In 2008, Congress approved a bill that allowed the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to turn two voluntary children's product safety standards into mandatory laws every six months. New standards have already been enacted for cribs, toddler beds, bed rails, baby walkers and baby bath seats. On June 27th, the newest standards were endorsed.
The new bill is also known as Danny's Law, named after a 16-month old Chicago boy who was killed at his daycare 14 years ago when the play yard he was in collapsed and strangled him. Ever since, his parents have been advocating for stricter safety standards for these portable children's beds; with the passing of the new law, their campaign has finally achieved some success.
Under the new legislation, which is slated to take effect in December 2012, play yards will have to be independently tested for stability, to make sure children cannot be trapped and to make sure they will not collapse on a child who is inside. The law also establishes minimum height requirements for the sides of play yards.
An additional proposal, which would have required all accessories critical to the safety of the play yard to be directly attached to the main product, was not passed, thanks in part to lobbying efforts by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. The trade association said it needed more time to comment on the proposed rule.
Danny is not the only victim of play yard malfunctions. Since 1985, at least 20 play yard recalls have been implemented by the CPSC and at least 19 deaths have been caused by dangerous play yards. Even since the passing of the 2008 children's product safety bill, at least three children have died in defective play yards as a result of becoming tangled in the fabric sides or trapped under part of the pen. Just last year, a three-month-old baby girl was killed when the bassinet attachment of her play yard detached and tilted, trapping her face against the mesh side of the product. She died of suffocation.
While they are pleased with the newly passed legislation, children's safety advocates are angered that the proposed play yard attachment legislation did not become law, arguing that it could save the lives of children like the three month old victim of the bassinet detachment. Nancy Cowles, executive director of the Chicago-based children's advocacy group Kids in Danger, said, "We are disheartened but not surprised that manufacturers would stonewall a safety change that leaves babies at risk."
The consumer product safety attorneys at Arnold & Itkin are also shocked at Congress' inability to pass additional play yard safety laws. It is disheartening to think that the interests of industry manufacturers could be allowed to take precedence over the safety of children. As the CPSC continues to create new safety standards for other
children's products like bassinets, cradles, strollers and infant carriers, we hope that they will not bow to industry pressures and will, instead, pass the strictest possible safety laws in order to protect the country's youngest consumers.