New rule closes loophole on dangerous inclined infant sleep products
Inclined sleepers put babies at risk of suffocation. A new federal rule will make companies warn parents that the products are dangerous.
Parents in Texas trust that products on the market for their infants have undergone safety testing and meet industry standards. While that is true for most products, many infant inclined sleeper products with a fatal design flaw fell through a loophole in government safety requirements and made it into people’s homes. Over the years, dozens of infants have died, and hundreds have sustained injuries.
According to Consumer Reports, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has voted to close the loophole and identify the hazards of these products so that parents will not unwittingly put their infants at risk of suffocation.
The product hazards
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents put babies under 5 months old to sleep on a firm, flat surface that is stable and does not have bedding or restraints, which could create a suffocation hazard. Inclined sleeper products have an angle greater than 10 degrees, and they also often have a pillowy surface. Some infants have died when their heads slumped forward too far and closed their airway, while others have suffocated by rolling partly or completely onto the pillowy surface and suffocating against the side or back of the sleeper.
The safety loophole
These inclined sleeper products escaped the rigorous testing and safety standards that other baby sleep products must meet because they did not fit into one of the CPSC’s five regulated sleep product categories: full-sized cribs, nonfull-sized cribs, bassinets/cradles, play yards and bedside sleepers. These types of products not only have to meet the strict federal standards but must also undergo safety testing by a third party. They cannot have an incline greater than 10 degrees and they must have firm sidewalls that are a minimum of 7.5 inches tall. These three factors eliminate the suffocation and fall hazards that infants face in an inclined sleeper.
As incidents added up over the years and many products were subject to recalls, Fisher-Price voluntarily created their own standards for the products through an independent organization that provided some oversight. The CPSC allowed this rather than creating an industry standard with federal oversight, but the fatalities continued for similar products from many manufacturers. Recalls of products associated with fatalities have led many retailers to stop selling the products.
In June 2021, the CPSC voted that manufacturers can no longer sell inclined sleeper products as such. Now, all sleep products must meet the federally regulated safety standards. This is not to say that the products will disappear from the market, though. When the rule goes into effect in June of 2022, manufacturers must make it clear through the packaging and marketing that the infant products that support the child at an incline are not safe for sleep.
While the CPSC does its job to improve infant safety, parents whose child is a victim of an unsafe product may raise awareness by holding the manufacturer liable through litigation. A Texas product liability attorney may help build the case and hold the responsible parties accountable.