Product Liability

CSPC hesitant to call crib bumper pads unsafe despite death reports

At least 17 cases of infants dying possibly by smothering in the padding of their crib bumper pads were never investigated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) even though the agency had reports on file suggesting the pads contributed to the deaths, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Bumper pads are marketed as a must-have crib accessory to parents. The pads circle the inside parameter of the crib to “protect” infants from bumping their heads against the crib’s railing. Parents are usually instructed to remove the pads when babies are able to pull themselves up.

Reports show that medical examiners and coroners have listed bumper pads specifically as the likely cause of death in the cases investigated by the Tribune. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations have already warned parents that the pads present a suffocation hazard, yet the CSPC is hesitant to go on record as saying the products are unsafe.

The CSPC said it is examining whether there is a scientific link between bumper pads and suffocations or if blankets, pillows or medical issues may have been the culprit.

The Tribune also discovered a dozen or more other infant deaths that the CPSC did investigate where bumper pads were listed as a possible cause. In those reports, the agency said that blankets and pillows were also in the crib and could have contributed to the fatalities. In many of those cases, however, the babies had their faces pressed into the bumper pads.

The quality and consistency of death reports vary, but there are several factors that lead some experts to believe that deaths due to bumper pad suffocations are underreported. For starters, many parents are too distraught to remember how they found the child before lifting him out of the crib. And in some cases the deaths could have been listed as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Even if there is the slightest doubt, parents should heed the warnings, says Dr. Marion Burton, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “(A bumper pad) is a potential hazard, so don’t have it in the child’s environment,” he told the Tribune. “I can’t think of any reason to have them.”