Baby monitors, which are linked to seven deaths and three near-strangulations, should all soon have a warning label and are the focus of a safety campaign launched Wednesday.
But consumer advocates and the father of a 10-month-old victim say monitors shouldn't come with cords that can strangle children. They say the new voluntary standard calling for the warning label should have gone further.
"Any product intended to give parents peace of mind, especially in the sleep environment, should not introduce another hazard," says Rachel Weintraub, the Consumer Federation of America's product safety director.
Savannah Pereira had just learned to pull herself up in May 2010 when she got hold of the Summer Infant video baby monitor outside of her crib and strangled. Her father, Charley Pereira, is a safety engineer who worked on the new monitor rule.
Pereira says he's "very heartened" that there is a new standard, even though it doesn't require cordless monitors. Still, Pereira says, he was surprised by "industry's unwillingness to go to a cordless requirement."
"They don't think families would be willing to pay for a cordless," says Pereira, who paid $200 for his daughter's video monitor. "I think they should be ashamed of that."
Baby monitors, which can be audio or audio and video, range from $17 to $350 at Babies R Us.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association worked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to come up with "the best solution to addressing electric line cord strangulation" and settled on the new education campaign, says Michael Dwyer, JPMA's executive director.
"Even wireless monitors require a cord to recharge and generally are hardwired at the base or camera," says Dwyer.
Savannah's death and that of another baby prompted the February 2011 recall of 1.7 million Summer Infant baby monitors to add warning labels.
JPMA says most monitors already come with warning labels, and it expects them on all new production.
The new campaign's website, BabyMonitorSafety.org, provides safety advice and a video in English and Spanish that demonstrates safe baby monitor use. Free warning labels are also available.
CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson says parents may not get a perfect picture of their baby when corded video monitors are far enough from the crib to prevent strangulation. But they will still be able to see their baby and his or her movements.
"Over time, the baby will grow, and the baby's reach will expand," says Wolfson. "We're saying 3 feet or more is the safe zone for the baby."