WASHINGTON – The baby crib, usually a safe haven for little ones, became a death trap for 6-month-old Bobby Cirigliano.
The side rail on his drop-side crib slid off the tracks and trapped his head and neck between the mattress and the malfunctioning side rail. His face pressed against the mattress, and the boy suffocated.
“I just don’t feel complete anymore,” says his mother, Susan Cirigliano of North Bellmore on New York’s Long Island.
Six-month-old Bobby was one of at least 32 infants and toddlers since 2000 who suffocated or were strangled in a drop-side crib, which has a side that moves up and down to allow parents to lift children from the cribs more easily than cribs with fixed sides. The cribs are suspected in an additional 14 infant fatalities during that time.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates cribs, has warned about the problem. Its chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, has pledged to ban the manufacture and sale of cribs by the end of the year with a new performance standard that would make fixed-side cribs mandatory. It could be several months into 2011 before becoming effective.
The industry has already started phasing out drop-sides and big retailers such as Babies R Us and Walmart have taken them off sale floors. Yet there are still plenty for sale on the Internet, and that’s part of the reason Congress is getting involved.
“There’s a great urgency here. We have to make sure that no parent is unaware that drop-side cribs could kill their children,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in an Associated Press interview.
She plans to introduce legislation this week to outlaw the manufacture, sale and resale of all drop-side cribs and ban them from day-care centers and hotels. Gillibrand wants to accelerate efforts for a ban, from Congress or the CPSC, and highlight concerns about the cribs to parents who are using them.
She outlined her bill at a news conference in New York on Sunday, joined by Bobby Cirigliano’s parents and the family of 10-month-old Tyler Witte, who died in a drop-side crib in 1997.
The industry insists that babies are safe in drop-sides that haven’t been recalled.
“We believe firmly that when these products are assembled and used properly, they are the safest place to put your child,” said Mike Dwyer, executive director of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which represents over 90 percent of the crib industry.
Dwyer says manufacturers have seen cases where parents installed the drop-side improperly, sometimes upside down, or they have reassembled a crib for a second or third child with some of the screws or other hardware missing.