Consumer Reports finds Zooper Waltz stroller a safety risk

Consumer Reports News: March 07, 2011 01:08 PM

Our most recent tests of traditional strollers revealed one model that poses a potential strangulation hazard--the Zooper Waltz. We've designated it Don't Buy: Safety Risk.

Like most traditional, non-umbrella-style strollers, the Zooper Waltz has a tray and grab bar (you can use either) that attaches above a child's legs. The problem: if a child is placed in the stroller unharnessed (something you should never do), this stroller's tray and grab bar have a gap big enough under them to allow an unharnessed child's torso, but not the child's head, to pass. (See video at right, or here.) This is a strangulation hazard, known as "submarining," that was responsible for at least 10 infant deaths between 1995 and 2008, the latest dates for which data are available, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We do not know of any injuries specifically associated with the Zooper Waltz stroller, which is manufactured in China by Lan Enterprises LLC. Reached at the company's U.S. Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, company representative David Wang said in a written statement that the company has never received a complaint about a child becoming entrapped in the Zooper Waltz.

The current voluntary stroller standard of ASTM-International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) requires that if a space beneath a stroller's tray/grab bar can permit a small child's torso to pass through, it must also be big enough to allow the child's head to pass through. Two separate samples of the Zooper Waltz failed our test of that standard. Although the current ASTM standard is voluntary, we anticipate the standard will become mandatory in about a year and half. (Earlier, we incorrectly stated that the standard would become mandatory on August 14, 2011.) The Zooper Waltz does not claim to meet the voluntary standard on its packaging or in its user's manual.

In April 2010, we designated three other strollers Don't Buy: Safety Risk models due to a similar problem--the all-terrain Valco Baby Tri-Mode and Tike Tech City X3, and the Tike Tech X3 Sport jogging stroller. (See video.) We reported the problem to both the manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and our tests prompted all three models to be recalled by their manufacturers in conjunction with the CPSC last October. (See the Valco Baby recall and Tike Tech recalls notices.)

In his written statement, Wang said that the company was "very surprised" to learn of Consumer Reports' test finding, and that all Zooper strollers have met "the U.S. ASTM Standard"--including the test for passive containment, for which the Zooper received a "pass assessment" from an outside testing laboratory. Consumer Reports also alerted the CPSC of our findings, as we had done with the other strollers mentioned above.

Asked if Lan Enterprises will recall the Waltz, Wang stated that the CPSC is testing the Zooper Waltz for the problem that Consumer Reports uncovered, and that the company "will fully cooperate with their decision." When we asked the CPSC whether they plan to test the Zooper Waltz for the problem Consumer Reports identified, spokesman Scott Wolfson said he is not able to comment on specific stroller models, though he said the CPSC is aware of what we're working on. David Wang also said that if a retroactive fix to the Zooper Waltz is warranted, the company will provide that fix to current owners of the stroller. Finally, Wang noted that because this issue has arisen, "We will examine the overall design and make any necessary modification."

The Waltz's passive containment issue is separate from the one that caused the August 2010 recall of the Zooper Tango, a side-by-side double stroller whose frame latch could fail when the stroller hit an object, causing the stroller to unexpectedly collapse and posing a risk of injury to the child occupants.

In the meantime, parents shopping for a stroller should see our strollers buying advice and latest Ratings of traditional strollers (available to subscribers) for safe options. If you already own the Zooper Waltz, we recommend that you remove and discard the tray and grab bar. As long as you secure your child with the stroller's harness, as you should always do with any stroller or high chair, the Zooper Waltz is safe to use.

The CPSC offers additional stroller safety tips (.pdf) to caregivers:
•    Be aware that infants as young as a few weeks old can move about when asleep. Babies, particularly those younger than 12 months, can become trapped and strangle in a stroller.
•    Never leave a child unattended in a stroller. And always use the harness system.

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