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Dozens of infant deaths have been tied to a popular baby product. But regulators are too paralyzed to act.

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Todd C. Frankel reports in the Washington Post:

A paralyzing conflict inside the nation’s product safety regulator has prevented the agency from taking action against a popular baby product that studies have linked to at least 48 infant deaths over 27 years and that public health officials say should be banned, according to a Washington Post investigation.

The cause of the breakdown is a small team inside the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that does not believe the product — padded crib bumpers — played a role in most, if any, of the infants’ deaths, derailing the agency’s attempts to regulate or ban crib bumpers. The position of the CPSC’s health sciences directorate, charged with assessing product risks, is opposed by pediatricians and safety advocates and contradicted by medical studies. It also has led senior officials at the CPSC to question whether their own scientists are producing reliable research about the risks of infant sleep products.

“I’m troubled by what appears to be a wide gulf between the views of our highly skilled technical staff and experts in the public health community,” said Robert Adler, a longtime commissioner who recently took over as the CPSC’s acting chairman. Adler plans to invite experts from outside the agency to discuss crib bumpers at a public hearing early next year.

The CPSC’s health sciences team reached its opinion on crib bumpers by rejecting rulings from medical examiners who found that bumpers were associated with at least 35 deaths from across the country.

That is what happened after the 2012 death of Dylan Micjan, a 3-month-old found by his parents with his face pressed against a padded crib bumper at their home in Suffolk, Va. Police investigated. And an autopsy found a distinct white line along the baby’s cheek and nose.

“This means that the child’s nose was compressed by something after he was dead,” pathologist Wendy Gunther, an assistant chief medical examiner, later testified in a deposition.

She ruled the baby’s death was “likely due to accidental suffocation in bumper pad.”

But CPSC staff, reviewing the case four years later, said they believed the bumper wasn’t to blame.

The CPSC’s stalled response to evidence of the dangers of crib bumpers is a story of an agency struggling to fulfill its basic mission to protect the public from unreasonably dangerous products. Even as the CPSC’s leadership has sought alternative views within and outside the agency, it appears almost powerless to stop the sale of products that a consensus of public health authorities say should be avoided, according to agency documents reviewed by The Post and interviews with 24 medical researchers, agency employees and doctors.

The current dispute over the agency’s failure to act on crib bumpers also is playing out just months after the CPSC was widely criticized for its handling of inclined sleepers — another infant-sleep device — when the agency was accused of being slow to react to a series of infant deaths in Fisher-Price’s Rock ’n Play.

[Fisher-Price invented a popular infant sleeper without medical safety tests and kept it on the market, as babies died.]

“It absolutely makes no sense at all. We should be able to come up with a better system,” said Rachel Moon, a pediatrician who studies infant sleep deaths and helped write the American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe-sleep guidelines. Those guidelines recommend against using both crib bumpers and inclined sleepers.

The CPSC health sciences directorate’s stance on crib bumpers, which wrap inside a crib and are marketed as products that protect babies, is unusual. The AAP, National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all have warned the public against using bumpers for years. Three states and two municipalities have banned the sale of padded bumpers because of safety concerns. The latest was New York state in August.

Walmart and Target stopped selling padded bumpers. Safety advocates — frustrated by the CPSC’s lack of action — recently persuaded federal lawmakers to introduce legislation for a nationwide padded bumper ban.

But bumpers remain popular with parents. An estimated 1.2 million sets were sold in the United States last year, according to an industry official. They can be found at retailers including Pottery Barn Kids, Amazon and Buy Buy Baby. They can be seen in Instagram photos and magazine ads showcasing the perfect nursery. There are traditional padded bumpers made of fabric, which provoke the greatest concern from experts, along with newer mesh crib liners, which claim to pose less of a suffocation risk. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2019 at 4:32 pm

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