State Urges Firms to Halt Sale, Manufacture of Crib Bumpers
Attorney General Lisa Madigan is urging the trade group that represents makers of baby products to tell its members to stop manufacturing and selling crib bumpers because they pose a suffocation risk to infants.
In response to a Tribune investigation last month, federal regulators are examining the safety of bumper pads and are reopening cases where babies have died from suffocating against the products.
But Madigan's office said it wants to be proactive and halt the manufacture and sale of bumper pads so babies aren't exposed to potentially deadly products while the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission completes its investigation.
"Allowing these products to be purchased, while we know they are unsafe, is a recipe for disaster and puts babies at risk," said Cara Smith, deputy chief of staff for the attorney general.
Madigan's office sent a letter last week to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association asking the trade group to direct its members to stop making and selling bumper pads, which wrap around the inside of a crib and tie to crib slats. Babies can suffocate because they lack motor skills and strength to turn their heads if they roll against a pad that blocks their breathing.
It's unclear if the trade group will pass the message to its 250-plus members. Board chair Brenda Berg and other representatives from the organization did not respond to the Tribune's request for comment.
In her letter, Madigan told the trade group she was making the request because recalls are often ineffective in alerting parents to hazards, and dangerous products therefore should be prevented from entering homes in the first place.
Smith cited the example of drop-side cribs. Though specific models were recalled as early as 2007 because the movable side could separate from the crib, creating a gap that could trap and kill babies, drop-side cribs continued to be sold for years. Reporting by the Tribune exposed flaws in crib designs and a lax approach to regulation.
Last month the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned cribs with sides that drop down, but Smith said it's worrisome that parents were allowed to buy faulty cribs for so many years, and that many people likely still use them.
The same thing is now happening with crib bumpers, Smith said. "When we have cause for alarm, let's prevent harm," she said.
The Tribune's December investigation found that federal regulators have failed to warn parents that bumpers pose a suffocation risk, even though regulators knew about the potential hazard. It's unclear exactly how many babies have died from suffocating against the products, but the Tribune found that since 2008, the federally funded National Center for Child Death Review has gotten 14 reports of infant suffocation in which a bumper was relevant to the death.
In response to that story, Madigan's office launched a public awareness campaign urging parents not to use bumper pads and asked the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to release a study the group commissioned on bumper pad safety. The trade group has not yet released the study.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it did not know when its investigation would be complete.