Another Baby Dies in a Drop-Side Crib; Company Blames the Parents

Shortly after the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced yet another crib recall following the death of a baby and dozens of other incidents, the crib manufacturer took the unusual step of issuing a statement absolving itself of responsibility.

Dorel Industries (parents might know them as Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Safety 1st and several other brands) has resumed its posture as one of the most recalcitrant child product manufacturers there is. While most manufacturers will work with the CPSC to resolve an issue, Dorel goes kicking and screaming. It was the way the company responded a decade ago when their toddler beds were blamed in the deaths of children and it's the way they are responding again today.

CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said the commission had authorized the agency staff to take unilateral action to recall 20 different models of Dorel cribs due to problems with hardware, as well as slats that break. Such a vote is rare and it was under that pressure -- and the embarrassment of refusing to undertake a recall in the face of dozens of incidents and the death of a baby -- that Dorel announced the recall using the traditional language of "in cooperation with" the CPSC.Still, Dorel decided to minimize the recall -- and blame the family of the dead baby.

"The recall is motivated by isolated reports of broken crib slats and drop-side hardware. In total, 67 incidents were reported and 10 children were bruised or scratched," Dorel said in its written statement.

Then it took on the death mentioned in the official recall announcement: "Also referenced in today's press release is an infant death that reportedly occurred in a Dorel Asia crib. Although tragic, it is important for consumers to understand that the circumstances of this fatality were highly unusual."

Dorel said the parents had used duct tape to repair the broken crib and noted both were arrested following the death in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The release did not mention that the charges were dropped and the couple was not prosecuted.

In the end, Dorel, one of the biggest child product manufacturers in the world, is still recalling 20 models of cribs sold at Sears, Walmart and Kmart stores between January 2005 and December 2009. If you have one of the 635,000 recalled cribs, you should stop using it immediately, the CPSC said. The cribs sold for between $120 and $700 and were made in China and Vietnam.

Dorel and the CPSC received 31 reports of incidents involving the drop-side of the cribs breaking -- six in which babies were trapped. Another 36 reports of the slats breaking were recorded, including two entrapments. While most of the recalled cribs are drop-side, some are fixed sided.

The case against drop-side cribs continues to mount. Hardware failures can cause the side that lowers to become detached -- which can cause small children to get trapped and suffocate.

More than 5 million drop-side cribs have been recalled since 2007, including more than 2 million made by Stork Craft. Despite significant publicity for that recall, the company has reported a low percentage of parents and caregivers requesting the free repair kits intended to make the cribs safe.

There has been a strong movement to end the manufacture of the once ubiquitous drop-side cribs, which have been blamed in more than a dozen deaths. Most manufacturers have stopped making them and the industry is close to recommending an outright ban. Toys R Us has already said it won't order any more for its Babies R Us stores.

"This points not only to the wisdom of banning drop-side designs, but the need for more rigorous tests for all hardware and slat strength. More stringent standards are needed to make sure cribs are durable," said Nancy Cowles, executive director of the advocacy group Kids in Danger.

She is in Washington helping rewrite crib standards that most observers believe will be the end of drop-side cribs.

The following cribs are being recalled by Dorel:
  • WM1633 Drop side 3-1 Sleigh Crib – Cherry
  • WM1633-0 Drop side 3-1 Sleigh Crib - Cherry (no castors)
  • WM1676BC Fixed 4-1 Bethany James Crib – Walnut
  • WM1676BCR-DC Fixed 2-1 Crib – Walnut
  • WM2163 Fixed 4-1 Crib – Manhattan Walnut
  • WM2163DC Fixed 4-1 Crib – Manhattan Walnut
  • WM1633-0-DC Fixed 3-1 Sleigh Crib (no castors)
  • GP004B3EGR Drop side 3-1 Convertible – Espresso
  • GP004B3WGR Drop side 3-1 Convertible – White
  • GP006BCEGR Drop side Single – Espresso
  • GP006BCWGR Drop side Single – White
  • DA1615B3 Drop side 3-1 Convertible Crib – Natural
  • DAKM5132 Drop side 3-1 Convertible Crib – White
  • DASE5005 Drop side Cottage Hill Single Crib – White
  • DASE5009 Drop side Vintage Estate 3-1 Sleigh Crib – Cherry
  • DA0504KMC-1N Drop side 3-1 Heritage Crib – Natural
  • DA0504KMC-1W Drop side 3-1 Heritage Crib – White
  • DA1614B3 Drop side 3-1 Lexington Crib – Cherry
  • DAKM5152 Drop side Single Jenny Lind Crib - Walnut
  • DASE5015 Drop side 3-1 Convertible - Toffee
These models were sold at: K-Mart, Sears and Wal-Mart stores nationwide from January 2005 through December 2009 for between $120 and $700.

To get a free repair kit, go to the company website or call 866-762-2304 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
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