The head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Tuesday promised swift action to get dangerous products off the market, acknowledging that the agency didn't move quickly enough on a record recall of more than 2 million cribs linked to four deaths.
"We were not advancing this case as quickly as possible," Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in an interview with The Associated Press. "So, I put all of the resources for the agency on this project so that they could accomplish this goal of recalling the crib."
At issue are some 2.1 million drop-side cribs made by Stork Craft Manufacturing of Canada. Four infants suffocated in the cribs.
CPSC said the recall involves 1.2 million cribs in the United States and almost 1 million in Canada. Sales of the cribs being recalled date back to 1993 and nearly 150,000 of the cribs carry the Fisher-Price logo.
Stork Craft insisted Tuesday that its cribs are safe if used properly.
Chief executive Jim Moore said the four deaths linked to the recall happened a long time ago and were found to be a result of improper use. He said all parents need to do to fix the crib is to install a free kit from the company that converts the drop-side to a fixed, immovable side.
Drop-side cribs have one side that moves up and down to allow parents, especially shorter adults, to lift children from the cribs more easily. There have been 110 incidents of the drop-side detaching from the Stork Craft cribs, according to CPSC.
In the case of Stork Craft and other drop-side cribs, the hardware used to put the crib together can break, deform or become missing after years. There also can be problems with assembly mistakes.
Parents often take the crib apart after one child has grown out of it, and then reassemble the crib later for another baby _ and that can lead to parts that aren't assembled properly. The hardware and misassembly problems can cause the drop-side to detach, creating a dangerous V-like space between the drop-side and the crib mattress, where a child can become trapped and suffocate.
More than 5 million drop-side cribs have been recalled in the past two years _ recalls associated with the deaths of a dozen children.
CPSC is considering mandatory standards for crib design. Given the history of troubles with drop-sides, Tenenbaum said there is a compelling reason to ban the cribs altogether. If she had a baby, she said, she would not put the infant in a drop-side crib.
ASTM International, an organization that sets voluntary industry safety standards for everything from toys to the steel used in commercial buildings, approved a new standard last week that requires four immovable sides for full-size cribs _ a big step toward eliminating the manufacture of new drop-side cribs since the industry group won't certify them.
In Suffolk County, N.Y., legislation was signed into law Tuesday that bans the sale of any crib with a side that moves up and down. The law takes effect in February and is believed to be a first ban of its kind.
The Stork Craft cribs were manufactured and distributed between January 1993 and October 2009. They were sold at major retailers including BJ's Wholesale Club, Sears and Wal-Mart stores and online through Target and Costco.
In January, Stork Craft recalled about 500,000 cribs because of problems with the metal brackets that support the mattress.
Consumers can contact Stork Craft, 877-274-0277, to order the free repair kit, or log on to http://www.storkcraft.com.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov