned in this section. Follow the safety tips provided to reduce the risk of injury or death related to the use of these products.
- Never place a baby to sleep on the same sleep surface as an adult or another child.
- Never place infants and young children in hammocks. Infants placed on soft bedding, including hammocks, can become wedged in positions in which they cannot breathe.
- Check for wear and tear if re-using a crib for your next child as well as possible recalls.
- Dress children in sleepwear that meets flammability requirements. Avoid putting children to bed in day wear or in clothing that have strings or loose belts.
- Toys with batteries should not be taken to bed with a child.
Since 1985, a number of deaths have been reported in Canada when children under 6 years of age were placed in the upper bunk. Typically, the children suffocated when their bodies slipped between the guard rail and the mattress.
- Check regularly to make sure the frame of the bed is sturdy and in good condition.
- Make sure the upper bunk has guard rails on all sides even if the bed is placed against a wall.
- Make sure the spaces in the guard rail are small enough so that a child cannot slip through.
- Check that mattresses fit snugly on all sides leaving no gaps between the mattress and the sides of the bed.
Children under 6 years of age should never use the upper bunk of bunk beds.
- Health Canada recommends the use of bunk beds that meet the requirements of the current ASTM International F1427 bunk bed standard. Know before you buy. Check the label, visit the manufacturer's Web site, or ask your retailer, to find out if the bunk bed you have selected meets these standards.
Cribs, Cradles and Bassinets
The safest place for a baby to sleep is alone in a crib. A crib can be used until the child can climb out on their own or when they are taller than 90 cm. Do not use a crib for a child that can climb out of it or who is taller than 90 cm. A cradle is also a safe place for an infant to sleep until they can push up on their hands and knees or they reach the manufacturer's recommended weight limit. A bassinet is a safe place for an infant to sleep until they can roll over or they reach the manufacturer's recommended weight limit. There is an increased risk of suffocation or entrapment when placing a baby to sleep in a place other than a crib, cradle or bassinet.
- Shake the crib from side to side, thump the mattress from the top, and push up hard on the mattress support from underneath the crib to check that the mattress support system of a crib is secure. The mattress support system is designed to hold the mattress firmly in place.
- Make sure the mattress is tight against all sides of the crib and does not leave a gap wider than 3 cm (1 3/16 in) when pushed firmly to any side of the crib. The crib mattress should not be more than 15 cm (6 in) thick. The cradle or bassinet mattress should not be more than 3.8 cm (1 1/2 in.) thick.
- Check that the mattress is firm. Mattresses that are too soft or worn down in any area could cause a gap where a baby's head could become trapped and the baby could suffocate.
- Ensure the crib's mattress support is at its lowest position when the baby is able to push up on their hands and knees.
- Remove mobiles and toy bars when the baby begins to push up on their hands and knees.
Never use a crib made before September 1986 as it does not meet current regulatory requirements. Health Canada does not recommend using cribs older than 10 years because they are more likely to have broken, worn, loose or missing parts, and to be missing warnings or instructions.
- Avoid the use of pillows, comforters, sleep positioners, stuffed toys, and bumper pads in the baby's crib, cradle or bassinet as they can pose a suffocation hazard.
- Ensure the sides are up and locked securely in position after placing the baby in the crib if using a drop-side crib.
- Never harness or tie a baby in a crib, cradle or bassinet and do not leave a baby in a crib, cradle or bassinet with a necklace, elastic band, scarf, or a pacifier on a long cord. These items could cause strangulation.
- Keep the crib, cradle or bassinet away from window covering cords, lamps, appliances, or anything else that can hurt a baby.
Portable Bed Rails
Portable bed rails are installed on regular sized beds to prevent children from falling out, but they may pose an entrapment hazard.
- Never place a child younger than 2 years of age on a bed fitted with a portable bed rail.
- Make sure portable bed rails are securely anchored and that there are no gaps between the mattress and the bed rail.
- Use portable bed rails that meet the requirements of the current ASTM International F2085 standard for portable bed rails.
Select only toys suitable for the child's age group, and make sure to read and follow all warnings, safety messages, and instructions that come with the toy.
- Supervise children at play and teach them how to use toys safely.
- Keep small toys, small balls, or small loose toy parts out of the sight and reach of children under 3 years of age or older children who still put toys in their mouth. The small items are choking hazards.
- Repair or throw away weak or broken toys - check often for hazards like loose parts, broken pieces, or sharp edges.
- Check that toys like rattles and teethers have handles or parts that are large enough so they will not get stuck in an infant's throat and block their airway.
- Keep all toys, especially plush and soft toys, away from heat sources like stoves, fireplaces, and heaters.
- Avoid toys with cords, especially stretchy cords that are long enough to wrap around a child's neck.
- Avoid loud noise-emitting toys as the noise can harm a child's hearing. If you have to yell to be heard above the sound of a toy, then it is likely too loud for a child and should not be used.
- Using a toy box without a lid is safer - boxes with heavy lids can fall on a child's head or neck causing serious injury or death.
- Children should not have access to airtight storage bins, trunks, or boxes. Access to these types of storage products could lead to suffocation if a child climbs inside.
Be aware that a child on a wheeled ride-on toy can move very quickly. These toys should be used away from hazards such as lamps, cords, decorations, or appliances that could be knocked or pulled down onto the child.
- Choose a ride-on toy that suits the child's age, size, and abilities.
- Check that the ride-on toy will not tip when the child is using it.
- Use of a ride-on toy should be far away from stairs, traffic, swimming pools, and other dangerous areas.
Balloons have caused a number of deaths. Health Canada is aware of deaths having occurred in children as old as 9 years. Balloons or broken balloon pieces can be inhaled and as a result, block a child's airway.
- Use balloons for decoration, not for play.
- Keep inflated and uninflated balloons, and pieces of broken balloons, out of the reach of children.
- Balloons should always be inflated by adults.
Toys with Batteries
Make sure batteries in toys are not accessible to the child.
- Adults should install batteries. Improper installation, or mixing different battery types, can cause batteries to leak or overheat, which could injure a child.
- A child should not take battery operated toys to bed. Burns or other injuries could result from batteries leaking or overheating.
- Call your doctor or poison control centre right away if a child swallows a battery. Batteries can be poisonous.
- Small disc batteries (button cell) can cause serious internal injury or death if swallowed. Seek immediate medical attention if a child has swallowed a lithium button cell battery.
Toys with Magnets
Products with loose small powerful magnets should be kept safely out of the reach of children. Unlike traditional magnets, small powerful magnets, such as rare-earth magnets, have a very strong magnetic pull creating a unique safety concern. They are used in a wide range of items, from jewellery, clothing accessories and household items, to children's products, such as building toys or science kits. Small powerful magnets that are loose or contained in a very small item are dangerous because they are easily swallowed.
If more than one magnet is swallowed over a short period of time, they can attract one another through the intestines and create a blockage or slowly tear through the intestinal walls. The results can be fatal. Older children are known to play with these small powerful magnets in their mouths: using them for fake tongue or cheek piercings, attaching them to braces, etc. Teach children to keep powerful magnets away from their mouths.
Children have died when their clothing or drawstrings got caught on playground equipment or on fences. Also, children have died when they became entangled on ropes or skipping ropes attached to playground equipment.
- Always supervise children and teach them to use the equipment safely.
- Remove cords and drawstrings from children's hoods, hats, and jackets.
- Tuck in all clothing that can get caught on playground equipment.
- Take off bicycle helmets before using playground equipment. Bicycle helmets can get caught on equipment and strangle a child.
- Check playground equipment for ropes. Do not let children tie ropes or skipping ropes to playground equipment.
General Safety Tips
- Use plastic safety covers over electrical outlets so that children cannot poke their fingers or metal objects into them. Ensure that these covers are secure to prevent choking.
- Make sure plastic bags are kept out of the reach of children to prevent suffocation.
- Keep hazardous products away from children.
- Make sure water sources, such as hot tubs, pools, ponds, and spas are not accessible to children.
- Make sure furniture, such as a wall unit, bookcase, or china cabinet, is securely fastened to the wall. Televisions should be placed on lower furniture as far back as possible. Use angle braces or anchors to secure furniture to the wall. Children may climb these items, causing the item to fall on them, which can result in death.
- Scan your home from a child's point of view; crawl on your hands and knees to look for possible hazards and then remove the hazard.
- Be aware that not everyone will take the same precautions you do for ensuring an area is free of hazards and safe for children. Always supervise children closely.
- Prevent falls, cuts, and other injuries by being attentive to a child placed in a grocery shopping cart. Children should stay seated and belted at all times when in a grocery shopping cart.
- Install and maintain smoke detectors. Check that they work as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Keep cords for electrical appliances, such as deep fryers, kettles, steam irons and toasters, out of the reach of children. Children can be hurt or burned if they pull an appliance off a counter.
- Turn pot handles toward the centre of the stove.
- Put up a barrier around a gas or wood burning fireplace or wood burning stove to prevent children from touching hot surfaces and being burned. Fireplace doors and wood burning stoves can become very hot during and after use.
- Keep children away from the barbecue when in use.
For recalls on children's equipment check with the manufacturer of the product, visit Health Canada's Web site periodically and sign up to our List Serv to receive email notifications.
If you experience an incident or injury related to a consumer product or cosmetic (health and safety related complaints) you can fill out an incident report here:
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Pesticides and Pest Management
Canadian Paediatric Society
Generally on the first page of your telephone book under Emergency Numbers or by checking www.capcc.ca/provcentres/centres.html
The Consumer Product Safety Directorate of Health Canada, in consultation with industry, consumers, and the medical community, has developed regulatory requirements and standards for a number of children's products, among them, toys, strollers, cribs, playpens, and safety gates. The Outreach Unit provides information to families, caregivers, daycare centres, and health professionals through initiatives such as safety awareness campaigns, pamphlets, and education bulletins.
For more information on injury prevention, please contact:
Consumer Product Safety Directorate
PDB - External Relations
Address Locator: 4909A Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9
For inquiries and complaints about consumer products, please contact your nearest Product Safety office by calling the toll-free number above.