A child's death by injuries from a Peloton® Tread+™ has led the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to warn against using the popular at-home treadmill.
Citing "dozens" of previous reports of "children becoming entrapped, pinned, and pulled under the rear roller of the product," the agency is calling for all households with children and pets to stop using the equipment immediately.
This death is the second known safety incident involving a child and the Tread+ this year, following an accident in February that resulted in the severe injuries of a 3-year-old. No Peloton injury lawsuits have yet been filed concerning these incidents, but Peloton is now clashing with the CPSC over whether its treadmills need to be taken off the market.
CPSC Begins an Investigation into 'Serious Risks'
The first signs of danger with the Tread+ treadmill came from a safety warning from Peloton itself, in response to the child's death.
Said Peloton CEO John Foley in a letter to customers posted on the company's website:
“I’m reaching out to you today because I recently learned about a tragic accident involving a child and the Tread+, resulting in, unthinkably, a death. While we are aware of only a small handful of incidents involving the Tread+ where children have been hurt, each one is devastating to all of us at Peloton, and our hearts go out to the families involved.”
Foley continued, acknowledging that Peloton builds all of its products with safety in mind, but reports filed with the CPSC suggest more serious flaws in the Tread+ than previously believed.
Cases of exercise balls and other objects being pulled underneath the machine's rear roller were risky enough to those using the machine. But the cases involving small children and pets have resulted in serious injuries, including broken bones and head trauma.
The CPSC "believes the Peloton Tread+ poses serious risks to children for abrasions, fractures, and death," the agency stated in a press release, published alongside disturbing video footage of a child being pulled under the heavy machine before freeing himself.
Sadly, the separate February incident involving the 3-year-old child did not end so well.
The child's father found him trapped underneath the treadmill, not breathing. He “was found to have tread marks on his back matching the slats of the treadmill, neck injury, and petechiae on his face, presumably from occlusion of blood flow,” but was resuscitated, and now has significant brain injury, according to a CPSC report.
The CPSC has been criticized in the past for failing to take aggressive action against products with lethal risks to children. In the case of the child who died as a result of Tread+ injuries, the CPSC took the unusual step of issuing an administrative subpoena to Peloton, requiring the company to disclose the child's name and details to support the agency's investigation.
Peloton responded in a statement that it would not share additional information out of respect for the family and their privacy. Meanwhile, in his letter, Foley appealed to his customers — saying the need to take safety precautions is "especially true during what I hope is the final stretch of the pandemic where everyone is still at home."
Peloton® "Refutes CPSC Claims" amid Rising Treadmill Sales
Peloton Interactive, a $34 Billion New York City-based company best known for its stationary bicycles, introduced the Tread+ treadmill in 2018 with a hefty price tag of $4,295.
Over the past year, use of the company's costly home-workout equipment has soared due to the pandemic as Americans try to stay fit while stuck at home. Foley, believing that "the future of fitness is in the home," reported in June 2020 that Peloton's total revenue had grown 172% compared to the same quarter a year before.
Yet the "dozens" of incidents concerning Tread+ wouldn't be the first to get CPSC's attention.
In October 2020, just as competitor NordicTrack brought a lawsuit against Peloton for patent infringement, Peloton agreed to recall about 27,000 of its bikes for safety reasons. In bikes purchased nationwide between 2013 and 2016, the pedals could break unexpectedly, according to the company's reports — 16 of which resulted in leg injuries, with 5 requiring medical care.
The same fate is not so certain for the treadmill. In response to CPSC's warning, reads a statement posted on Peloton's Investor Relations site:
"The company is troubled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) unilateral press release about the Peloton Tread+ because it is inaccurate and misleading. There is no reason to stop using the Tread+, as long as all warnings and safety instructions are followed."
According to The Washington Post, a Peloton spokeswoman stood firm that the company "does not believe a recall is necessary," citing the CEO's "urgent reminder" to customers about the Tread+ safety instructions.
Customers were reminded to keep the safety key out of reach and to keep children, pets and objects clear of the treadmill at all times.
At-Home Treadmills: Risky until Proven Faulty?
The potential for children to get hurt by home exercise equipment is well known.
U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated more than 68,000 people with injuries related to exercise equipment in 2019, according to the latest available CPSC data. This includes an estimated 2,000 treadmill-related injuries in children under 8 and 17 deaths associated with treadmills from 2018 to 2020, one involving a 5-year-old child.
And a 2020 article in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine argues that the risk could grow as more people set up their own home gyms.
How many of those gyms could include a Peloton treadmill? It remains to be seen. The CPSC would need Peloton's cooperation to recall the product, unless (as in rare cases) the agency sues to force the issue.
No word yet on whether CPSC will bring legal action, but as its investigation unfolds, the warning is clear: The Peloton Tread+ can kill.