Trade Group Tantrum Undermines Play Yard Standards
In 1998, a 17-month-old boy confined in a folding Playskool Travel-Lite play yard at his day-care provider’s home died when the side rails collapsed around his neck. The play yard had been recalled, but the caregiver was unaware.
Last year, a 3-month-old girl was snoozing in a bassinet that was snapped onto the side of her play yard. Because the assembly was not proper, the bassinet somehow detached, tilted and pushed her face into the mesh side of the play yard. She suffocated.
We’ve written about injuries associated with cribs and playpens, and the tragedies noted above were remembered, according to a story in the Washington Post, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) mandated new safety standards for folding play yards last month. The problems that caused the first accident were addressed; the problems that caused the second were not.
The CPSC ensures the safety of approximately 15,000 consumer products. At least 19 deaths have been tied to the side rail defect that killed the little boy, and about 1.5 million portable cribs with the defect have been recalled. them. Deaths declined as the industry embraced stricter standards, but some of the pre-standard models remain unaccounted for, according to Kids in Danger, an organization founded by the parents of the little boy who died.
Since 1985, according to The Post, there have been 20 recalls of play yards—also known as pack-and-plays—representing numerous deaths. The play yard safety standards approved last month require that portable cribs be tested to ensure such serious hazards have been addressed, but in certain quarters, the bassinet accessory dangers aren’t considered serious enough.
“It’s disheartening that we couldn’t get this taken care of,” Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, told The Post.
Congress approved a bill in 2008 that added muscle to the CPSC. One element requires the agency to strengthen some voluntary standards. The play-yard standards were among them, and regulators had been working with the industry to effect the necessary product changes.
Shortly after the CPSC heard about the baby girl’s death, the relationship between the guards and the guarded deteriorated. The CPSC added language making it more difficult to assemble a play yard with missing parts, which contributed to the baby’s death last year. One proposal required manufacturers to stitch all the parts together so that none could go missing.
In May, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (the industry’s trade group) requested that the provision take effect later than originally intended. The CPSC agreed. In June, however, half an hour before the commission held a briefing on the standards, it received a letter from the JPMA accusing the CPSC of violating the law because it hadn’t solicited public comment on that provision.
The commission now plans to deal with this issue separately, and in a statement after the decision, the JPMA said it is pleased with that outcome. It also promoted itself as a guardian of kid safety:
“Each year, JPMA sponsors Baby Safety Month in September to educate parents and caregivers on the importance of the safe use and selection of juvenile products. Baby Safety Month 2012 is dedicated to helping educate parents and caregivers on the importance of safely using second hand, hand-me-down, and heirloom baby gear.”
This expressed concern for child safety would have more credibility if those articulating it would do the right thing instead of standing on ceremony.
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