- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Crib makers have proposed a ban on drop-side cribs following infant deaths, injuries and a series of recalls.

Members of a committee that sets industry standards say the proposal would end production of drop-side cribs _ where one side moves up and down in order to more easily pick up and lay down a baby. Instead, it would require cribs to have four immovable sides.

Michael Dwyer, executive director of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, an industry trade group, says the proposal put forward at a meeting Tuesday outside Philadelphia would allow for about a 6-inch top rail on one side that could fold down to let shorter people or those with back troubles more easily lift a baby.

Several more votes on the proposal before ASTM International, an organization that sets voluntary industry safety standards for everything from toys to the steel used in commercial buildings, would be necessary before the ban went into effect and approval could take months.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says at least three children have died in drop-side cribs in the last 18 months and there have been five recalls involving more than 3 million cribs. The agency has received more than 200 complaints, including about 70 incidents where the drop-side came loose or off the tracks.

Consumer advocates have complained for years about the cribs because the drop-side can detach, creating a dangerous gap that can entrap and suffocate infants.

“We need to make sure that it does become part of the mandatory standard,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of Chicago-based Kids In Danger. “A crib is the one place where you need to leave a child unattended.”

Cowles says people who have drop-side cribs need to make sure they haven’t been recalled. If they have, stop using it and get the replacement parts. If there are no replacement parts, she suggests getting rid of the crib. For people with drop-sides that haven’t been recalled, she recommends keeping the drop-side in the upright position and frequently checking crib parts for stress and cracks.

Industry officials say the cribs are safe, but they decided to act after the recalls.

“When a consumer reads that there’s been an incident involving a child in a drop-side crib, it’s an emotional thing,” said Dwyer. “That builds pressure and we are responding to some of those pressures.”

Dwyer says most of the problems consumers have encountered with the cribs involved missing hardware or misassembled cribs.

The proposal to ban the cribs was first reported by the Chicago Tribune.

The ASTM committee reviewing the plan is made up of manufacturers, consumer advocates, regulators and testing labs, among others.

At the same time, the CPSC is considering new rules for making cribs safer.

“We have been troubled by the incidents we have seen associated with drop-side cribs,” said the commission’s acting head, Nancy Nord.

Any new federal rules could be several months in the making. If ASTM were to come up with a standard first, Nord said the agency could adopt it and enforce it as a mandatory standard.

CPSC plans a public meeting on the issue on April 22.

____

On the Net:

ASTM International: http://www.astm.org

Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov

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