Brown Calls on Consumer Product Safety Commission to Clarify Rules for Crib Bumpers to Keep Infants Safe

With Ohio Ranking Worst in Nation for African American Infant Mortality and 48th in Nation for All Births, Brown Has Introduced Legislation to Improve Federal Response to Unexpected Infant Deaths

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for clear rules and warnings on crib bumpers to provide accurate information for parents and to keep infants safe while they sleep. Between 1985 and 2007, there were more than two dozen instances of infant death that involved soft crib bumpers, which can restrict breathing.

“Parents, physicians, and industry leaders all agree – there must be adequate safeguards to protect infants while they sleep,” Brown said. “That’s why it is so important that the Consumer Product Safety Commission issue a mandatory performance standard for crib bumpers and encourages the development of clear warning statements that support consumer education and choice.”

Physicians, child safety experts, and industry leaders all recognize that unregulated crib bumpers and other forms of soft bedding remain a significant risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In May 2012, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) – the trade association which represents manufacturers of infant products like cribs and car seats – petitioned the CPSC for a clear standard to define safe and unsafe bumpers, but no action has been taken. Brown called on CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye to prioritize this rule making and equip parents and consumers with more information so that they can make the best choices for their children.

Ohio has the highest infant mortality rate for African American babies in the continental United States and ranks third from the bottom for all births. To address this, Brown introduced the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act to help doctors and researchers better understand the causes of stillbirths, Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), and Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Childhood (SUDC).

Brown’s landmark legislation aims to fill the gaps in federal reporting of infant and childhood deaths as a way to improve prevention efforts. The legislation would give the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to standardize the protocols used by medical examiners in stillbirths and unexpected infant and childhood deaths. Additionally, the legislation would build on existing activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish and promote a standard method of data collection for scene investigations and autopsies so that every entity involved in investigating the deaths of infants and young children is on the same page. This would enable doctors and researchers to better track and prevent these tragic losses.

This bipartisan legislation that was introduced with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), is supported by more than 20 local, state, and national organizations, including the Children’s Hospital Association, the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. In addition, the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Public Health Association have endorsed this legislation.

Full text of the letter is below. 

 

September 29, 2014

Elliot F. Kaye

Chairman

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission

4330 East West Highway

Bethesda, MD 20814

Dear Chairman Kaye: 

I am concerned about the lack of a mandatory performance standard for crib bumpers in the United States. While I appreciate the work the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has done to ensure products sold in the U.S., such as cribs, are safe for infants and children, more must be done to protect babies while they sleep. I urge the CPSC to expedite its review of this issue and consider promulgating a clarifying standard to help protect infants and children from unsafe sleep environments.

According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics using CPSC data, between 1985 and 2005 there were 27 cases of infant death that involved soft crib bumpers in some capacity. Currently, the CPSC advocates a “bare is best” approach to crib bedding. Safety Alerts on the Commission’s website recommend that parents and caregivers “remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, pillow-like stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib.” Unfortunately, the CPSC’s safety recommendations for crib bedding are not supported by any mandatory performance standards, and soft bedding remains a significant risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The potential hazard of unregulated crib bumpers and other forms of soft bedding has not only been recognized by physicians, but also by the juvenile products industry itself. In May 2012, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) petitioned the CPSC for “a performance standard to distinguish and regulate hazardous pillow-like crib bumpers from non-hazardous traditional crib bumpers” and requested the CPSC to initiate rulemaking to establish a performance standard for these products. On August 13, 2012, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International announced the publishing of F1912-12, an enhanced voluntary infant bedding standard that includes requirements for infant bedding and new requirements for crib bumpers. However, more than two years later, there has been little to no movement on behalf of the CPSC to evaluate the current ASTM standard and enact mandatory rulemaking. It is time for the CPSC to prioritize a clarifying standard.

In light of the Commission’s own data and the JPMA’s petition, I urge the CPSC to work with the ASTM, the JPMA, physicians, and other child safety experts to: (1) establish a mandatory performance standard for crib bumpers, (2) increase public awareness efforts about safe sleep environments for infants and children, and (3) encourage the development and implementation of a clarifying standard for crib bumpers and clear warning statements that support consumer education and choice.

By working together, we can ensure that adequate safeguards remain in place to protect infants and children from serious injury or death while sleeping. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

 

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