Drop-side crib makers still plugging deadly product: Illinois AG

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan condemned plans by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to kick-off its national "Safe Sleep" campaign in Chicago, saying in a statement it amounts to "peddling deadly merchandise in our own backyard where we fight daily to protect our children from such harmful products."

According to JPMA's website, the industry association is launching a "five-city education and sleep product donation tour" beginning in Chicago on Wednesday, in observation of annual Baby Safety Month.

That's putting a happy face on tragic circumstances, according to Madigan.

"JPMA should take responsibility for certifying deadly drop-side cribs that have killed dozens of infants across the country," Madigan said in a statement. "They should be launching an awareness campaign to ensure parents and caregivers know drop-side cribs have a deadly flaw, and people need to stop using them immediately."

The JPMA released a statement today expressing its surprise and disappointment that Madigan is challenging its campaign, pointing out that the association has dedicated September to baby safety for more than 20 years.

"For 2010, Baby Safety Month is dedicated to creating an awareness of the importance of creating a safe sleep environment for babies, and we are extremely shocked to learn that the Attorney General does not support efforts to educate the people of Illinois on the importance of safe sleep, or to our proposed donation of more than 100 safe sleep environments – products that meet the most current standards," said said Michael Dwyer, CAE, Executive Director of JPMA. "Needy Chicago children should not be deprived of a free, safe place to sleep."

The association said it chose Chicago as part of its five-city campaign after learning of "the very high incidence in Cook County of infant deaths related to unsafe sleep environments outside of cribs/bassinets." None of the donated items, the JPMA added, will include drop-side cribs -- which might be taken as a tacit acknowledgment of widespread safety concerns the group downplayed last November.

The association says it still plans to donate items this month in Milwaukee, Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. "The donations in the remaining four cities will take place, but JPMA has effectively been prevented from delivering a message and donating safe products that could have saved children's lives and helped those most in need," said Dwyer.

Since 2007, more than 9.5 million drop-side cribs have been recalled, with almost 4 million in 2010 alone. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) confirmed 32 infant deaths attributed to drop-side cribs, and recently voted unanimously to establish new standards that would ban drop-side cribs.

Madigan also renewed her demand that JPMA remove its seal of approval from the cribs, saying that ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) declared them out of compliance with its baby crib standards in December 2009 -- after which drop-side cribs were deemed unsafe under Illinois law.

At the time, the JPMA released a statement assuring consumers that drop-side cribs, when properly used, are safe.

"To alleviate confusion that is in the media regarding the recently announced recall of certain drop-side cribs, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) ... reassures the public regarding the safety of properly-used, drop-side cribs," the group said.

Madigan also said the JPMA refused to force manufacturers to remove its seal from cribs that fail to meet these new safety standards, and noted that drop-side cribs with the JPMA seal had been found on retail sales floors in Illinois as recently as July.

"It's appalling that JPMA still allows drop-side cribs to carry the JPMA certification," said Madigan. "At least 32 children have died in drop-side cribs, over 9 million of them have been recalled, and by the end of this year, the CPSC will ban the manufacture of cribs with this deadly design. Yet JPMA still refuses to remove their seal from these deadly cribs."

Madigan also lashed out at the JPMA for putting profits ahead of safety.

"JPMA wants you to believe that it is concerned for the safety of your infant when its actions prove otherwise. When confronted with the fact that cribs they certified have killed dozens of infants, JPMA blames the parents," Madigan said. "It's clear that JPMA has one interest -- selling their members' products regardless of their safety."

The attorney general restated her position to parents and other caregivers that drop-side cribs are deadly and should never be used. Her office also issued the "Rest Assured: Special Edition" consumer guide, which provides important information to consumers about every drop-side crib recall since 2007, including the 12 recalls in 2010.

The guide identifies which cribs were recalled by make and model, when and where the cribs were sold and what to do if you own one. To obtain a copy of the "Rest Assured: Special Edition" guide, call the Attorney General's Product Recall Hotline at 1-888-414-7678 (TTY: 1-800-964-3013), or visit their website.

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