Are Infant Neck Floats Dangerous?

They can be if they are ridiculously cheap!

Should you buy the genuine original product from a reputable brand or get the cheap knock-off on bargain sites? When confronted with this online shopping dilemma, especially for baby products that your kid may only use for a couple of years, the significant discrepancy in price is alluring.

However, the head-spinning risks of buying cheap baby toys online should be considered.

When the cheaper alternative looks like a little too good a bargain to be true, you know it’s a gamble. Sometimes you get a jackpot; more often you get something like a phone charger that catches on fire or a plastic sack instead of a silk shift dress directly from China.

We know you have a similar decision to make when considering Otteroo’s price tag. While ours is tested by a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)-accredited lab for quality assurance, we also know that you can buy a seemingly similar float for $3 to $8 (including shipping from China!) Scary!

Being moms and bargain hunters ourselves, we totally get it. But, like you, we don’t want to put our babies in anything that’s dangerous or potentially toxic…so we did some legwork. 

We purchased all the infant neck floats we could from American-based ‘reliable’ online stores that were priced $3 – $8 and, below are the frightening results.

HOW MUCH IS YOUR BABY PRODUCT REALLY WORTH?

How companies cut costs in scary ways to sell you cheap floaties.

When we opened the neck float deliveries shipped directly from China, we could instantly feel the difference. No wonder these companies can sell their neck floaties for impossibly low prices…the actual materials and the manufacturing costs including labor must be dirt cheap…

Here are the alarming differences arising from their excessive cost cutting that you should be aware of.

COST CUT 1: WEAK KNOCK-OFF VELCRO BRAND CLOSURES

Otteroo vs Generic Neck Float Tabs

The two sides of our floatie are held together by interlocking the top and bottom tabs on the buckle straps. Other cheaper alternatives use what appears to be a knock-off, thin version of VELCRO Brand fasteners. The adhesive behind the VELCRO strip and the actual non-industrial strength closure can quickly weaken with exposure to warm water, soap, sun and pool chemicals.

COST CUT 2: DIMPLY CHIN REST

Otteroo vs Generic Neck Float Chin Rest

The Otteroo has a chin rest for comfortable head stabilization. That’s why our Otteroo babies look less rigid and more comfortable in our floatie and it also helps to keep the baby’s chin and mouth above the water. We’re assuming this barely there, dimply flat surface on the knock-off version is supposed to do the same thing!?

COST CUT 3: CHINESE ONLY WARNINGS & INSTRUCTIONS

Otteroo vs Generic Neck Float Safety Info

The Otteroo has clear and simple safety instructions…unless you can read Chinese well, how do you know that you are doing the right thing?!

COST CUT 4: LOW GRADE PLASTIC

Otteroo uses certified toxin-free plastic sheets that measure in at an unusually thick 0.35mm. Watch this video of an SUV running over our product:

Most of the floats we purchased online were only 0.15mm or less. We know that doesn’t sound like much of a difference but see this video and compare with the Otteroo above:

COST CUT 5: POTENTIALLY TOXIC PLASTIC

We take it for granted that anything sold in the United States has gone through rigorous safety tests and meets safety requirements. Take for example, the Otteroo. Our floatie has been tested by a CPSC-accredited lab and has been confirmed to meet all U.S. requirements. This means that tests have shown that Otteroos are free of all phthalates and lead. 

Phthalates and lead are two of the U.S. banned toxins that are still commonly found in imported toys, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system.

As for phthalates, which is still used in countries such as China to produce plastic products, researchers have linked it to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, and male fertility issues.

Yikes! So how can these regulated ingredients still be included in products that you can buy?

COST CUT 6: WHY THEY DIRECT SHIP FROM CHINA

When something is shipped directly from China or other countries with less product regulations, the seller can bypass the expensive lab tests and U.S. regulations on baby toys if they direct ship to U.S. customers.

This lack of testing costs and their use of inferior, potentially toxic plastics, make the cost of each product that much cheaper but, it also means you have no idea what your baby may be ingesting.

HOW IS ALL THIS LEGAL??

Well it’s not. But, it’s practically impossible to regulate.

One of our employees at Otteroo used to be an intelligence officer with the U.S Department of Defense (seriously). So, we put her on the case and even she couldn’t track down the companies that are selling these cheap, knock-off infant floaties, much less identify any responsible party, their suppliers, or safety certifications on the materials used.

If one of these companies is challenged for selling unsafe products, be they baby products, electronics or other products, they just pop up under another name. Over and over again.

When we were just photographing the cheap neck floats, one of the safety straps fell off the flotation device! Imagine how difficult it would be to contact the company to ask them for a replacement…

HOW CHEAP FLOATS ARE SOLD

So, one might think that avoiding any foreign-sounding company can resolve this issue, right? Stick with a retail brand name you know…?! Wrong!

When you search for neck floats, these products from Walmart come up:

Generic Floats on Walmart.com

It makes it seem as if Walmart trusts this product and carries it on their shelves but, that’s not the case at all. Some major retail chains in the U.S. like Walmart have online store sites with a secondary, open market shopping place. They link to various sellers’ products with no way for you to tell where this product is coming from or if they have been tested or have toxins in their plastics!

We get it. You have the option to buy an Otteroo or the cheap neck float for a fraction of the price.

We just want to remind you, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Stick with quality, reputable products sold by U.S. based companies that you can contact if you have questions or problems. Your baby’s safety and well-being are definitely worth it!

Julie Forbes

Julie Forbes

Julie Kroenig Forbes graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She spent the next 10 years working as a news anchor and reporter in various cities, most recently in Nashville, Tennessee. She now lives in Northern California with her husband and four kids.
Julie Forbes

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