The Chicago City Council last week voted to ban the sale of crib bumpers because they are pose a suffocation risk to infants who get their faces lodged against them.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association released a statement urging the aldermen "to reconsider [the] ordinance and reevaluate all scientific data."
The industry declared Chicago's decision "baseless," and said that "a thorough review of published scientific studies performed for JPMA revealed no direct evaluation of a relationship between crib bumper pad use and infant death."
So what were City Council members basing their action on, if not scientific studies performed for the crib bumper industry? The Chicago Tribune has a hint: "Chicago acts on the Tribune's investigation of deaths involving crib bumpers."
The Tribune has a great track record as the nation's shadow CPSC. Ellen Gabler's reporting on a local crib bumper-related death led to her investigation has prompted the CPSC itself to begin reviewing the safety of crib bumpers. But she also uncovered the CPSC had consistently not investigated suffocation reports that involved crib bumpers.
If there's irony to be found here, it's that Chicago is the home of the crib bumper. Mattress salesman Leo Koltun, the founder of Kolcraft, invented crib bumpers as an add-on sale, and a way to use up surplus WWII cotton padding and oilcloth. Their original safety pitch, that they prevented kids from getting their heads stuck in playpen slats, was rendered obsolete two generations ago by the creation of federal crib safety standards and the CPSC, which was supposed to enforce them.