Consumer Product Safety Commission vows to crack down on defective cribs

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; 1:47 PM

Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, warned crib makers today that her agency is cracking down on defective equipment and will push through tougher federal requirements for cribs.

"Now is the time to create a state-of-the-art crib standard and not let special interests hijack the process," Tenenbaum told industry executives, regulators and consumer advocates gathered in Washington for the annual meeting of the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization.

"While we are on the subject of cribs, I have a message for manufacturers, a message that actually applies to makers of any consumer product," Tenenbaum said. "I say no more to the tired tactic of blaming parents in the press when CPSC announces a recall that involves a death. Take responsibility and show respect to the grieving family, yes, even if they are pursuing litigation. Those who tread into this arena when CPSC has found your product to be defective will be called out."

The CPSC has recalled more than 6 million cribs since September 2007, many due to failures related to drop sides, hardware and wooden slats. Consumer advocates and health professionals have long complained that federal safety requirements governing cribs do not address the durability of drop-sides on cribs and related hardware, as well as wood strength and quality and other issues.

Tenenbaum said her agency will issue a new safety standard for cribs this year. "That's a promise I've made to parents across the country," she said, adding that the CPSC is launching a new "SafeSleep" initiative for babies and toddlers to speed recalls and more quickly alert the public about defective products.

Tenenbaum, who was appointed by President Obama, offered tough talk to makers of defective products. "If you resist our efforts to recall children's products, be forewarned, this new commission stands ready to be creative in the use of our enforcement authorities," she said. "As the Toyota experience has shown in recent weeks, this government will not allow for delay in recalling dangerous products. Consumers expect CPSC to be proactive, put their interests first, use their tax dollars wisely, and be nonpartisan in our pursuit of protecting children."

The agency, which regulates products as varied as aquariums and wheelbarrows, is also overhauling its computer systems, Tenenbaum said. Under legislation passed by Congress in 2008, the CPSC is required to create a database to make consumer complaints regarding products available to the public for the first time.

The database, expected to be active next year, "has the potential to usher in a new generation of educated consumers," Tenenbaum said. "Consumers who know how to report product incidents, how to search for incident reports on products they own, and how to stay apprised of safety warnings from CPSC."

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