The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the largest crib recalls in history today, telling consumers to stop using 2.1 million Stork Craft drop-down-side cribs because at least four infants have died in them.
There have been at least 110 incidents in the United States and Canada when the drop-down sides of the cribs became detached, which resulted in dozens of babies either becoming entrapped between the side and the crib frame, or falling out of the crib altogether.
The four children known to have died suffocated after becoming entrapped, according to a joint statement from CPSC and Health Canada.
There are approximately 1,213,000 units distributed in the United States, including about 147,000 Stork Craft drop-side cribs with the Fisher-Price logo, and 968,000 units distributed in Canada. Not all dropdown-side models are being recalled, only those with plastic hardware and a one-hand system to drop the side rail.
Stork Craft has released a toll-free number for consumers to call, or to order a free repair kit: (877) 274-0277.
It is not the first time cribs have been recalled due to dropdown side dangers. Nearly 5 million cribs have been recalled over the past two years and the CPSC has discussed banning dropdown sides all together.
"The hardwood can crack, a depression is made in the bed, and the baby's head gets caught in that depression and the baby can strangle and die," said Ann Brown, former chairperson of the CPSC.
Last year Delta Enterprises voluntarily recalled nearly 1.6 million older versions of its cribs with drop-sides following two infant deaths. The company said nearly 1 million of the cribs require safety pegs that could be lost during reassembly and another 600,000 drop-side cribs have spring pegs that can become worn out after many uses.
About 600,000 Simplicity drop-side cribs were voluntarily recalled in 2008 "due to a sizing problem with the crib's hardware," the CSPC said at the time.
The danger with dropdown cribs is that there are often parts that are broken, missing, or misassembled. For instance, the crib's drop-side could come off its tracks and create a "hazardous gap which can lead to infant entrapment and suffocation."
In 2007 one million Simplicity and Graco cribs were recalled after three infants became trapped in the crib and suffocated. In each instance the consumer had installed the drop-rail side of the crib upside down, the CPSC said. The misconstruction created a similar gap in the crib that children can slide into and get stuck.
The crib industry today said parents should closely inspect the hardware on their cribs, but insisted newer cribs that are properly put together are safe.
But Brown said the problem is not just user error.
"I think that's the classic industry foisting the blame onto the consumer, these are obviously not perfectly safe," Brown said in an interview with ABC News.
There's a patchwork of standards when it comes to baby products. Some are mandatory regulations, but there are also voluntary standards and that can make it difficult to ensure a product is always as safe as it needs to be.
Just last week, ASTM, the group that sets voluntary standards for a host of products adopted a new voluntary standard for cribs that would effectively eliminate any drop down sides. The standard has not been published yet, so it has not taken effect, and it is voluntary – however it's a clear indication that there's pressure on the industry to move away from a design – while popular with parents – has posed so many hazards for children.