We have written in prior issues on safety concerns relating to baby cribs. However, we believe that this subject deserves another look. Most folks would agree that cribs are supposed to keep babies safe. But federal regulators have become alarmed by a rash of safety problems over the past two years that have required millions of cribs to be recalled by several companies. At least 13 children have died in cribs and bassinets recalled by just one manufacturer, Simplicity Inc. On July 2nd, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of 400,000 Simplicity drop-side cribs because they pose a risk of suffocation. The plastic hardware can break or deform, creating a potentially deadly gap between the drop side and the crib mattress, federal officials said. Simplicity is out of business.
This is the latest in a series of Simplicity recalls, prompting CPSC officials to urge consumers, day care providers, thrift store operators and online sellers to make sure they don’t have any of the dangerous products. Similar hazards have been found in cribs made by more than a dozen other companies, according to federal records. Since 2007, more than 4.6 million cribs have been recalled. It’s likely many of them are still in homes without needed repairs simply because product recalls often have limited effectiveness.
Beyond deaths caused by Simplicity products, CPSC says there have been dozens of deaths associated with drop-side cribs in recent years. According to CPSC, modern crib hazards mainly fall into three categories:
• Drop sides on cribs that don’t stay on their tracks, creating dangerous gaps because of failed or missing parts, improper assembly or wear and tear. Recalls include two in October involving drop-side cribs made by Delta Enterprise Corp. The potential for missing safety pegs in 985,000 of the cribs and spring-peg failure in 600,000 cribs create a risk for dangerous gaps along the drop side. The recalls were announced after the death of an eight-month-old child who suffocated when the drop side detached in a crib reassembled without safety pegs.
• Mattress support failures, where one or multiple corner mattress supports break. This creates a dangerous gap where a child can become entrapped and suffocate. Recalls include one in January involving 535,000 Stork Craft cribs with metal mattress support brackets that can crack and break. The CPSC had received ten reports of the brackets breaking.
• Broken vertical side slats or spindles that create gaps where babies can get stuck. Recalls include three announced between June 2008 and April by Jardine Enterprises involving more than 470,000 cribs with slats that can break or fall out of their rails. As of April, the CPSC had received more than 90 reports of slats breaking, including six cases where children became entrapped in the gap created by the break. Three incidents resulted in minor injury, bumps and scrapes, the agency said.
Drop-side cribs, which allow caregivers to take children in and out without reaching over a high railing, have been very popular in recent years. But in the wake of safety concerns, Toys “R” Us has stopped placing orders for drop-side cribs and expects to no longer carry them by year’s end.
Because of problems with durability and concern that current crib standards, which are largely voluntary ones developed by ASTM International, aren’t enough to protect children, the CPSC is considering greater regulation. But any changes will likely be months away. Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a leading national crib safety advocacy group had this to say:
Most parents assume if a store is selling it, that someone must have made sure that it was made to be safe. One of the things in this country that should be tested and safe ought to be a child’s sleeping environment.
Parents and caregivers shouldn’t assume that the cribs they’re using are safe — even if they’ve been purchased recently. The CPSC’s Web site details more than 20 recalls involving millions of cribs just in the past two years. Dozens of additional recalls have occurred. The CPSC is urging consumers to be especially on the lookout for numerous Simplicity nursery products, including cribs and bassinets, that have been involved in recalls since 2005. In most cases, the recalls involve specific models and dates of manufacture. For full details on all crib recalls, go to www.cpsc.gov or call 800-638-2772.
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