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The SPSC Gets Tough With Defective Cribs

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Washington, DCPerhaps the latest crib recall is a sign that the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is prepared to bare a little more teeth in its mandate to protect consumers from shoddy products. Nonetheless, parents concerned with the baby crib recall issue and the ultimate health and safety of their children will applaud the CPSC's stance, and the issuance of a crib safety recall communiqué.

Baby CribIn fact, there have been no fewer than five defective crib recalls since the CPSC implemented a new Early Warning System last fall—primarily with cribs that feature drop sides. The concern is such that the agency is not only warning parents to proactively inspect their cribs for signs of trouble before disaster happens, but is also contemplating a vote to issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed (ANPR) rulemaking, "to examine and assess potential design and durability issues and possible mandatory performance requirements to prevent future entrapments and strangulations to children," a press release from the CPSC states.

"If approved, the ANPR will seek input and information about hardware systems, other hardware issues, assembly and instructional problems and wood quality/strength issues for cribs with both stationary and drop side construction."

Cribs which benefit from robust, meticulous construction will have less chance of failure than cheaper models, many of them imports and assembled offshore. And that's the problem. Parents, or THEIR parents recall fondly that drop-cribs have been used for decades, and "if YOU were safe in this type of crib Bucko, your baby will too. And they're so convenient."

Convenient, yes—but arguably not the same crib as yesteryear. Cribs with fewer moving parts, such as those without the drop-side feature, are less likely to fail and pose a hazard, if assembled properly. However, the newer-generation cribs are another issue.

Since the fall of 2007 the CPSC has conducted recalls when it was determined that babies were at risk for strangulation or entrapment due to broken or missing hardware, or hardware that failed to function entirely. In many instances it has been found that the drop side corners can disengage from the tracks, or safety stops suddenly cease to work, allowing the drop side to completely detach from the crib.

Anyone who has experience with an active baby knows well how often a baby will pull him, or herself up using the crib side, and shake the crib in play. All the more reason to ensure that the crib is of sufficient strength, is designed and constructed well enough and constructed to withstand such activity.

And as every parent knows, disaster always happens when you're not looking.

Agency staff at the CPSC believe that crib performance requirements need to be strengthened, and is considering the next step to ensure this is carried out. In the meantime, the agency has issued a communiqué and has published safety tips for parents, or caregivers of newborns, with regard to assessing and improving the safety of all cribs.

Among them:

Cribs with missing, broken or loose parts should not be used. Hardware should be inspected from time to time and tightened to keep the crib sturdy. When using a drop side crib parents should check to make sure the drop side or any other moving part operates smoothly on its track.

The CPSC advises to always check sides and corners of the crib for disengagement. Any disengagement can create a gap and entrap a child.

Parents are admonished to avoid attempting to repair any side of the crib without manufacturer-approved hardware or with tape, wire or rope (note to fans of duct tape…)
And…putting a broken side up against the wall does not solve the problem and can often make it worse. Out of sight, out of mind does not work in this instance.

"The CPSC is committed to making sure a baby's sleep environment is as safe as possible," said Acting Chairman Nancy Nord. "It is that ongoing commitment that is driving the agency to explore new crib requirements and educate the public of the dangers associated with some cribs."

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