The dangers of drop-side cribs

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale
Executive director, Northeast CONTACT
Posted July 03, 2011, at 7:09 p.m.

For some time now, federal regulators have been aware that drop-side cribs pose serious hazards to babies and toddlers. Last week, the feds came a step closer to outlawing the cribs altogether.

By their original design, drop-side cribs allowed parents easier access to their babies. The downside, however, was a big one: the moveable sides often posed a hazard, trapping little ones who were able to move the side by shaking it or jumping up and down in the crib. In some cases a gap between the mattress and the side allowed children to become trapped and suffocate. Defects in manufacture or worn parts also caused problems.

Several manufacturers recalled cribs a year and a half ago (see Consumer Forum, Dec. 7, 2009). Some manufacturers offered repair kits to immobilize the sides. In the case of other manufacturers who had gone out of business, no remedy was available.

Now the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has banned the manufacture, sale or re-sale of any drop-side crib. It also stopped allowing manufacturers to re-tighten fasteners that became loose during testing. Consumer advocates had attacked this practice, reasoning that parents would be unlikely to know when to tighten screws or bolts that might be hard to see or get at.

All cribs sold in the U.S. from now on have four fixed sides. The mattress support, slats and hardware must be stronger and testing standards are stricter. The cribs should be sturdier because of improved construction and more stringent testing required under the new rules.

Not all drop-side cribs will disappear immediately. The CPSC is giving child care facilities, family child care homes and places that offer public accommodation until December 28, 2012 to stop using drop-side cribs they are currently using. The agency advises such facilities not to sell, donate or give away noncomplying cribs; it also urges that current owners disassemble drop-side cribs before discarding them.

Parents who are unable to replace their current crib are urged to:

• Check CPSC’s recall list to make sure the crib has not been recalled;

• Stop using the drop-side feature, and make sure an immobilizer is in place so the side cannot drop (these parts will vary from crib to crib);

• Check all the crib hardware often and make sure there are no missing or broken parts.

Owners of nonconforming cribs should not try to re-sell them through online auctions, thrift stores, yard sales or other ways. This includes cribs with immobilizers, since they won’t meet the new standards.

A CPSC website offers a history of crib recalls and a summary of the new standards (www.cpsc.gov/info/cribs). Another site lists questions and answers on continued use of drop-side cribs (www.cpsc.gov/onsafety; you’ll need to scroll down the page to find the crib information).

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, go to http://necontact.wordpress.com, or email at contacexdir@live.com.

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