Sleeping like a baby? More than 9 million cribs, sleep products recalled in two years

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Nearly 9.5 million sleep products for infants and toddlers -- cribs, bassinets and play yards -- have been recalled in the past two years following 16 deaths and more than 2,200 incidents. Yet, many of the products that have proven fatal are still in use, putting children sleeping in them in extreme danger.

The child safety advocacy group, Kids in Danger, tallied the enormity of the recalls in a just-released report. Shortly after the report was released, yet another sleeping product was recalled -- the Amby Baby Motion Bed/Hammock -- following the deaths of two infants.

Nicola Johns knows just how important it is to get the word out about these unsafe baby products. One April night, she put her son, Liam (pictured), to bed in a crib made by Simplicity, a company that is responsible for many of the recalls that have occurred in recent years. Johns looked in on Liam in the morning and couldn't see him; he had become trapped between the mattress and rail when the rail pushed away.

"When I walked closer I could see he was hanging," Nicola Johns wrote in an account for Kids In Danger. "I lifted up his arms. He wasn't breathing."
So troubling are the problems with some of these so-called "sleep environment" products that Kids in Danger is urging parents and caretakers to refrain from putting any infant to sleep in a crib made prior to 1999 "because it will not meet current product safety standards." Particularly dangerous are the once-ubiquitous drop-side cribs that the retail industry is considering abandoning altogether.

"It is so serious that the entire product line of drop-side cribs is being looked at," U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson told WalletPop.

Indeed, the biggest infant and toddler products retailer in the nation, Toys R Us (through its Babies R Us division), says it expects to stop carrying drop-side cribs after the first of the year.

"As a company dedicated to the safety of children, Toys R Us, Inc. has voiced its support of this change to the voluntary standard," spokeswoman Adrienne Giordano told WalletPop. "The cribs we sell meet all current voluntary and mandatory safety standards, and the CPSC continues to deem drop-side cribs safe for use. However, out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to stop placing orders for drop-side cribs and expect that we will no longer carry drop-side cribs as part of our assortment by the end of 2009."

The Deadliest Crib Maker in America

Half the deaths recorded in the recalls over the past two years were in cribs manufactured by Simplicity, an inexpensive brand sold in major retail outlets from coast to coast. (Nine-month-old Liam Johns, pictured above, is one of the babies that died.) Simplicity, based in Reading, Pa., went out of business, although a web site with recall information is still operational.

Simplicity products are a nightmare. Sold to millions of people because of their affordable price and availability at major retailers, Chinese-made Simplicity cribs and bassinets have continued to create concerns for child safety advocates.

Wolfson said it's reasonable to conclude that a majority of Simplicity cribs that were manufactured are defective. The greatest fear concern those that remain in use in group settings.

"To have a Simplicity crib in a daycare center when multiple children can use that dangerous crib is still a great concern," Wolfson said.

The problems just continue. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled 2.2 million Stork Craft drop-side cribs for the same reason as the Simplicity models -- the side that lowers can come loose and trap a baby. The primary risk is death by suffocation. Regulators are aware of 110 incidents with those cribs involving 15 entrapments (leading to four deaths), as well as 20 falls.

What Parents Need to Do

Overall, since September 1, 2007, Kids in Danger counted 24 recalls of children's "sleep environment" products, which had more than 2,200 incidents of malfunction reported.

Here are the biggest:
The cribs experiencing the most problems cited in Kids in Danger's study were sold over a long period of time and remain in many homes and daycare centers. Some of the cribs can be fixed -- and must be to be safe. Some just need to be thrown away.

"If they (parents and caregivers) don't take the right action, it can be so serious," Wolfson said. "We're talking about millions of cribs."

Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, urges parents to do their homework when buying second-hand, accepting a hand-me-down or using an older crib.

"Before using a second-hand product, check it against the list of recalls at CPSC.gov and make sure you have all the hardware and instructions for assembly," she said. "Do not use any crib that is missing hardware or seems less than sturdy. Kids in Danger recommends against the use of cribs older than 1999 or used dropside cribs since there have been so many issues with that hardware."

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