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Government nears new standards for cribs, ban on drop-side cribs

From Jennifer Rizzo, CNN
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Plan would ban most cribs in U.S.
  • New rules for crib construction are likely to go into effect next year
  • The federal rules would render many cribs currently in use as not up to code
  • The effects could be wide-ranging for day-care center and crib manufacturers
  • The new rules are an effort to prevent injuries to children from crib structural problems

(CNN) -- In an effort to make children safer while they sleep, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of new proposed mandatory standards for cribs.

The new rules, likely to go into effect next year after a final vote by the federal commission, would render many cribs in the country as not up to code, regardless of whether the crib style and model was ever considered unsafe, and essentially would ban the manufacture and sale of drop-side cribs.

In addition to eliminating drop-side cribs, the new rules will mandate better mattress support, sturdier hardware and better quality wood for crib construction.

Between November 2007 and April of this year, there were 36 deaths associated with crib structural problems, according to Commission Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum.

Hazards in cribs include faulty hardware, dangerous gaps created from mattress support failures, and poor wood quality with crib slats that can be broken easily. The new standards aim to eliminate gaps where babies could become entrapped and suffocate, and to prevent babies from falling out of the crib.

The new rules would impact multiple industries, from manufacturers to retailers who would not be able to sell any cribs already in stock but not meeting the new standards. Many hotels, motels and child-care facilities around the country would likely have to purchase new cribs for their businesses.

The wide-ranging effects could be a strain on some budgets.

"My biggest fear is that day-care centers, in particular, will be stuck with no other option but to place babies in play yards or on floor mats -- even temporarily -- since the purchase of so many new cribs will be quite expensive," said Commissioner Anne Northup in a statement.

But crib retailers and crib manufacturers will see a spike in demand for new cribs

"If you are a crib company, at this point you are probably dancing ... because of the various effects of this law," said Northup. "While companies certainly will lose current inventory that does not meet the new standard, they will also reap tremendous financial rewards since every family and day-care center in the near future will be forced to purchase a brand-new crib."

Families in search of an affordable crib at resellers like thrift stores will also be out of luck for the next few years, as people will no longer be able to donate cribs that do not hold up to the mandatory standards.

A public comment period on the new rules will begin shortly, in which time the agency will assess the comments received and make decisions on whether changes, such as timing, need to be made to the proposed rules. A final vote is expected in December, with the new rules taking effect in the summer of 2011.

The unanimous endorsement of the proposed standards came as the agency announced that Pottery Barn Kids is recalling over 80,000 drop-side cribs due to entrapment, suffocation and fall hazards.

The furniture maker said children have been hurt on seven occasions due to the crib's faulty drop side, which can detach when hardware breaks or is assembled incorrectly.

All incidents resulted in minor injuries when children fell out of the cribs or got their legs caught. In one instance, where an injury was averted, a child's head was trapped between the drop side and the crib mattress.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is asking consumers to stop using the recalled cribs, inspect the hardware, and contact Pottery Barn Kids to receive a free kit that will convert the drop side to a fixed gate.

The cribs, ranging in price from $300 to $800, were sold at Pottery Barn Kids retail stores, online, or through the store's catalog from January 1999 through March 2010.