Drop-Side Cribs Tied to Deaths Will Be Banned, U.S. Safety Regulator Says

Drop-side cribs are “deadly hazards” linked to the deaths of at least 32 infants since January 2000, according to U.S. regulators who plan to ban the design.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating several manufacturers for crib-design hazards after announcing 11 recalls for more than 7 million drop-side beds in the past five years, according to a statement today.

The agency will ban manufacture of this type of crib as part of a regulation on infant-bed design that will be completed this year, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg’s Washington office.

“We’re working the whole crib thing to make sure the new standards address all of the issues we’ve seen in cribs over the last few years,” Tenenbaum said. “We’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing is not to have a drop-side.”

Drop-side cribs are popular with parents because one side can be raised or lowered on tracks, providing easier access to the bed. Infants can suffocate or be strangled when the hardware fails and a side detaches, creating a gap. The statement warned “parents and caregivers about deadly hazards with drop-side cribs.”

The CPSC said 32 deaths were caused or related to drop-side cribs in the past 10 years. An additional 14 reports of infant fatalities resulting from entrapment may be related to the design, although evidence is insufficient, it said.

A proposed regulation on crib design will require stronger wood and more rigorous tests of the hardware, Tenenbaum said. A voluntary standard banning the cribs, taking effect June 1, has prompted companies to stop selling the models, the agency said.

Better Designs

Recalls of drop-side cribs showed a need for better designs, Tenenbaum said. The plastic in some models didn’t survive the frequent motion by parents raising and lowering the side of the crib, she said.

“Drop-side hardware is prone to break, deform or experience other problems during normal or foreseeable use,” the agency said in its warning today. “The older the crib, the more problems can be expected.”

The regulator is working with industry groups such as ASTM International, which helps to develop standards, to make sure its rules are up-to-date, Tenenbaum said. On cribs, manufacturers following a revised voluntary standard will stop selling drop-side models in the U.S. on June 1, the CPSC said today. Many companies have already stopped selling them, the agency said.

“What we’ve found with cribs and other products is if you want to do a recall you have to negotiate one-on-one with each company,” Tenenbaum said. “We’ve had so many companies with defects on the drop-side cribs” that a warning is necessary.

C&T, Stork Craft

C&T International/Sorelle recalled 170,000 cribs yesterday after reports of bruising and abrasions. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Babies R Us recalled cribs with tubular metal mattress supports on April 29 after the agency received 13 reports of collapses and a death from suffocation.

Stork Craft Manufacturing Inc., a closely held company in British Columbia, recalled 2.1 million cribs on Nov. 23 after four infants became trapped and suffocated, the safety agency said. Simplicity Inc. recalled 400,000 cribs in July, the agency said.

Regulators stopped short of saying all drop-side models are hazardous. Even so, the design is “more prone to mechanical failure than similar designed fixed-side cribs,” the agency said.

Parents should check their cribs’ hardware and joints regularly, the CPSC said. Older cribs and those that have been assembled and reassembled repeatedly are more likely to have damage or missing parts, it said. Over time, wood can warp or shrink and glue can become brittle, leading to joint or slat failures.

Standards Met

All new cribs sold in the U.S. meet minimum government safety standards and performance requirements set by industry, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association said in a November statement, following the Stork Craft recall.

The association “believes that instead of alarming parents, we should work together to educate them about the importance of the proper use, assembly and reassembly of cribs and how to provide the safest sleep environment for a child,” Mike Dwyer, the group’s executive director, said in the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net.

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