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Crib safety standards expanded

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN
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New crib safety standards in effect
  • New Consumer Product Safety Commission rules ban drop-side cribs
  • Since 2000, 32 infant deaths were associated with drop-side cribs, CPSC says
  • Hardware, mattresses, slats to get tougher testing by safety agency

Washington (CNN) -- Cribs made and sold in the United States will face the toughest safety standards in the world, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Tuesday.

The new federal safety requirements ban drop-side cribs, where a side rail can be raised and lowered. They can no longer be manufactured or sold. Hardware, mattress support durability, and slat strength will all undergo tougher testing from the commission.

Commissioner Robert Adler of the CPSC hailed the new rules as a "great victory for consumers."

Starting Tuesday, all new cribs for sale in stores must be compliant with the new federal requirements.

"I feel like it's been a long 13½ years," Michele Witte said. In 1997 her 10-month-old son, Tyler, suffocated in the middle of the night when his drop-side malfunctioned and his head was caught between the side rail and the headboard.

"At first I viewed it as a fluke accident," she said by phone from her home in Merrick, New York. "Until Google. Google helped me find out there were many parents who lost children because of drop-side cribs," she said.

Since 2000, 32 infant suffocation and strangulation deaths were associated with drop-side cribs, according to the CPSC.

Since 2007, 11 million cribs have been recalled in the United States.

Witte became an outspoken advocate against drop-side cribs and fought hard for legislation and new regulations aimed at banning the cribs.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, was one of the legislators who worked for new laws that paved the way for the federal effort.

"When I was in the crib-buying stage in my life, I remember going to a store in Little Rock and looking at cribs, and picking out cribs," Pryor, the father of two teenagers, said at a Washington press conference announcing the new regulations. "The salesperson there told us, 'Don't buy these cribs over here because they meet U.S. standards. Buy these cribs over here because they meet Canadian standards and are much safer.' I was surprised and really shocked by that."

Because of the changes, Pryor said, people the world over will now look to the new U.S. standards. "We're going to have the safest, most stringent crib safety standards in the world," he said.

"Cribs are the one place we put infants by themselves, all alone for hours on end. That means they are at their most vulnerable when they are in the crib, which means the crib should be the safest place for an infant in the house," Adler said.

Adler said the new standards apply to used cribs as well. He said his office is aggressively scanning classified websites like Craigslist and auction sites like eBay to try to let people know the drop-side cribs they are selling are not safe.

"We try to gently remind them what's going on. Typically we'll do it through e-mail, but if need be and it's a large enough operation, we might pay them a friendly visit," Adler said. The goal, he said, was to educate consumers to the potential danger.

The new regulations also apply to day care centers, hotels, and other places that provide cribs. Their cribs must be compliant by December 28, 2012.

For Witte and her family, the new regulations bring an end to painful chapter in their lives. She said if she could, she would personally replace every drop-side crib in the United States. The new regulations may beat her to it.

"Today, for my family and I, it marks a sense of closure. It's celebratory. We're celebrating the new standards," she said.