State of Maryland considers ban of crib bumpers
Jane Kitchen -- Kids Today, 11/8/2011 5:13:19 AM
BALTIMORE, MD - The state of Maryland is considering a ban on the sale of crib bumpers beginning in January 2013, which would make it the first state to impose such a ban. The city of Chicago banned the sale of crib bumpers last month after Chicago Tribune investigations suggested bumpers pose a suffocation risk to babies.
Maryland's proposal is in the "informal" stage, meaning that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will consider public comments before deciding whether to proceed to a formal proposal. Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m on Nov. 4.
"Our priority is the health of infants in Maryland," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the D.M.M.H. "We agree with our expert advisors that based on all available evidence, these products present an unnecessary risk to infants."
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Assn. issued a statement urging the state of Maryland to adopt regulations consistent with the use of safe, traditional, non-pillow like crib bumper pads. JPMA maintains that properly designed crib bumper pads, when used correctly, can help prevent limb entrapment and head injuries.
"Our fear is that the elimination of bumpers from the marketplace will encourage parents to use towels, adult blankets or pillows as a protective barrier from the hard wooden surface of the crib slats," said Mike Dwyer, CAE executive director of JPMA. "Instead, the state of Maryland should adopt safety regulations developed as a result of the ASTM standard setting process, and join JPMA in educating parents on the safe use of traditional bumper pads."
JPMA said in the statement that it also has ongoing concern for cities and states that are passing legislation that causes additional confusion for parents and caregivers, and is urging Maryland to consider all scientific data on crib bumper pad use.
Whatever the direction Maryland or any other state takes, there's no question that the fate of bumpers is on everyone's mind in the industry.
Mark Lazar, owner of Chicago-area retailer Lazar's, said he hasn't displayed bumpers in his store in over a year, and has marked existing inventory with bumpers half off.
"I wanted to show our customers that cribs can look good without bumpers," said Lazar. "...We're not selling them anymore and nobody asks for them. Even the ones that we have at ridiculously low prices, they're not jumping out of here."
While technically 2.5 blocks outside of the city of Chicago and so exempt from the city's ban, Lazar said he sees no safety reason to use bumpers and has not bought any four-piece sets since last year.
Still, he said he was surprised not to see more manufacturers steering away from bumpers at the ABC Expo last month.
"I was surprised in May (at the ABC Spring Show), but I was very surprised in the last show that everybody hasn't gotten on this thing," said Lazar.
One company Lazar was impressed with at ABC last month was Skip Hop, which debuted a line of crib bedding with piping around the top of the crib sheet and a different pattern around the sides, giving the decorative appearance of bumpers without the actual bumper.
Over in Maryland, where the bumper debate is just getting under way, retailer Brian Green of Great Beginnings in Gaithersburg said he started liquidating bedding sets with traditional bumpers about eight months ago and he did not buy any traditional bumpers at ABC last month. He has also trained his staff to advise parents away from using bumpers.
"I just don't see any solid, viable reason to have bumpers," he said. "...It might be overreacting, but I'd like to see manufacturers and parents and retailers go in that direction."
Green bought Breathable Bumpers, Wonder Bumpers and Oliver b as alternatives to traditional bumpers, as well as some bedding sets without bumpers. Green estimates almost 90% of his customers walk into the store aware of the bumper controversy.
"We have a clientele that reads a lot and watches the news," said Green. "The mothers ask us reluctantly because they really want to put the bedding in, and they want us to say it's OK."
Green maintains that it's his job as a specialty store owner to help educate consumers.
"There's a reason that these organizations are looking into this, and your job as a retailer is to educate the consumer," said Green. "On the other hand, it's your job to make money. So look for alternatives."
Many crib bedding manufacturers did show alternatives to traditional bumpers at ABC last month, whether it was the simple act of selling pieces individually rather than in four-piece sets, or to find innovative bumper alternatives that allowed for more flow of oxygen while also offering some padding.
Delta introduced its first line of infant bedding at ABC last month, and included a new Air Flow Breathe Easy Sleep System (see story, p. 18).
"We're waiting with baited breath like everyone else," said Risa Popkin, Delta's newly appointed creative director of home fashions.
But Popkin questions why it's cities and states who seem to be leading the charge for change, rather than bedding companies.
"This is an industry full of experts," said Popkin. "We should be driving this change - we shouldn't be in the back seat. There's not anyone in this industry who isn't interested in safety."
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