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Maryland proposes ban on crib bumper sales

Maryland health officials proposed banning the sale of crib bumper pads for infants starting January 2013, a move that would make Maryland the first state in the nation to block the products from the market.

Several months after the state convened a panel of health experts to study the issue, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene concluded Tuesday that the dangers these products pose are rare but real.

“We agree with our expert advisors that based on all available evidence, these products pose an unnecessary risk to infants,” Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said in a statement.

The proposal was portrayed as an informal first step toward determining whether the ban should go forward. The state’s advisory panel has held two public meetings to gather data on crib bumpers, but state officials want more public input.

The city of Chicago recently adopted its own ban on the bumpers, arguing that it cannot wait on federal regulators to impose a national moratorium on sales. In Maryland, the state’s chief medical examiner has attributed one child asphyxiation case to a crib bumper.

Bumpers cover the lower half of slats of baby cribs. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association maintains that traditional bumpers help prevent injuries to the head and limbs. The association, which represents makers of crib bumpers, said it’s concerned about the “unintended consequences” if the state or other cities press forward with a ban.

“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,” Michael Dwyer, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

The state’s proposal would apply only to pads designed for infants who can’t pull themselves up to stand, not for older infants or children who have special needs.

In January, the Consumer Product Safety Commission started taking a “fresh look” into the safety of crib bumpers, said Scott Wolfson, the agency’s spokesman. That analysis is still ongoing.

“What we have decided is that once our analysis is done, we will share it with a peer review panel of outside experts, who will look at the work we did,” Wolfson said, “so that when we share with parents any new recommendations, it can be trusted that there have been multiple experts that have reviewed that data.”

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