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U.S. to Ban Drop-Side Cribs in Infant Safety Overhaul

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, citing 153 deaths in the past four years, voted to ban drop-side cribs in the agency’s first across-the-board overhaul of regulations for infant beds in almost three decades.

“We’ve seen a number of tragedies because we had such a weak crib standard,” CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said today as the agency voted 5-0 to approve a notice of proposed rulemaking. The agency was following a mandate from Congress, she said.

A spate of company recalls involving more than 9 million drop-side cribs over five years led the government to warn parents in May to stop using the products because of suffocation and strangling risks. The new rules would ban the sale of new and used drop-side cribs and prohibit their use in hotels, day-care centers and other commercial facilities.

“The proposed rule is a very strong standard that will address all aspects of crib construction and provide an effective margin of safety,” Commissioner Nancy Nord, the CPSC’s senior Republican, said in a statement. “I do have a concern, however, about the effective date and that the retroactive nature of the” rule may have consequences.

“We certainly do not want to create a situation where people stop using cribs and place their babies to sleep in unsafe environments,” Nord said.

Pottery Barn Recall

Regulators will review public comments before making the rules final by the end of the year, Tenenbaum said. The agency last approved a comprehensive crib standard in 1982, she said.

Drop-side cribs have been popular because one side can be raised or lowered on tracks, providing parents with easier access to the bed. Infants can suffocate or be strangled when the hardware fails and a side detaches, creating a gap.

Other crib hazards involve added soft bedding, insufficient mattress support and broken slats. The agency has documented 153 crib deaths since Nov. 1, 2007, including 65 suffocations.

Williams-Sonoma Inc. (WSM)’s Pottery Barn Kids business today recalled 82,000 of the cribs for hardware than can break. The CPSC said it received 36 reports that the cribs’ drop-sides malfunctioned or detached, resulting in seven minor injuries. The cribs were sold from January 1999 through March 2010.

LaJobi Inc., owned by Kid Brands Inc. (KIDB); Bexco Enterprises Inc.’s Million Dollar Baby unit; Jardine Enterprise Ltd.; Simmons Juvenile Products, and Child Craft Industries Inc. recalled drop-side cribs in June.

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which has started a crib-safety initiative, is offering consumer information on its website. There’s a list of manufacturers and downloadable guides to safe sleep on the site, the CPSC said.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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