July 1, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Graco recalls 1.9 million child seats over sticky buckles

Washington — Under government pressure, Graco Children’s Products Inc. said Tuesday it will recall about 1.9 million infant car seats built between July 2010 and May 2013 that have buckles that could become difficult to open, expanding its callback to more than 6.1 million seats.

Graco will replace the buckles that could be difficult to open after toddlers spill milk or other liquids. The company also said it will offer a replacement buckle to any consumer who owns one of 2.3 million child seats not included in the recall, but wants an updated buckle, under a customer service campaign.

In February, Graco — a division of Newell Rubbermaid — agreed to recall 3.77 million toddler and booster seats built in 2009-13 under pressure from the National Highway Transportation Association. The agency formally asked Graco in January to recall 5.6 million car seats. Graco expanded the recall in March to add another 400,000 seats built before 2009.

Evenflo Company Inc. said in April it has agreed to recall the 1.37 million seats after NHTSA opened an investigation.

This means more than 10 million car seats produced by Graco or Evenflo have now been recalled or are subject to a customer service campaign. It now ranks as one of the largest recalls for car seats in U.S. history.

“As the industry leader in baby and parenting essentials, the decisions we make about product safety are far-reaching. We take this responsibility seriously,” said Laurel Hurd, president of Graco Children’s Products. “Both NHTSA and Graco investigated consumer concerns in an effort to address the issues with the buckles used on certain infant car seats. We are pleased to announce a solution that we believe is in the best interest of consumers and underscores our shared commitment to child passenger safety.”

NHTSA said in a statement that “stuck buckles create the potential for a parent, caregiver or emergency responder to not be able to quickly remove the child from the car seat in the event of a crash or other emergency situation. Consumers are urged to contact Graco to get the free replacement buckle as soon as possible.”

Graco said initially in February it was recalling the Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite, and Argos 70 models. Graco said the alleged defect involves difficulty in depressing the red button that unlatches the harness buckle. It said no injuries have been reported in connection with the new recall.

Graco said certain buckles may become contaminated with food or dried liquids that can make it difficult to push the release button. The company said about 1 in 1,000 car seats “have exhibited some degree of buckles either being difficult to unlatch or being stuck in the latched position.”

Graco faces a class-action lawsuit over the issue in California. A separate lawsuit there alleges a 2-year-old who died in a car fire was buckled in a Graco seat “that made it extremely difficult to remove a child.”

One Graco complaint said it took 45 minutes for a parent to unbuckle a toddler. “We debated cutting it apart; we also debated calling 911 to have the fire department unleash it,” the complaint said.

NHTSA said in its recall demand letter that it is “completely reasonable that children will eat and drink while seated in their car seat and that some amount of these substances may enter the buckle.”

Graco’s first recall addressed 11 of the 18 models NHTSA asked Graco to recall, the agency said. NHTSA said its investigation will remain open until its review of the remaining seats is completed.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com