Christina Corcorran was thrilled when she found a secondhand crib for her son who was born in October.
She verified that all of the parts were intact and that the crib met safety standards. The drop-side, a style of crib on which one or both sides drop down to allow access to the infant inside, was perfect for the new mom who at 5 feet 2 inches tall had trouble reaching over the sides of most stationary side cribs.
"I never considered getting [a crib] that wasn't a drop-side," Corcorran said.
DO YOU HAVE ONE?
Here's how to check the safety of your drop-side crib:
1. Check www.cpsc.gov to determine if your crib has been recalled. Manufacturers offer different remedies ranging from refunds to retrofit kits depending on the crib style.
2. If your crib is missing pieces, call the manufacturer and request replacement parts.
3. As with any crib, check parts periodically to make sure they are secure.
4. Do not try to make any repairs on your own.
Little did she know, just a few months later, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission would announce plans for a new set of mandatory crib standards this year, including, at minimum, a voluntary standard to ban drop-side cribs from the market.
In the last five years, CPSC has announced 11 recalls that have involved more than 7 million of the cribs because of suffocation and strangulation hazards.
There have been 32 reported infant deaths as a result of various hazards since January 2000. Already, due to the voluntary industry standards initiated last year by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association and the American Society for Testing and Materials, a number of manufacturers have stopped selling drop-side cribs or will stop selling them by June 1.
The recent attention to the dangers of drop-sides has sent many moms into a frenzy. "It has everyone chucking these cribs," Corcorran said. But she isn't so sure that's the answer.
Not all drop-side cribs have problems, experts say.
"There are tens of millions of drop-sides that are on the market and are perfectly safe, and if [parents] follow the guidelines relative to drop-side cribs, the product will give them years of safe use," said Michael Dwyer, executive director of JPMA.
The style has been around for decades, but only in the last several years have incident reports been on the rise. One possible reason for the increase is the lower price point of some cribs, Dwyer said.
Reported problems have stemmed from parents' homemade repairs of broken drop-sides to children being caught in the "V'' shape that forms when the upper corner of the drop-side is open, said Nychelle Fleming, spokeswoman for CPSC. Based on investigations, the agency determined that overall, most drop-sides are more prone to mechanical failure than fixed-side cribs.
In April, recalls included cribs from Atlanta-based Graco that were manufactured by LaJobi, which is based in New Jersey. There were 99 incidents involving the Graco brand, including infants being trapped in gaps created as a result of broken or failed hardware, or babies falling from the cribs due to drop-side failure.
At least two manufacturing companies, Simplicity and SFCA of Reading, Pa., appear to have ceased operations. Graco said the company terminated its agreement with Simplicity in 2005.
In Spring 2009, mass retailer Toys R Us, which owns Babies R Us, decided to stop ordering drop-side cribs. As of January, the company no longer carried those styles.
Several other retailers have followed suit.
Consumers who have recalled cribs must consult the CPSC for the proper remedy, which varies depending on the crib brand. In some cases, there are retrofit kits to immobilize the drop-side, in other cases refunds are offered. The one thing parents should never do is try to fix the drop-sides themselves, said Dwyer.
Despite the fact that drop-side cribs are effectively no longer being manufactured, Corcorran is holding on to hers, which has not been recalled.
"I don't see the reason there should be a federal ban on drop-sides," she said. "These cribs have been around forever."