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Safety recalls steer parents, sellers from drop-side cribs

Tom Lewis, owner of Once Upon a Child, will not accept or sell any drop-side cribs. Millions of the cribs have been recalled within the last decade.  (Colin Mulvany)
Tom Lewis, owner of Once Upon a Child, will not accept or sell any drop-side cribs. Millions of the cribs have been recalled within the last decade. (Colin Mulvany)

Commission considering ban after infant suffocation deaths

Amid another recall of drop-side cribs, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted this week to implement new standards for manufacturing and selling cribs, including a ban on the production of drop-side cribs.

Drop sides gained popularity for their design – a side that slides up and down to make it easier to place babies in and lift them out of the crib. But worries about the suffocation danger caused when a crib’s sides separate, creating a gap where a baby could be pinned between the mattress and the frame, have consumer safety advocates pushing for a ban.

A December vote will determine if the ban, which would take effect next summer, passes. Until then, parents, manufacturers and retailers are pressed to see if their cribs meet the current government standards after a deluge of recalls in the past 10 years. In the past five years, 9 million drop-side cribs were recalled over safety concerns, according to the commission.

The commission recorded 32 infant deaths over a nine-year period from suffocation or strangulation in drop-side cribs.

This week, Pottery Barn recalled more than 80,000 of the cribs. In late June seven companies voluntarily recalled their cribs. New standards would mandate fixed sides.

Most retailers have stopped carrying the cribs. Target hasn’t carried drop-sides for a couple of years, said Toby Martin, a senior team leader at the store on North Newport Highway. The retail chain carries fewer brands of cribs as a result, he said.

If a customer bought a drop-side crib in the past and the crib is now part of a recall, the customer can receive in-store credit if they can verify the purchase, Martin said.

Mary Kulisch, shopping for an expected grandchild at the Spokane Valley Target on Wednesday, said she learned about the recalls online and won’t consider buying a drop-side crib.

Some consignment retailers will accept drop-side cribs for resale if they conform to certain requirements.

Other Mothers, a consignment franchise in Spokane Valley, will take them only with the manufacturer’s replacement parts, said employee Melissa Pope. In most cases, manufacturers issue additional parts to meet government standards after a recall. Many in the crib industry also are providing free immobilizer kits for use with drop-side cribs made between 2000 and 2009.

About two of five cribs brought to the store are drop-side models, Pope said. Employees are trained to look up recall information through the Consumer Product Safety Commission website, she said.

Down the road at Once Upon a Child, cribs are included in the top five “most wanted” items on a display board. But the store will not accept drop-side cribs for consignment, even those with replacement parts, said employee Amy Prado.

Carrying drop-side cribs is a liability for the business, Once Upon a Child owner Tom Lewis said.

There aren’t many options for those who own the cribs to recoup their investment, Lewis said. People may obtain the extra parts from the manufacturer and then sell the crib on consignment or to a private buyer. For people whose children are transitioning out of cribs, Lewis recommends they trash them rather than give them away.

“It’s not worth it,” he said.

Despite the recalls, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association claims that most crib complaints involve secondhand or used cribs misassembled or modified without proper hardware.

If the new crib standards pass, even hotels and child care centers will be prohibited from using drop-side cribs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.