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Death of the Drop-Side Crib Following Recall

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, November 24, 2009 11:14 AM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Crib Recalls, Baby Products, CPSC, Drop-Side Cribs, Strangulation, Suffocation, Stork Craft, Simplicity, Graco

Drop-side cribs will be phased out by the manufacturers.

CPSC Not Acting Quickly Enough


IMAGE SOURCE: CPSC Web site/ image of trapped infant in drop-side crib

The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission admits that the federal agency has not been acting as quickly as it should on defective cribs.

This follows the recall of more than 2.1 million Stork Craft Manufacturing Cribs following four infant suffocations and five million crib recalls over the past two years.

Interviewed on the morning new shows, Chairman Inez Tenenbaum pledged the CPSC would do better and act “firmly but fairly” to enforce the new law giving regulators more authority to police manufacturers.

Tenenbaum says she has just been on the job a few months and this case recently came in front of her.

But for years drop-side cribs have been a focus of critical consumer advocates. The drop-side design allow one side to detach from the crib and slide down to more easily remove the baby. Besides suffocations, there have been 110 incidents of the drop-side actually detaching from the crib.

Asked if parents should abandon the ones they presently have, Tenenbaum said yes. Consumers can also order plastic kits from the crib maker to immobilize crib sides.

Tenenbaum said she doubted there was a future for drop-side cribs. “The commission will write regulation in the next few months and we will look at this issue about drop-sides she said.

“But I don’t think drop-sides will be part of cribs in the future.”

The organization that set voluntary safety standards for the crib industry, approved a new standard just last week that required four fixed sides for full-side cribs, meaning that four-side cribs will no longer be manufactured.

Why are these ever made in the first place?

Nancy Cowles, of Kids in Danger, tells AP the agency must include more rigorous testing for cribs and their durability. “Parents should be able to trust that their child is safe in their crib,” said Cowles.

The Resale Market

The problem is in the resale market. Thousands of cribs sold in garage sales, second-hand stores, and hand-me down cribs are never recalled and are being used every day.

With more than 5 million crib recalls in recent years, you should know if yours is on the list.

November 20092.1 million cribs by Stork Craft Manufacturing of Canada recalled including 1.2 in the U.S. and 1 million in Canada. Cribs were sold back in 1993. Nearly 150,000 carry the Fisher-Price logo. Besides suffocation, Stork Craft have had problems with hardware that breaks or is missing and some are assembled incorrectly by owners which can cause the mattress to become wedged in an open space as well as the child. Cribs were sold in Sears, Wal-Mart, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Target online, and Costco. Made in Canada, China and Indonesia.

January 2009 - Stork Craft - 500,000 cribs were recalled because of problems with metal brackets that support the mattress. Also the Stork Craft brand and some of the same models were part of Monday’s announcement.

August 2008Simplicity Bassinet recall due to strangulation hazard. Six retailers agreed to stop the sale of the baby sleeping bed. Nearly 900,000 of the convertible close-sleeper/bedside sleeper bassinets were included. The recall followed the strangulation august 21, 2008 of a six month old girl from Shawnee , Kansas.

October 2007Simplicity full-size crib recall of more than one million, the largest recall in history at the time. The cribs were made by Simplicity between 1998 and 2007 and carry the Simplicity-made Graco brand name. A design flaw has resulted in the deaths of three children who became entrapped when a drop-rail was installed upside down, separated from the crib and leaving a gap the child can fall into and suffocate. The CPSC reports that the design flaw has also entrapped seven children and resulted in more than 50 “incidents” reported to the CPSC.

When the government announced the largest ever recall of full sized cribs in September 2007, parents had no idea that complaints had been coming in about the Simplicity-made cribs for years.

It was only on the eve of a Chicago Tribune investigation linking Simplicity (and Simplicity made Graco) cribs to the deaths of three children, seven trapped children and at least 55 complaints—that one million of the full-size cribs were “voluntarily” recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The CPSC and the Notorious 6 (b)

In the early 1970’s the Consumer Product Safety Commission was given the authority to impose mandatory safety standards, a recall and ultimately a ban on unsafe products. But that was the non-controversial nature of consumer protection more than 30 years ago.

All of that changed around the time Ronald Reagan became president in 1980. The climate was “get government off our backs.” At Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman, wanted to entirely abolish the CPSC.

In 1981, the CPSC was amended. It would no longer be able to promulgate a “mandatory” safety standard.

Today manufacturers of 15,000 products –everything from lawnmowers to tires and baby cribs have the option to conduct a “voluntary recall” of faulty products. That means that the agency can avoid costly and time consuming litigation.

CPSC’s Scott Wolfson, told IB News last year that the voluntary recall system has allowed the commission to conduct 472 recalls in 2007 alone. “That allows us to carry out more recalls in a given year than if we had to compel,” he says.

Then there’s, what Public Citizen calls the “notorious” 6(b) statute which governs how the commission disseminates product safety information to the public.

Former Commissioner Anne Graham says, “You know there is a problem, but you (as a commissioner) can’t tell anybody about it until you go through the staff and you contact the industry. I’m not against trying to cooperate with industry but CPSC should not sit on something for a year when they are almost 99% sure there is a problem.”

And section 6 (b) of the CPSC gives manufacturers the right to withhold information for thirty days or longer. The manufacturer has the right to approve whether or not information is released and can bring lawsuits against the CPSC to prevent disclosure of any information enclosed in a product notice.

Revised in 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 amends section 6 (b), shortening the time periods for notice from 30 to 15 days and shortened the time from 10 to five days that the Commission had to notify a company of its intent to disclose information over a problem. #

1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Alan Schoem
Tuesday, November 24, 2009 6:22 PM EST

You state "In 1981, the CPSC was amended. It would no longer be able to promulgate a “mandatory” safety standard." This is inacurate. CPSC could and did promulgate mandatory standards after 1981. In 1981 the law was amended to require CPSC to defer to voluntary industry standards if the voluntary standard adequately addressed the unreaonable risk of injury identifed by CPSC and there was substantial compliance with the voluntary standard. If both requiremetns were not met, CPSC could and did issue mandatory standards.

You state that manufacturers have the option to conduct voluntary recalls as if that were a bad outcome. When companies conduct "voluntary" recalls they do so in part because they know CPSC can compel a recall if it can prove that a product is defective and creates a substantial risk of injury. Voluntary recalls are approved by the CPSC compliance staff which must approve all aspects of the recall. If CPSC had to litigate to achieve realls, there would only be a handful conducted each year and litigation can take years. Having siad that, when Ann Brown was Chairman, CPSC filed approximatley 10 lawsuits to compel recalls.

Voluntary recalls under the auspices of the CPSC accomplish what CPSC would accomplish through litgation. And now that the CPSIA allows the CPSC to determine the corrective action rather than the company, CPSC's hand is strengthened considerably.

Finally, your characterizationof section 6(b) is inaccurate. Manufacturers do not have the right to approve of disclosures. CPSC is required to give manufacturers advance notice and an opportunity to commnet on disclosures from which the company can be readily identified but they cannot prohibit disclosure unless a court agrees that the information to be disclosed is inaccurate or misleading or fails to effectuate the CPSC's purposes. The CPSC ha the right to find that the public helath and safey requires immediate disclosure and to reduce the time for advance notice-to minutes if it chose to do so.

In the past 10 years, I don't beleive there have been lawsuits under Section 6(b) seeking to prevent CPSC disclosure of information. CPSC has always had the tools and authority to disclose important product safety information.

Comments for this article are closed.

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