Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) calls for strengthened safety standards
at the Jan. 21 house subcommittee hearing on crib safety. He
urged that stronger safety standards also be included in trade
agreements. The majority of recently recalled cribs were
manufactured overseas.

WASHINGTON, DC – Responding to the recall of more than 7 million cribs, including more than one dozen tied to children’s deaths in the past three years, Capitol Hill is taking a greater interest in pressing for stricter safety standards.

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a Jan. 21 hearing on "Crib Safety: Assessing the Need for Better Oversight," which included testimony from Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, representatives of two non-profit groups and the parents of a child who died in a crib back in 2004.

Tennenbaum called crib safety a “personal priority of mine. Parents across the country expect cribs to be a sanctuary for their children, regardless of that crib’s price or size. I share this belief and have made crib safety a cornerstone of my work as chairman of the CPSC. Tenenbaum noted that CPSC’s mandatory crib standards have not been revised since 1982 and explained why that is the case. “Until that section was revised by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the commission was generally required to rely on any voluntary standard that was ‘likely to result in the elimination or adequate reduction of the risk or injury’ and where it was ‘likely that there would be substantial compliance with this standard’.”

In December 2009, Tenenbaum said CPSC published a restriction of drop-side cribs and new slat strength requirements.

“In light or recent recalls … I have directed CPSC staff to accelerate – to the maximum extent possible – the rulemaking for (cribs).”

KID chief calls for drop-side crib ban
Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger (KID), said her group was formed in 1998 after the death of a couple’s son “in a poorly designed, inadequately tested and finally recalled portable crib.”

Cowles pointed out that most of the cribs recalled since 2007 were certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Assn. (JPMA), which references ASTM standards and mandatory federal standards. “Many were recalled for hardware failures and drop-side failures, but some were recalled for clear violations of the current mandatory standard – painted with lead paint or not meeting the required dimensions to keep a baby safely contained in the product. If manufacturers are making cribs that don’t meet standards that can be confirmed with a tape measure and lead testing swab, it is not surprising that their designs lead to hardware failures that cause entrapments and deaths.”

Among other things, Cowles urged creation of a new standard that would ban drop side design cribs, require mandatory durability or “racking tests,” address wood slat strength and ensure clarity of assembly instructions.

Manufacturers ‘focus on improving safety’
Michael Dwyer, CAE, executive director of the JPMA, said the 250 members of this North American-wide association are committed to infant product safety. The group currently certifies 20 product categories, including bassinets/cradles, cribs and toddler beds.
Dwyer testified that each of the JPMA’s voluntary certification programs include independent third-party testing by CPSC-accredited laboratories. He said his group has recently made efforts to strengthen crib slat integrity drop-side failure issues through its ASTM crib subcommittee. “Our members’ efforts resulted in a modified voluntary standard which incorporates a new crib slat integrity test and the elimination of traditional drop-side mechanisms. That updated standard has just been published.”

Dwyer added, “Not all recalls occur because of a violation of a regulation or product standard. In addition, recalls do not account for certain factors typically not measurable in a lab, such as unintended use, improper assembly and excessive wear and tear over time. Most of the reported fatalities with cribs involve multi-use or heirloom cribs that may not have been properly maintained or assembled. Other heirloom cribs handed down do not meet current or recent safety standards.”

Mother of deceased child press for drop side ban
Susan Cirigliano testified on behalf of herself and her husband, Robert, about how their six-month-old son, Bobby, suffocated after the drop side rail detached, entrapping the infant’s head between the side rail and the mattress.

“While we are happy to hear about the millions of crib recalls, we are convinced that the only answer is a complete ban on drop side cribs.”

The Ciriglianos worked with legislators in Suffolk County, NY, that resulted in what is believed to be the nation’s first municipal ban on drop side cribs. The couple said they are working with other local governments to do the same.

Read complete testimonies.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.