June 29, 2012 — The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has recently approved new requirements to help improve the safety of portable cribs and play yards, also known as “pack-and-plays.” The foldable cribs are designed to be easily transportable, but they have been plagued with safety issues for decades. There have been 20 recalls of play yards since 1985. From 2007 through 2011, the CPSC has also received reports of 170 injuries and 60 deaths caused by play yard hazards.
The improved guidelines will require manufacturers to conduct more stringent safety tests before marketing new play yards. Requirements include:
- Stability tests to ensure the play yard cannot easily tip over, which might trap a child inside
- Tests on latches and locks to ensure that the play yard cannot fold up while there is a child inside
- Tests on accessories (such as attachable bassinets) to ensure that a child’s head and neck cannot be trapped
- Tests on floor strength
- Minimum height requirements for the sides, to prevent children from escaping the play yard and injuring themselves
- Tests to ensure that the foldable crib cannot make a V-shape or diamond shape, which could potentially trap a child’s head and neck
Despite the improved safety standards, some parents are upset that the CPSC removed one safety provision. The provision would have required manufacturers to change the design to make it more difficult to assemble improperly or without all the necessary parts. The provision was added after the death of a 3-month-old girl who was in a bassinet that detached, tipped, and pushed her face into the mesh side of the crib. The girl suffocated and died.
A lobbying group for manufacturers of the crib argued for an extension of the time limit to enact that provision. They also sent a letter to the CPSC, accusing the agency of illegally enacting a provision would soliciting public comment. A public comment period would further extend a decision on the matter for several months.
In response, the CPSC removed the provision from the final approved guidelines. The agency says that they will deal with the issue separately.
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