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In Wake of Massive Crib Recall, CPSC Considering new Rules

Oct 21, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Following yesterday's announcement by Delta Enterprise Corp. that it was issuing a massive crib recall following the deaths of two infants, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) said it is considering changing its rules covering crib defects.  According to the agency, it was prompted to consider rule changes after its Early Warning System  identified concerns with the durability of cribs, especially those with drop sides that can disengage and lead to dangers of entrapment and strangulation.

It's not surprising that defective cribs have gotten the attention of the CPSC, as it certainly seems that crib recalls are becoming routine.  Last night, Delta Enterprises announced it was recalling for repair 1.6 million drop side cribs for strangulation and entrapment hazards after they were implicated in the deaths of two 8-month old infants.  Last week, Playkids USA of Brooklyn, New York recalled 2000 portable cribs  following the death of a 5-month-old child.  The baby suffocated to death in August after becoming entrapped between the mattress and the drop side rail of the convertible crib.

In August, dozens of retailers recalled defective Simplicity bassinets that were implicated in the deaths of two children.  The CPSC had to ask retailers to recall the Simplicity bassinets because the defective cribs were manufactured before Simplicity Inc. was acquired by SFCA Inc. When it acquired Simplicity, SFCA bought the right to sell products under the Simplicity brand but did not take legal responsibility for products made under its previous owners.

In addition to the August bassinet recall, Simplicity recalled 1 million cribs in September 2007.  Until yesterday's Delta Enterprise announcement, the 2007 Simplicity recall had been the largest crib recall in US history.  

All of these recalls have involved defective hardware.  According to the CPSC, cribs with drop sides are the type most likely to experience hardware problems. They contain more moving parts and have more non-rigid connections than static, or non-drop side cribs. In many cases the drop side corners disengage from the tracks located on the crib ends, or safety stops become nonfunctional permitting the drop side to detach from the crib. These types of defects are often undetected by parents or caregivers and can worsen when the baby pushes or leans against the side of the crib.  

In a press release, the CPSC said while its mandatory and voluntary crib standards have succeeded in preventing many deaths and injuries, its staff believes the performance requirements can be strengthened to deal with the problems identified by the Early Warning System. Therefore, agency staff will be recommending that the Commission vote to issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed (ANPR) rulemaking to examine and assess potential design and durability issues and possible mandatory performance requirements to prevent future entrapments and strangulations to children. If approved, the ANPR will seek input and information about hardware systems, other hardware issues, assembly and instructional problems and wood quality/strength issues for cribs with both stationary and drop side construction.

While the CPSC works on its rule changes, it is advising parents and children of steps they can take to make sure their children are safe.  According to the CPSC:

  • Parents should not use any crib with missing, broken or loose parts.
  • Hardware should be inspected from time to time and tightened to keep the crib sturdy.
  • When using a drop side crib parents should check to make sure the drop side or any other moving part operates smoothly on its track.
  • Always check all sides and corners of the crib for disengagement. Any disengagement can create a gap and entrap a child.
  • Do not try to repair any side of the crib without manufacturer approved hardware or with tape, wire or rope.
  • Putting a broken side up against the wall does not solve the problem and can often make it worse.

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