Crib Bumper Pads Investigated For Links to Infant Suffocation Deaths

Federal product safety officials are trying to determine whether crib bumper pads are safe, but a major newspaper is reporting that a number of infant deaths tied to crib bumper pads have gone largely uninvestigated in recent years. 

An investigative report by the Chicago Tribune identified at least 17 cases of infant deaths that may have been caused by crib bumper pads, but were not investigated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In most of the deaths, the child was found with their face pressed into the pads and appeared to have died due to suffocation.

The CPSC is currently examining whether there is a link between bumper pads in cribs and the suffocations, in order to decide what, if any, regulatory steps the agency should take. Child furniture lobbying groups say the pads are safe, but a number of experts in children’s health and safety say the pads should be considered a danger and removed from cribs.

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Currently, the CPSC recommends that parents prevent suffocation by never placing pillows or thick quilts in a baby’s sleeping environment. But the commission does not mention the thick padding that is sometimes used to ring the base of the inside of the crib.

Last month, in a speech to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum announced that the commission was taking a “fresh look” at crib bumper safety. CPSC staff is reviewing more than 50 deaths where the bumpers were cited in the case file, Tenenbaum said. But she said there was not yet evidence of a causal connection between crib bumpers and suffocation when they were used as directed.

Tenenbaum said that the age of many of the cases and the lack of evidence will make investigations difficult and it may be some months before the results are announced. She asked the JPMA to stop presenting the CPSC’s previous position that crib bumpers were safe until the commission concludes its investigation.

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