Consumer agency votes to prohibit drop-side cribs
After 153 infant deaths in the last four years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission moved Wednesday to ban drop-side cribs, jumpstarting the agency’s biggest overhaul of baby bed regulations in almost three decades.
“There have been improvements in voluntary standards over the years,” commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said. “But this will be mandatory federal law.”
The commissioners voted 5 to 0 for stricter safety standards for mattress supports and a ban on drop-side cribs. The decision comes after the recall of 9 million such cribs since 2007 by various companies because of the risk of strangulation, while low-quality mattresses pose a suffocation threat. Regulations are expected to be finalized at the end of 2010 and go into effect early next year, Wolfson said.
The popular drop-side cribs enable parents to raise and lower one side on tracks, providing easier access to the bed and minimizing back stress when picking up and setting down children. If a crib malfunctions and the side goes off-track, or if the crib is assembled incorrectly, a baby could suffocate by slipping into the resulting gap.
The proposed regulations “will provide much-needed protection to children from the harms and dangers associated with crib failures,” commission Chairwoman Inez M. Tenenbaum said in a statement. “Far too many of these failures have brought pain and suffering that no parent should ever experience.
Crib manufacturers, retailers, child-care centers and other businesses that will be affected have 75 days, a timeline started Wednesday, to provide feedback on the proposed regulations, Wolfson said.
Once the standards become law, businesses would have six months to dispose of banned cribs and buy ones that meet the tighter regulations.
“If there was an influx of comments that tended to call for additional time, though,” Wolfson said, “we would take that into serious consideration.”
The commission plans to use social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube and its own blogs to trumpet to parents the dangers of putting infants in drop-side cribs. Other safety hazards the agency plans to highlight include soft bedding and broken slats due to poor wood quality. All can lead to suffocation or falls.
Seven firms, including Million Dollar Baby, Jardine Enterprises and LaJobi Inc., voluntarily recalled more than 2 million drop-side cribs last month, providing consumers with free repair kits to immobilize the moveable sides.
Until the mid-1990s, drop-side crib sales made up about half the infant bed market in the U.S., according to estimates by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Assn. After the introduction of convertible cribs, which parents can transform into juvenile beds, the market share of drop-side cribs fell to as little as 15% in 2008.