WASHINGTON -- The head of the Consumer Product SafetyCommission conceded Tuesday the agency "hasn't been acting asquickly as it should" on crib safety problems.
Interviewed on morning news shows in the wake of thelargest-ever recall of cribs, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum pledged thatthe CPSC would "firmly but fairly" enforce a law Congress passedlast year giving regulators greater authority to police theindustry.
More than 2.1 million drop-side cribs by Stork CraftManufacturing of Canada are being recalled following reports offour infant suffocations. The CPSC said the recall involves 1.2million cribs in the United States and almost 1 million in Canada,where Stork Craft is based. Sales of the cribs being recalled goback to 1993 and nearly 150,000 of the cribs carry the Fisher-Pricelogo.
The agency said the drop-side cribs have a side that moves upand down to allow parents to lift children from the cribs moreeasily. It also said there have been 110 incidents of drop-sidesdetaching from the cribs.
Asked Tuesday whether people should abandon such cribs,Tenenbaum said she recommends that. And she said consumers alsocould order plastic kits from the manufacturer to immobilize cribsides.
"The commission will write regulations in the next few monthsand we will look at this issue about drop-sides," Tenenbaum said."But I don't think drop-sides will be a part of cribs in thefuture."
The Stork Craft cribs have had problems with their hardware,which can break, deform or become missing after years. CPSC saidthere can also be problems with assembly mistakes by the cribowner. These problems can cause the drop-side to detach, creating adangerous space between the drop-side and the crib mattress, wherea child can become trapped.
The cribs, which were manufactured and distributed betweenJanuary 1993 and October 2009, were sold at major retailersincluding BJ's Wholesale Club, Sears and Wal-Mart stores and onlinethrough Target and Costco. They sold for between $100 and $400, andwere made in Canada, China and Indonesia.
Calls to Stork Craft were not immediately returned.
This is the second big recall this year for the company. Itrecalled about 500,000 cribs in January because of problems withthe metal brackets that support the mattress. Some of the samemodels in the earlier recall were also part of Monday'sannouncement, CPSC said.
Tenenbaum was asked why federal regulators hadn't stepped insooner.
"We have just not been acting as quickly as we should have atthe Consumer Product Safety Commission on these types ofincidents," she replied. "I have just been appointed a few monthsago to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission and this casecame in front of me just a few weeks ago."
Consumer advocates have complained for years about drop-sidecribs. More than 5 million of them have been recalled over the pasttwo years alone - recalls that were associated with the deaths of adozen young children.
ASTM International, an organization that sets voluntary industrysafety standards for everything from toys to the steel used incommercial buildings, approved a new standard last week thatrequires four immovable, or fixed, sides for full-size cribs -essentially eliminating the manufacture of drop-side cribs.
CPSC is also considering new rules for making cribs safer andcould adopt the ASTM voluntary standard as a mandatory one,outright banning the cribs.
Nancy Cowles, executive director of Chicago-based Kids InDanger, said the agency must include more rigorous testing for cribdurability. "Parents should be able to trust that their child issafe in their crib," said Cowles.
Toys"R"Us started phasing out drop-side cribs earlier thisyear and will no longer carry them next month.
In the Stork Craft recall, the manufacture date, model number,crib name, country of origin, and the firm's name, address andcontact information are located on the assembly instruction sheetattached to the mattress support board. The firm's insignia"storkcraft baby" or "storkling" is inscribed on the drop-sideteething rail of some cribs.
Consumers can contact the company, 877-274-0277, to order the free repair kit, or log on to http://www.storkcraft.com.
On the Net: Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.govCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times