May 24, 2010

Congress Mulls Drop-side Crib Ban

Congress is getting involved in efforts to phase out the use of drop-side cribs following the death of a 6-month-old boy who got his head trapped between the mattress and the malfunctioning side rail and suffocated, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Bobby Cirigliano was one of at least 32 infants and toddlers since 2000 that suffocated or were strangled in a drop-side crib.

Drop-side cribs have one side that moves up and down to allow parents to lift children from the crib with ease. Drop-sides have been around for decades and probably slept in by many of today's parents. They are suspected of an additional 14 infant deaths during that time.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates cribs, has warned about the problem in the past. Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the agency, has pledged to ban the manufacture and sale of drop-side cribs by the end of the year and create the standard that would make fixed-side cribs mandatory. Although, it could take more than a year for a law to take effect on the issue.

The industry has already started phasing out drop-sides and some retailers such as Wal-Mart and Babies R Us have stopped selling them. Yet they are still sold widely over the Internet, and that is part of the reason Congress is getting involved.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in an interview with AP, "There is a great urgency here. We have to make sure that no parent is unaware that drop-side cribs could kill their children."

Gillibrand plans to introduce legislation this week to outlaw the manufacture, sale and resale of all drop-side cribs and ban them from day-care centers and hotels. Parents need to know they should be concerned, and she is pushing for Congress or the CPSC to highlight concerns that all parents should be alerted of the dangers.

"There still are thousands and thousands of children who are sleeping every night in drop-side cribs and we need to protect them," Gillibrand added.

She outlined her bill at a news conference in New York on Sunday, joined by Bobby Cirigliano's parents and the family of 10-month-old Tyler Witte, who died in a drop-side crib in 1997.

More than 7 million drop-side cribs have been recalled in the past five years, often due to screws, safety pegs, or plastic tracking for the rail can come loose or break. The industry insists that drop-sides that have not been recalled are safe for babies.

"We believe firmly that when these products are assembled and used properly, they are the safest place to put your child," said Mike Dwyer, director of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which represents over 90 percent of the crib industry.

Dwyer says manufacturers have seen instances where parents installed the drop-side improperly, sometimes upside down, or they have reassembled a crib for a second or third child with some of the screws or other pieces missing.

Two New York counties -- Nassau and Suffolk -- have banned the sale of drop-sides.

Although the industry has started phasing out production of drop-sides, there are plenty of new and used drop-sides for sale online. The Associated Press found drop-sides for purchase on websites for Sears, Kmart and Amazon. Craigslist also had scores of used drop-side cribs for sale.

The industry does not have figures on how many drop-sides might still be on the market, but Dwyer says the percentage is low.

A ban won't come soon enough for Bobby Cirigliano's parents though and the dozens of other parents who lost their children due to malfunctioning drop-side cribs.


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