Anti-Bumper Sentiment Growing
One of the major turning points in the medical community’s attitude toward bumpers was a study published in the September 2007 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics that examined deaths and injuries attributed to infant crib bumper pads, based on information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for 1985 through 2005. Researchers found reports from medical examiners and coroners of 27 accidental deaths of children ages 1 month to 2 years, that were attributed to suffocation when they became wedged against a padded bumper or strangulation by a bumper tie around the neck. Eleven of the infants who died likely suffocated when their face rested against the bumper pad, 13 infants died when they became wedged between the bumper pad and another object, like the crib mattress, and three infants died when they were strangled by a bumper tie. The conclusion of that study read, “These findings suggest that crib and bassinet bumpers are dangerous. Their use prevents only minor injuries. Because bumpers can cause death, we conclude that they should not be used.”
The CPSC initially interpreted this data differently and in the summer of 2010, reached the same conclusion as the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA), which had conducted its own analysis of an unpublished CPSC review of crib deaths involving suffocation or strangulation. The JPMA asserted that other factors, like babies sleeping on their stomachs or a crib filled with pillows, might have been a factor in those deaths instead of the bumpers. Less than a year later, the CPSC announced it would take a closer look at crib bumpers in response to consumer advocates and news reports, especially those from the Chicago Tribune, highlighting potential dangers, as part of a broader regulatory crackdown on an array of baby sleep products blamed for injuries and deaths. As part of that crackdown, in September 2010, the CPSC along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned parents of the dangers of infant sleep positioners, some of which had been marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS but in fact had caused up to a dozen suffocation deaths of babies in about as many years.
Why is action being taken now to protect infants from the potential dangers of crib bumpers? Reports in the Chicago Tribune from late 2010 and early 2011 alleged that federal regulators had known for years that crib bumpers posed a suffocation hazard but had failed to warn parents of the danger and took the CPSC to task for failing to investigate 17 of the 52 reports it had received over a 20-year span of infant deaths where bumper pads were mentioned but not necessarily ruled as the cause of death. Twenty-eight of those deaths had already been associated with bumper pads by the agency. The Tribune also found that since 2008 the federally funded National Center for Child Death Review has received 14 reports of infant suffocation in which a bumper was relevant in the death.
While the coverage in the Tribune pushed the CPSC to take a closer look at the safety of crib bumpers, local governments also started to act. On September 8, 2011, Chicago became the first city in the U.S. to ban the sale of crib bumpers. Less than three weeks later, on September 28, 2011, Maryland became the first state to propose a ban on sales of crib bumpers.
Next: Why some still use bumpers