The group that sets voluntary safety standards on cribs, ASTM-International, has accepted a proposal that could effectively eliminate drop sides on full-size cribs. Since the beginning of 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced 19 crib recalls totaling nearly 4.3 million full-size cribs. Featured on many cribs, drop sides allow caregivers to raise and lower one side for better access to their babies. But faulty drop-side hardware has contributed to the deaths of children who became entrapped and strangled in the gaps created when it failed. In fact, a full three-quarters of the recalled cribs were due to failures of the crib drop-side hardware. (Such as the Delta crib pictured at right.)
At Consumers Union, we’ve been seriously concerned about durability issues and the number of crib recalls associated with drop sides. Neither the CPSC’s regulations nor the ASTM voluntary standard on cribs is comprehensive enough to catch all of the failures that have occurred in consumer’s homes. We're worried enough that we’ve begun recommending that consumers in the market for cribs look for models with stationary sides until more stringent and comprehensive safety standards can be developed.
Changes to those standards may be close. The CPSC recently issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on cribs, the first step in updating the agency's regulations regarding durability issues. And crib manufacturers are also supporting the development of a stronger ASTM standard that they hope the CPSC will adopt. At this week’s ASTM meetings on juvenile product safety, the full-size cribs subcommittee voted to consider a proposal eliminating conventional drops-sides. The standard will allow for other designs that may be acceptable without compromising convenience. Approval of the measure may take months, but the consensus makes such a step more likely.
The proposal also takes into account the needs of shorter caregivers who may have difficulty reaching over a fixed side by including a design in which most of one side is stationary but a top section folds down giving a parent better access to the baby. This accomplishes the same goal as a drop-side without the need for the type of hardware that has plagued conventional drop sides. In addition, cribs without drop sides can be made lower to the ground so that caregivers don’t have to reach up and over the side rail. And lower cribs would likely result in fewer injuries to older toddlers who figure out how to climb over the top rail.
Consumers Union has been advocating for the elimination of conventional drop sides from cribs. We think there are better and safer design alternatives. We hope ASTM's voting members and the CPSC agree.—Don Mays