Obesity epidemic hits child safety seats

CHICAGO – Many young children are too heavy for standard car-safety seats, and manufacturers are starting to make heftier models to accommodate them, according to research on the obesity epidemic’s widening impact.

More than a quarter of a million U.S. children ages 1 to 6 are heavier than the weight limits for standard car seats, and most are 3-year-olds who weigh more than 40 pounds, the study found.

Unless exceptionally tall, a 3-year-old weighing more than 40 pounds would generally be considered overweight.Lead author Lara Trifiletti said researchers at a safety center at Johns Hopkins Hospital became interested in the topic because they saw children “who were very obese and our car-seat technicians were having a hard time finding car seats to fit them.”

She did the research at Johns Hopkins but now works at Ohio State University’s Children’s Research Institute.

Using inadequate car seats for heavy children could put them at increased risk for injury in a car accident, the researchers said.

“We don’t recommend that a parent use a restraint system for a child that has outgrown that system,” said Eric Bolton, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “It is risky.”

Based on national growth charts and the 2000 Census, at least 283,305 children ages 1 to 6 are too heavy for standard safety seats. That includes nearly 190,000, or almost 5 percent, of U.S. 3-year-olds, the researchers said.

Their study appears in the April edition of Pediatrics, being released Monday.

Trifiletti said the phenomenon mostly affects youngsters whose weight exceeds the limits of standard seats with built-in safety harnesses, which are designed for 1-to-3-year-olds weighing up to 40 pounds. These heavier young children are not mature enough or tall enough for “booster” safety seats, which are recommended for ages 4 and up and typically use the car’s safety belts for restraints, she said.

More than 23 percent of U.S. children aged 2 to 5 were overweight and more than 10 percent were obese in 2001-02, government data show. New data out later this week are expected to show that the upward trend has continued.

It is one thing for parents to be overweight, but children. This just irks me. It is just wrong. Why are so many children overweight.

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  1. Richmond April 3, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    Because many parents are too busy to prepare proper meals or supervise healthy snacking, and fast food is cheap, easy and everywhere.

    I have also noticed that many parents have an extremely hard time saying “no.” As in, “No Suzie, you cannot have a cookie before dinner (and I don’t give a crap how big a fit you throw).”

    Also, it is now considered “dangerous” to let your kids play outside, or run around with their friends and parents (again) have neither time nor inclination to supervise so the kid ends up in front of the TV or computer.

    Just a guess…

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