WASHINGTON --- The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday promised swift action to get dangerous products off the market, acknowledging the agency didn't move quickly enough on a record recall of more than 2 million cribs linked to four deaths.
"We were not advancing this case as quickly as possible," Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum said. "So I put all of the resources for the agency on this project so that they could accomplish this goal of recalling the crib."
At issue are 2.1 million drop-side cribs made by Stork Craft Manufacturing of Canada. Four infants suffocated in the cribs.
The CPSC said the recall involves 1.2 million cribs in the United States and almost 1 million in Canada. Sales of the cribs being recalled date back to 1993, and nearly 150,000 of the cribs carry the Fisher-Price logo.
Stork Craft insisted Tuesday that its cribs are safe if used properly. Chief Executive Jim Moore said the four deaths linked to the recall happened a long time ago and were found to be a result of improper use. He said all parents need to do to fix the crib is to order a free kit from the company that converts the drop-side to an immovable side.
Drop-side cribs have one side that moves up and down to allow parents, especially shorter adults, to lift children from the cribs more easily. There have been 110 incidents of the drop-side detaching from the Stork Craft cribs, according to the CPSC.
In the case of Stork Craft and other drop-side cribs, the hardware used to put the crib together can break, deform or become missing after years.
Parents often take the crib apart after one child has grown out of it, then reassemble it later for another baby -- and that can lead to parts that aren't assembled properly. The hardware and misassembly problems can cause the drop-side to detach, creating a dangerous V-space between the drop-side and the mattress, where a child can become trapped and suffocate.
More than 5 million drop-side cribs have been recalled in the past two years -- recalls associated with the deaths of a dozen children.
The CPSC is considering mandatory standards for crib design. Given the history of troubles with drop-sides, Ms. Tenenbaum said there is a compelling reason to ban the cribs altogether.
ASTM International, an organization that sets voluntary industry safety standards for everything from toys to the steel used in commercial buildings, approved a new standard last week that requires four immovable sides for full-size cribs -- a big step toward eliminating the manufacture of new drop-side cribs, which the industry group won't certify.
In Suffolk County, N.Y., legislation was signed into law Tuesday that bans the sale of any crib with a side that moves up and down. The law takes effect in February and is believed to be the first of its kind.
The Stork Craft cribs were manufactured and distributed between January 1993 and October 2009 and sold by major retailers.
Consumers can call Stork Craft at (877) 274-0277 to order the free repair kit, or log on to www.storkcraft.com.
SAFE SLEEPING OPTIONS
Infant safe sleep advocates are scrambling to ensure that parents reacting to the biggest crib recall in American history don't put their babies in greater danger by placing them to sleep with adults or other children.
"We want parents and anyone caring for an infant to know that a safe sleep environment for a baby does not include sharing an adult bed or being placed in a bed with another child of any age," said Eileen Carlins, the director of support and education at Sudden Infant Death Services of Pennsylvania and Cribs for Kids.
The situation is difficult because many parents might not have a backup crib and might be unwilling or financially unable to buy another while waiting for the repair kit.
If a backup crib is not an option, temporary cribs could be improvised with a dresser drawer or even a large laundry basket, as long as those items are placed on the floor and the baby can't roll over or pull up to tip it, said Laura Reno, the vice president of public affairs for the infant-survival group First Candle.
Research shows infants are as much as 40 times more likely to die sleeping in an adult bed than in their own crib. A 2007 investigation by Scripps Howard News Service found that many infant deaths attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome might actually be caused by suffocation that goes undetected because of inadequate death investigations.
SAFE SLEEP RESOURCES
Cribs for Kids: (888) 721-2742, ext. 101
-- Scripps Howard News Service