Defective: Biden signs law banning child products linked to hundreds of deaths

In November, it will be illegal to sell crib bumper pads and inclined sleeping products in the U.S.

InvestigateTV - After burying their infants whose deaths were tied to crib bumper pads or inclined sleepers, some parents turned their anguish to advocacy and pleaded with Congress to rid the U.S. of these dangerous products.

In May, President Biden signed the Safe Sleep for Babies Act that will make it illegal to make or sell crib bumper pads and inclined sleepers beginning in November.

“This is incredibly significant,” said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America. “We know that at least 113 babies died while in cribs or other bedding with bumpers between 1990 and 2019. And we know that at least 100 babies died from inclined sleep products.”

Many of the fatalities tied to crib bumper pads involved a baby suffocating in the soft fabric, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In an April 2020 federal register notice, the agency spelled out the dangers of bumper pads as well as the fatalities and injuries that it has collected since 1990.

Inclined sleepers defied American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for safe sleep, which call for babies to put to bed on a flat surface with nothing in the crib. The inclined sleepers were first introduced to parents in 2009 by Fisher-Price and its Rock N’ Play.

In 2019, a CPSC-commissioned medical study of inclined sleepers concluded that “none of the inclined sleep products that were tested and evaluated as a part of this study are safe for infant sleep.” The study affirmed the dangers of inclined sleepers to babies: their muscles aren’t developed enough to self-correct if they roll – or they may get into another position where their air flow is cut off, leading to suffocation.

The study was released six months after the Rock N’ Play recall.

In February, InvestigateTV documented how the popular inclined sleeper exposed flaws in the federal Consumer Product Safety Act that allowed Rock N’ Play to remain on the market for years even after regulators knew hundreds of babies had been injured or had died.

By 2017, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission tallied more than 650 incidents involving inclined sleep products including Rock N’ Play. Yet it could not issue a public warning or recall without the consent of the manufacturers because of a provision in the federal law that gives companies the power to say what the agency releases about them or their products.

Fisher-Price agreed to recall the Rock N’ Play in 2019, saying it was aware of about 30 infant deaths tied to its product. The following year, its CEO told a Congressional committee that there were nearly 100 fatalities.

The recalls of inclined sleepers required retailers such as big box chains and online retailers to remove them from their shelves.

Under the new law, all crib bumper pads must be off the market by November.

The law makes it illegal for anyone to manufacture or sell these products including at garage sales or on online secondary marketplaces. Sellers can face penalties by the CPSC.

“It’s incredibly important to really throw these products out, to not pass them on to friends and family,” Weintraub said.

Fisher-Price has long maintained that Rock N’ Play was safe when used according to label instructions and safety warnings and blamed deaths on users’ errors.

Jill Riepenhoff

Jill Riepenhoff

Jill is an investigative producer with decades of experience reporting on health, safety and corruption.