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Parents to Seek Voluntary Recall On Early Model of Child Car Seat

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- washington

The parents of three-year-old Patricia Fairfax and those of Christopher Armstrong, two, thought they were keeping their children safe. They put them in car booster seats that used padded plastic barriers across the chest instead of straps to hold toddlers in place.

But Patricia and Christopher were killed in separate crashes while younger siblings, riding in car seats with built-in straps, survived.

Tuesday, a group of parents and their lawyers will petition Canada-based Dorel Industries to voluntarily recall as many as 10 million of the booster seats. In a letter to Dorel CEO Martin Schwartz, the parents contend that the seat is defective because it “has no harness restraint to retain the upper torso.”

Dorel’s Cosco unit is the only company still manufacturing the “shield boosters,” which hark back to early child-seat designs. Cosco says that tests by the U.S. government and by experts hired by the company validate the seats.

“This product is a safe product that is saving children’s lives,” said Ken Mitchell, a company spokesman.

Although many safety advocates and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that parents not use shield boosters, the seats continue to be sold because they meet minimum federal safety standards.

Priced as low as $20, they are also a bargain.

Children have allegedly been injured in two ways: by being ejected during rollovers and by breaking their necks or injuring their heads as they double over the shield in severe head-on collisions.

Trial lawyers have compiled records of at least 18 deaths blamed on Cosco shield boosters from 1987 through 2001. The company sold a seat called the Explorer starting in 1985, and replaced it with the Grand Explorer in 1996.

The government’s auto safety agency -- the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- has received reports of six deaths.