Crib-Related Deaths Strike 100 Infants a Year

PHOTO A new study finds that 10,000 crib-related infant injuries a year are brought to the E.R.

Parents believe cribs are one of the safest places they can leave their kids, and while that's still true, parents need to take precautions when it comes to cribs. According to new statistics from Nationwide Children's Hospital, 10,000 infant ER visits a year are because of crib malfuntiontions or mishaps. What's more, 100 infants and toddlers each year die as a result of unsafe sleeping environments.

Conner Smith almost became one of these statistics. A year ago, his mother, Kelly Smith, 27, went to check on Conner, then a year old, and his twin brother, Ethan. She found Conner dangling through a broken slot in his crib. His shirt, caught on the broken piece, was strangling him and he was turning blue.

"I immediately lifted him down and yelled for my husband -- he's a paramedic. He started CPR and called 911," Smith says.

Conner was kept overnight at the hospital and "everything checked out," but before he could come home, Conner's father made sure to replace the crib.

"It was the crib we used with my daughter, and the boys had shared the up until they were about 6 months old," Kelly Smith says. "We never thought that it could be dangerous. You put your kid to bed and you get this sigh of relief that they're in their crib and safe. It definitely made us more aware that these things can happen. Parents should be inspecting their cribs every once in a while to see if they're worn out."

The study, published online Thursday, was released early so it its findings could be discussed at Thursday's congressional hearing on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which imposed stricter standards on children's products in 2008. The hearing served as a venue for trade and small business organizations, as well as child safety advocates, to voice their opinions.

Strict Standards for Sleep Safety

While a crib or bassinet is still the safest place to lay your infant down, poor design, misguided bedding, faulty setup and the use of hand-me down or outdated cribs continues to pose a serious risk to infants and toddlers. Between 1990 and 2008, more than 180,000 children under the age of 2 were treated in ERs for injuries related to cribs, bassinets or playpens, the study found. Of these injuries, 83 percent involved cribs and almost half involved injuries to the head and neck, including concussions.

And these numbers underestimate the issue, says Dr. Gary Smith, lead author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy.

"We only looked at ER visits, so it's underestimated. This statistic is useful, but it can't give us a feel for how many children in addition were seen in physicians' offices or other care facilities," he says.

Before the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, manufacturers followed voluntary guidelines regarding safety design and testing, but since the passing of the act in 2008, some of these voluntary standards have become mandatory. For example, in December, in the first new mandatory crib standards set in three decades, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned cribs with drop-down sides that can trap children when they malfunction.

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