American and Canadian parents who purchased one of the roughly 2 million Stork Craft cribs recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Monday should immediately stop using them, the Commission says in a press release, after four children suffocated in them.
Stork Craft drop-side cribs bearing the Fisher-Price logo distributed between January 1993 and October 2009 are at risk. Cribs without drop sides or with metal drop-side hardware are excluded. About 1.2 million of the defective cribs were sold in the United States and more than 900,000 in Canada.
However, as early as May 2008, the Commission had concerns about drop-side cribs that had already lead to four deaths stemming from a failure to construct the cribs properly.
In a letter to ASTM International, a group that develops voluntary product standards, CPSC director of engineering services Jonathan Midgett writes, "Some crib designs give the appearance of proper assembly with the drop-side inverted. In this configuration, the drop-side can detach from the crib, possibly creating a dangerous gap that may lead to the entrapment and suffocation of infants."
A spokesperson from the CPSC said it was unclear whether the deaths in the May letter were the same as those announced in Monday's recall.
The May 2008 letter referred to all drop-side cribs, while the Nov. 2009 recall refers only to Stork Craft cribs.
CPSC's letter asks ASTM International to revise its crib standard to include several provisions regarding issues with installing drop sides but does not mention faulty plastic hardware.
Erin K. McElrone, a spokeswoman for ASTM, says the group passed a change to its standards on Nov. 15 making all movable side rails disallowed under its regulations. Those regulations won't be published for several weeks, Ms. McElrone says.
But why was the CPSC, whose standards are binding, asking ASTM to change its voluntary standards?
Because change through the CPSC can be a long, slow slog, making quick reactions to safety issues implausible, says Dorothy Drago, a consumer product safety expert and a former analyst at CPSC.
"(ASTM) can incorporate changes in a voluntary standard in a very short time frame," Ms. Drago says. "If you take the mandatory route, it would take umpteen times longer because of the procedures (CPSC has) to follow."
Once enacted by ASTM, Drago says, the standards are seen as an industry-wide baseline for products and are largely effective.
A spokeswoman for the CPSC says the complexity of the crib case made diagnosing a pattern of problems difficult.
"Initially we did not see a pattern for these recall cribs," says the spokeswoman, Nychelle Fleming. "There are two distinct plastic hardware systems that are being used in these drop-side cribs so finding a pattern of defect or to make an effective analysis of what the issue was, what could eliminate that hazard ... was complex."
Problems with a plastic trigger in the Stork Craft crib's drop sides along with the potential to install the drop sides upside-down pose suffocation and fall risks to infants if the side of the crib becomes detached. Crib owners should contact Stork directly for a repair kit that converts the sides into fixed positions.
In the US and Canada, the faulty Stork Craft cribs have resulted in four suffocation deaths out of 120 reported incidents with the drop sides: a 7-month-old in Gouverneur, N.Y.; a 7-month-old in New Iberia, La.; a 6-month-old in Summersville, W.Va.; and a 9-month-old in Bronx, N.Y. An additional 20 cases involve falls from the crib, leading to a concussion along with bumps and bruises.
The suffocations occurred when babies became trapped in the space between the drop side and the crib mattress.
More than 5 million cribs have been recalled in the last two years, according to the CPSC, compared to roughly 1.2 million strollers over the same period, about 80 percent of those coming 2 weeks ago with the recall of 1 million Maclaren strollers.
As of 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Stork Craft website had crashed.