It’s one of the biggest purchases for soon-to-be parents: a crib for baby. Beginning Tuesday, a new generation of cribs, designed to be safer, will be the only ones approved for sale in stores, online and even at neighborhood yard sales.
Ushering in one of the most significant changes in child safety in decades, the rule taking effect this week bans the manufacture, sale and resale of drop-side cribs. Drop-sides have a side rail that can be raised and lowered to allow parents to more easily place or lift a baby, but they have been blamed in the deaths of several dozen children.
Another significant part of the new federal standard mandates more rigorous safety tests for children’s cribs before they hit the market. In the past, manufacturers were allowed to retighten screws and bolts on a crib in the middle of hardware testing meant to mimic how a child might rattle a crib by jumping up and down or shaking a rail.
While the tests were intended to simulate a toddler in a crib, they don’t mimic the reality of the parent. It’s a rare parent who would know when to retighten obscure pieces of hardware on a crib during normal use by a child.
The retightening of screws and bolts during durability tests on cribs ends Tuesday, as part of the new rule approved last year by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Stronger mattress support systems and crib slats are also a major part of the new testing.
“After 30 years of having outdated standards, CPSC delivered on its promise and created the toughest crib-safety standards in the world,” said commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “Parents can now shop for a crib with confidence.”
New cribs on the market won’t really look different other than the obvious absence of a movable side that drops down. Now, all four sides will be fixed and the cribs should be sturdier because of the tougher testing requirements.
Drop-side cribs have been around for decades. But they have increasingly come under scrutiny in recent years because of malfunctioning hardware, sometimes cheaper plastics, or assembly problems that can lead to the drop-side rail partially detaching. That can create a dangerous “V”-like gap with the mattress in which a baby can get caught and suffocate.
Drop-sides are blamed in the deaths of more than 30 infants and toddlers since 2000 and suspected in about a dozen other infant fatalities. Since 2007, more than 9 million drop-sides have been recalled, including cribs from Evenflo and Pottery Barn Kids.
The end of drop-side cribs marks a long-awaited day for Susan Cirigliano, who lost her 6-month-old son, Bobby, when his drop-side slid off the tracks in 2004, trapping his head and neck between the mattress and the malfunctioning side rail. He suffocated.
“It’s bittersweet. It is not going to change my life as far as what has already happened to us,” said Mrs. Cirigliano, who lives in North Bellmore on New York’s Long Island. “But hopefully, it will save many more children. I am sure it will.”
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