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US: Cribs Recalled After Deaths of 2 Children

by Michael M. Grynbaumnytimes
September 24th, 2007

One million cribs designed by Simplicity for Children, a manufacturer based in Pennsylvania, have been recalled after the suffocation deaths of at least two children, the government said yesterday. It was the company’s fourth recall in a little more than two years.

A faulty drop-rail side in several crib models made by the company can detach and create a small space where infants can become trapped, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The agency said the problem stemmed from a hardware and design flaw that allows for incorrect installation of the part.

Two infants, a 9-month-old and a 6-month-old, died after the drop-rail sides of their cribs were installed upside down, the agency said. It is investigating the death of a third child in a newer-style crib that is not part of the recall.

Simplicity, based in Reading, Pa., will offer crib owners a repair package to fix the problem. The company’s president, Ken Waldman, refused to say in a telephone interview yesterday whether customers who request a refund would be reimbursed.

“Simplicity builds safe products, and we work every day to make our products better and better,” Mr. Waldman said. He said his company worked closely with the federal safety commission on the recall, which was voluntary.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr. Waldman wrote that several of the suffocation incidents “were the result of either improper assembly or other external factors.”

The cribs, made in China and marketed under the Simplicity and Graco brand names, were sold from January 1998 until last May and cost $100 to $300, the government said. Several large retail stores, including Target and Wal-Mart, carry the company’s products, Mr. Waldman said.

This is the fourth federal recall since May 2005 for Simplicity, a family-owned business founded in 1988 that makes children’s furniture products, including bassinets and swings. Last June, a crib in the company’s Nursery-in-a-Box furniture set contained incorrect instructions for installing the crib’s drop-rail side, which created a similar hazard. That recall covered about 40,000 units, according to a government release.

Another recall in December 2005 affected about 104,000 cribs. Mattress screws on those products were found to be defective after reports of several injuries to children.

The announcement yesterday also cited two similar incidents that involved a correctly installed drop-rail side. The safety agency urged parents who own Simplicity products to check that their cribs were properly assembled. More than 50 additional incidents involving the company’s cribs were reported, the agency said.

Simplicity customers seeking a repair kit or further information can call (888) 593-9274.

Simplicity is a member of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, a national trade organization, and voluntarily submits to that group’s safety standards, according to a manager reached yesterday. Organization officials did not return several calls for comment.

One of the recalled cribs featured a motif of Winnie the Pooh, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company. A Disney spokesman said the company did not renew its license with Simplicity after 2006.

“With a crib, there is no margin of error; you leave a child alone in it and it has to be safe,” said Nancy A. Cowles, the executive director of Kids in Danger, a nonprofit group that tracks children’s product safety. Ms. Cowles called Simplicity’s track record “disturbing” and urged manufacturers to follow more strenuous product testing standards.

“Our children are testing these products,” she said. “These three children who died tested this crib.”

Mr. Waldman, the chief executive, said he still stood by the safety of his company’s products.

“We believe in our products,” he said, “and being a conscientious company, we believe it is the right thing to recall products when there is a possibility of injury.”




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