Local health visitors raise awareness about the dangers of nappy sacks

10th Jul 2012

Sandwell’s Health Visitors have picked up the baton on a national safety campaign to warn local parents about the potential dangers of nappy sacks.

The Health Visitors from Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust (SWBH) are promoting the campaign which is being rolled out across Europe.

At least 11 babies in the UK have died so far from suffocation after pulling sacks stored in their cots, or near to where they had been put to sleep, on to their faces. The thinness of the plastic makes it “cling” to the face when breathed in and young babies are unable to pull the nappy sack away.

“The death of a child is devastating for parents and is often accompanied by feelings of guilt for not doing more to protect them,” said Sandwell’s Health Visitor Matron, Mandy Sagoo,  “In the case of nappy sacks, we can’t expect parents to be aware of the hazards because there is little in the way of information to forewarn them. By adopting the campaign in our area, we hope to educate parents and other carers not to unwittingly leave nappy sacks within a baby’s reach.”

The campaign will see posters and leaflets distributed to GP surgeries, Children’s Centres, Family Information Services and by Health Visitors. It has been devised by the NHS with support from the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

The campaign kit includes posters and leaflets and details of a message which can be uploaded to view from YouTube and can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PrfoS_RCDA

“While we will continue our efforts to bring about changes to the packaging and the bags themselves at a European level, we feel this issue is too important to wait,” said Children’s Accident Prevention Co-ordinator and campaign founder Beth Beynon,

“By rolling it out through Public Health teams at a national level we hope to take this campaign out to communities to reach parents, grandparents and carers in the hope of preventing any more babies from needlessly dying.”

Mandy Sagoo added: “Young babies are most at risk because they naturally grasp things and pull them to their mouths, but then find it difficult to let go. Nappy sacks are small and flimsy, and cling to babies’ faces so they can’t breathe. This campaign will help to raise parents’ and carers’ awareness of the dangers, while we continue to apply pressure internationally for a solution.”

The European Committee for Standardisation is now reviewing whether it can introduce new manufacturing guidelines to improve safety. European member countries will also create a joint factsheet to raise public awareness.



Notes for editors:

The campaign followed the deaths of two babies in Cornwall from asphyxia from nappy sacks and concerns raised by Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon. Both tragedies involved the nappy sacks being stored under the babies’ mattresses.  From the information gathered, there appear to be common themes running throughout the incidents:

  • they involved young babies (under 6 months) who at this stage of development are able to pull things to their mouth, but find it more difficult to let go.
  • the nappy sacks were stored under the babies’ mattresses / left within their reach.

Nappy sacks are made of a flimsy material that can be easily breathed in by young babies.  They are small enough to fit in little mouths and are small enough to be stored down the side of a cot or sofa and be forgotten about. They also do not rustle in the same way as plastic bags nor is there a safety warning on individual sacks – so nappy sacks do not have the constant safety reminder provided by the other plastic bags commonly found in families’ homes.

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