Deaths Linked to Crib Bumpers Not Always Investigated

Filed under: In The News

crib bumpers

Crib bumpers are being investigated as a cause of infant deaths. Credit: Getty Images

Although it's a little scary that recalls for infant and child products are so common these days, parents can at least take comfort in knowing government regulators are keeping an ever-watchful eye on our kids' safety.

Charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues warnings on hundreds of juvenile products alone each year.

Yet, although the agency has been instrumental in educating parents about sleep safety and mandating ever-stringent guidelines for juvenile products, the CPSC has failed to adequately investigate infant deaths involving crib bumpers, the Chicago Tribune reports.

One of the cases in question involves the 2006 death of 5-month-old Madison Morr, who suffocated after becoming trapped against the bumper pad in the corner of her crib. Although Madison's death certificate clearly lists the cause of death, CPSC regulators have never examined whether her death involved an unsafe product, according to the newspaper.

The Tribune has identified at least 17 other cases where the CPSC did not investigate a child's death when a filed report suggested crib bumpers had been involved. After inquiring into some of those cases, the newspaper discovered medical examiners and coroners actually noted that crib bumpers were involved in the deaths.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has previously warned parents about the dangers of crib bumpers, the CPSC had not backed up the AAP's position. And, now that the CPSC is finally looking at the issue of crib bumper safety, the Tribune reports the commission is conducting its inquiry without having investigated all the infant deaths involving the bumpers.

CPSC spokesperson Scott Wolfson tells the Tribune that the commission is looking to see if there is a scientific link between crib bumpers and infant suffocations, or if other factors -- such as blankets, pillows or medical issues -- were primarily responsible for the deaths.

This logic has proven worrisome to children's health and safety organizations who want to keep bumpers out of cribs.

"If the baby was found with the face smushed up against the bumper pad, then I don't understand the relevance of the pillow or the blanket," Rachel Moon, a pediatrician at Children's National Medical Center and researcher for the AAP, tells the Tribune.

Originally, crib bumpers were made to cover spaces between crib slats that were too far apart, but 1970s regulations mandated less space between slats, so babies couldn't get their heads caught. However, bumpers are still sold as part of crib bedding sets, the newspaper reports.

The Tribune cites a report issued three years ago by Washington University pediatrician Bradley Thach, which concluded that at least 27 infant deaths over two decades could be blamed on bumper pads.

Thach and other experts tell the Tribune they believe suffocations related to bumpers are under-reported because they may be blamed on sudden infant death syndrome if there isn't a thorough inquiry.

The lobbying trade group for the children's bedding industry maintains that crib bumpers are safe and is conducting its own study, the newspaper reports.

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