Deadly danger of nappy sacks: Campaign to alert parents after 11 babies suffocate in the UK

Warning poster: A teddy bear demonstrates the danger of nappy sacks

Warning poster: A teddy bear demonstrates the danger of nappy sacks
Flimsy plastic clings to infants’ facesStore bags away from babies, parents warned
Move to package sacks on a roll, rather than individually

Parents were today warned of the deadly dangers of nappy sacks, after it emerged eleven babies have suffocated after pulling the bags over their faces.

Doctors said infants have an automatic reflex to grab things within reach and bring them to their mouths.

Nappy bags are made from thin plastic that can cling to a baby’s face. They are unable to pull them away again as their impulse is to go rigid.

The NHS is now launching a nationwide campaign to alert parents, after a local campaign proved successful in Cornwall.

‘We feel this issue can’t wait,’ said campaign founder Beth Beynon, from NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

‘If we can take this campaign out to
communities and reach parents, grandparents and carers we will have
achieved one giant step towards preventing any more babies from
needlessly dying.’

Public Health teams across England and Wales are being issued with a ‘toolkit’ with posters, an educational DVD and YouTube clip to explain the risks of nappy sacks.

The move has won support from the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Children in Wales (CIW).

An eight-month-old boy: Nappy sacks should be kept far away from cots

An eight-month-old boy: Nappy sacks should be kept far away from cots

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive at CAPT, said: ‘Because
nappy sacks are seen as an essential piece of parenting kit, parents
don’t realise that they are as dangerous to babies as plastic bags are
to small children. They are often kept nearby, within easy reach, for
nappy changing.

‘This campaign will remind parents
that nappy sacks need to be kept out of reach of babies, particularly in
the bedroom.

‘Young babies are most at risk because they naturally grasp
things and pull them to their mouths, but then find it difficult to let

‘Nappy sacks are small and flimsy, and cling to babies’ faces so they can’t breathe.’

They are working with Ms Beynon to put pressure on the European Commission to change the technical guidance to nappy sack makers.

Ms Beynon was first alerted to the problem by Cornwall coroner Emma Carlyon, who came across two cases of nappy sack suffocation. A nationwide survey of coroner’s then revealed at least 11 babies had suffocated in this way over the past 10 years.

To avoid suffocation and choking:

Always keep nappy sacks and other plastic bags and wrapping away from babies and young children

Never place nappy sacks in a baby’s cot or pram

The campaign has won support from ANEC, the European Consumer Voice in Standardisation.

It has recommended that a more detailed warning be added to the packaging to deter parents from storing the sacks where babies are sleeping or leaving the sacks within their reach.

It has also suggested that the bags be kept on a roll instead of packaged individually and made of a heavier weight plastic.

However, the European standards committee responsible for plastic packaging has so far failed to adopt these recommendations. Instead, it has been agreed that European countries will create a joint factsheet to distribute around the member states as an aid to consumer awareness.

Ms Beynon said: ‘We will continue to explore every avenue to bring about changes to the packaging and the bags themselves at a European level.’