1 million cribs recalled after deaths

The maker of Simplicity and Graco cribs on Friday recalled about — million of the beds because of mishaps that led to the deaths of at least two infants . "Don't take a chance at all," said Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which announced the voluntary recall by Reading, Pa.-based Simplicity Inc, one of the largest U.S. crib manufacturers. "If you are a parent or caregiver that has one of these cribs impacted by these recalls, your baby should not sleep in that crib tonight."

The cribs, which were manufactured in China and sold at major retailers nationwide, feature a "drop-side" railing that can pull away from the mattress. Infants can become trapped in the resulting gap and suffocate.

The recall is the latest in a summer of worry for parents, who have seen name-brand toys, bibs and other necessities of childhood removed from retail shelves over safety concerns. It's also another smudge on the reputation of Chinese-made goods.

The drop-side failures result from both the hardware and crib design, which make it possible to install the drop-side incorrectly, the commission said. Installing the drop-side railing upside down greatly increases the risk of failure, although the commission said it was aware of two incidents that occurred when the drop-side was correctly installed.

The commission announced the recall after inquiries by the Chicago Tribune as part of a crib-safety investigation.

A 9-month-old and a 6-month-old died in cases where the drop-side railing was installed upside down, the commission said. The older infant was Liam Johns, who died in Citrus Heights, Calif., in April 2005, according to the boy's father, Chad Johns.

"The fact that the recall finally came through has lifted a lot of weight from our shoulders and given us closure," said Johns, who now lives in Roseville, Calif., with his wife, Nicola. "We wanted to make sure no other families suffer through the same situation that we did."

The family's attorney, Charles Kelly of San Francisco-based law firm Hersh amp; Hersh, said he first alerted the commission about the problem more than two years ago, and the agency took too long to act.

"The crib is supposed to be the safe sanctuary for your baby and instead it turns into a death trap," Kelly said. The Johns sued Simplicity and settled in June for an undisclosed amount, he said.

A 1-year-old died in a newer crib model, which has not been recalled but is being investigated by the commission. That infant also died after the drop-side was installed upside down.

The recall includes only cribs manufactured with older-style hardware, which has a flexible tab at the bottom of the lower track. The commission said it was aware of seven infant entrapments and 55 other incidents in these cribs.

Newer hardware has a flexible tab at the top to the lower track and a permanent stop at the bottom. The drop side, when installed correctly, has a rounded top rail with a decorative groove and a plain, flat rail on the bottom.

"It's very important to us to make sure that our products are safe," said Ken Waldman, president of Simplicity Inc., a family-owned company founded in 1947. "One injury is too much. To the parents, I reach out to them. It's just awful, and this is nothing that a parent should have to go through."

Anyone who owns older-hardware models should stop using the cribs and contact Simplicity for a free repair kit.

Those with newer models are advised to check that the drop-side of their cribs are properly installed. If the drop-side is upside down, don't try to reinstall the railing because the hardware might have become weakened or damaged, commission spokeswoman Kim Dulic said. Those consumers also should contact the manufacturer for a repair kit.

"The best advice is for consumers to immediately check these cribs," Dulic said. "What we definitely want to do is prevent any more incidents from happening."

The recalled cribs were sold nationwide from January 1998 through May 2007. The cribs were carried at department stores, children's stores and mass retailers and cost between $100 and $300.

There have been several recalls of Chinese-manufactured products in recent months, including toothpaste, seafood, fans, tires, pajamas and pet food. Unsafe levels of lead paint led Mattel Inc. to pull more than 21 million toys from shelves since Aug. 1.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., who has called for the creation an import czar to coordinate import safety efforts, said the crib recall "shows serious and widespread weaknesses in the Chinese system of protecting consumers with the goods it produces."

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