Consumer safety agency asks Airbnb, others to issue warnings on home elevators following child's death

Consumer safety agency asks Airbnb, others to issue warnings on home elevators following child's death
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The federal agency responsible for consumer product safety on Tuesday sent a letter to Airbnb, Vrbo and other vacation rental companies urging them to issue warnings and take other measures to address safety issues associated with some home elevators.  

The request from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) comes after a 7-year-old died earlier this month after apparently getting crushed by an elevator installed in a beach rental house in North Carolina. 

The CPSC, which days before the child’s death filed a lawsuit against a company that previously manufactured home elevators tied to a number of child deaths and injuries, said Tuesday that vacation rental companies can help prevent further accidents. 

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Robert Adler, acting chairman of the CPSC, said in the letter to the companies that residential elevators “can pose a deadly but unforeseen hazard to children, particularly children who are encountering them in vacation or rental homes.” 

The overwhelming issue reported among residential elevators is a gap that may exist between its exterior door and the inner door, which, if large enough, a small child can slip through and become stuck. 

Adler noted in the Tuesday letter that children as young as 2 years old “have been crushed to death in this gap, suffering multiple skull fractures, fractured vertebrae and traumatic asphyxia.” 

“Other children have suffered horrific and lifelong injuries,” he added, noting that the hazard “can be addressed by having a qualified elevator inspector examine the home elevator for this dangerous gap and other potential safety hazards.” 

“Dangerous gaps can be made safer by placing space guards on the back of the hoistway door or installing an electronic monitoring device that deactivates the elevator when a child is detected in the gap,” Adler continued, noting that “these fixes are relatively inexpensive and can save lives.” 

The letter said that vacation rental platforms are “in the unique position to have direct contact information for both owners and renters of vacation homes.”

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Adler specifically asked that the rental companies “immediately notify all renters who use your platform of this potential hazard via email or in a warning box on their reservation or booking pages” and require that anyone posing a listing on the platform going forward conduct an inspection of any home elevators. 

The agency chair also requested that the companies “immediately require all members or ‘hosts’ using your platform to lock outer access doors or otherwise disable the elevators in their properties unless and until those members provide proof of an inspection to certify that no hazardous gap exists.” 

“By working together, we can stop these agonizing deaths and prevent further harm to children and families,” Adler added. 

Vrbo told ABC News in a statement Tuesday that it will "soon share important elevator safety information with property owners who have residential elevators,” and Airbnb said it was reviewing the CPSC letter.