The Consumer Product Safety Commission, citing thousands of deaths and injuries, urged parents yesterday to get rid of old, hand-me-down nursery equipment that they've been saving for their children and granchildren.
Outdated nursery equipment, which hasn't been approved by the CPSC, has contributed to 1,300 baby fatalities since 1973 and 90,000 baby injuries a year, the commission said.
"If a crib is more than 10 years old, throw it out," cautioned CPSC Chairman Nancy Harvey Steorts, who kicked off a nationwide "Protect Your Children" campaign to shield children from defective nursery equipment.
Nursery-room injuries are associated mostly with unsafe cribs, strollers, baby gates, toy chests and high chairs, the commission said. Newer nursery products are generally much safer than old-style, second-hand products that have been stored away in attics and garages, the commission added.
"Most nursery items have a long life and are frequently passed from one child to the next or stored for future use," Steorts explained. "As a result, products which remain in consumers' homes may neither meet current safety requirements nor be in good repair."
Many unsafe nursery items are also found at garage sales and flea markets, Steorts added.
More than 3,000 hazardous cribs may be in the attics, basements or bedrooms of American homes, the commission said. Crib hazards include slats that are too far apart, allowing the baby to slip through and possibly be strangled. In 1974, the CPSC mandated that slats be a maximum 2 3/4 inches apart to reduce strangulation incidents, but older cribs weren't covered.
Crib head and footboard designs may allow an infant's head to become caught in the openings between the top of the bedpost and the horizontal piece of rail along the top of the crib.
In spite of the efforts by nursery equipment manufacturers and the CPSC to recall these "hand-me-down hazards," only 60 percent of these defective cribs have been reported corrected, the commission said.
Other serious nursery hazards include the circular expandable wooden enclosures used to restrain young children, which have not been made since 1982. "The circular enclosure is a proven killer," CPSC Commissioner Stuart Statler said.
Since 1980, the CPSC has conducted investigations of three deaths, one incident of brain damage and six near misses involving unsupervised children whose necks became entrapped in the V-shaped openings along the top edge of the enclosures, apparently as they were attempting to climb out of the enclosures. Although these products haven't been made since 1982, the CPSC is seeking a recall by six companies of those baby enclosures already in homes.
Accordian-style baby gates with V-shaped openings along the top edge and diamond-shaped openings in the sides that are used to restrain babies are another nursery hazard, the commission said.
Other styles of baby gates -- such as ones with a straight top edge and rigid mesh screen -- don't present the entrapment/strangulation hazard.
Some toy chests also have caused death or injury. When a small child toddles over to a hazardous toy chest, pushes the lid open and looks inside, the lid sometimes slams onto his or her neck, entrapping the baby by the head. The commission said toy chests should be equipped with a lid support device and be well-ventilated.
Since 1973, the commission has imposed mandatory regulations or voluntary standards for new cribs, walkers, high chairs, playpens, strollers and toy chests.
Baby walkers and strollers should have a wide base so they won't tip over, and should be equipped with stroller seat belts to secure the child. In 1983, an estimated 16,200 baby-walker-related injuries and 12,500 stroller injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms, the commission said.
High chairs should have a seat belt that fastens around the child and a crotch strap to prevent the child from slipping under the tray.