Crib Recall: Did Government Move Too Slowly?

Anger follows 2.1 million crib recall; mandatory safety checks still lacking.

Nov. 25, 2009— -- Parents are fuming over Monday's recall of 2.1 million Stork Craft drop-down side cribs, and a few are calling for all drop-side cribs to be banned.

And some say the recall is a frightening indication of inadequate safety testing of baby products including cribs, high chairs and strollers.

"Most parents are not aware that there was no requirement that the products be tested for safety before they were sold," said Nancy Cowles, who runs an child advocacy group called Kids in Danger.

That's not to say that safety and testing protocols do not already exist. In addition to requirements for the minimum height of adjustable rails, the Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains guidelines for the spacing and strength of the rails of these cribs. And last year, Congress passed a law requiring manufacturers to have their products safety-tested by an independent third party.

But consumer groups say the CPSC has not yet been able to push through tougher inspection requirements.

CPSC chairman Inez Tenenbaum told The Associated Press Tuesday that the agency didn't move quickly enough to issue the recall. Now, the CPSC is thinking of stiffening requirements.

"This company worked with us to put this recall together," CPSC spokeswoman Patty Davis said. But, Davis said in light of the recent problems, "The CPSC staff is looking at beefing up the standards."

The Stork Craft recall of cribs distributed between 1993 and 2009 is the largest crib recall in U.S. history, but not the first.

Three companies have issued major recalls of drop-side cribs over the past two years. In each recall, problems with the movable, drop-down side led to babies slipping and suffocating between the crib wall and the mattress.

Parents Irate at Deaths Prior to Drop-Side Crib Recall

Four children died as a result of 110 incidents with the Stork Craft drop-side cribs, according to a CPSC press release.

Telephone lines were busy at Stork Craft headquarters, and ABC News emails to a Stork Craft media representative were not returned.

Meanwhile, an emotional press conference was held in Suffolk County, N.Y., Tuesday where the parents of two infants killed by drop-side cribs watched as the first-in-the-nation law to ban the dangerous children's furniture was signed.

"There have been warnings over the years, there have been recalls over the years, but enough is enough," Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said.

Under the new legislation, which goes into effect this February, any crib with three immovable sides and a fourth side that moves up and down will be illegal to sell in the county.

Anyone caught selling the banned cribs will be subject to a $500 fine for their first violation and $1,000 for any subsequent violations.

Next to Levy stood two couples whose sons died before the age of 1 due to a drop-side crib malfunction. Both families described their fight to get legislation banning the sale of the cribs in Suffolk County and the frustration of seeing drop-side cribs sold in stores, knowing they caused their children's death.

Throughout the press conference, Susan Cirigloiano held up a picture of her son Bobby, who died in 2004 at the age of 6 months. Susan's husband Robert told ABC News he was happy to see greater restrictions placed on the sale of children's furniture by his local government.

"When I lost my son, my first reaction was call the manufacturer and tell them the crib is broken and it's just not like that in this country," Robert Cirigloiano said.

Michele and Henne Witte have been on a campaign to ban the sale of drop-side cribs after their 10-month-old son died in 1997. They described the signing of today's legislation as their first step in trying to get a nationwide ban.

Drop-Down Side Cribs Spur Safety Concerns

Problems with the drop-down sides have resulted because "plastic hardware can break, deform, or parts can become missing," according to the CPSC.

In some cases that caused death. The problem arose because the drop-side can be installed upside-down, "which can result in broken or disengaged plastic parts," according to the CPSC.

"All of these problems can cause the drop-side to detach in one or more corners," the agency wrote.

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