January 26, 2010

So Why Weren't Dorel Asia's Recalled Cribs JPMA-Certified?


[Note: see the update at the bottom of the post.]

Last week's crib recall was 635,000 fixed and dropside cribs made by Dorel Asia SRL, and were sold at "K-Mart, Sears and Wal-Mart stores nationwide from January 2005 through December 2009, " [cpsc] following the suffocation death of a 6-mo baby in Iowa.

The company, which is based in Barbados, followed up the CPSC's recall announcement with a press release of its own, issued from the Montreal corporate headquarters of its parent company, Dorel Industries.

jpma_dwyer_cspan.jpgThe press release, obviously intended to blunt the impact of the recall, called the circumstances of the Iowa kid's death "highly unusual" and emphasized the parents' duct tape repair of the crib's broken hardware, and their arrest for "child endangerment" and "drug offenses." [They did not mention that charges were dropped.]

Dorel also stated, "The recalled cribs meet and exceed all applicable safety standards. Hundreds of thousands of Dorel Asia cribs have been properly assembled and used safely without incident."

When asked about the recall two days later in testimony before a US House subcommittee, JPMA chief Mike Dwyer pushed back, citing both the drugs & duct tape, but he also got his head swagger going about "635,000 units. Which are not JPMA-Certified." [the 1st time is at 1:29 in the C-SPAN video.]

Last night when I heard that, I assumed Dorel Asia, which is not part of the Dorel Juvenile Group, was somehow set up as a carveout for Dorel, the largest baby gear maker in North America, to be able to manufacture to "just" the federal minimum safety standards, not to the more extensive but-still-feeble "voluntary" standards promoted by ASTM/JPMA. [see update below]

dorel_asia_jpma.pngBut then I looked, and even Dorel Asia is listed as a JPMA member. So once again I'm confused about why the JPMA's most powerful member, Dorel, sells millions of cribs in the US that are not JPMA-certified.

But then, it's not any more confusing than the part-mandatory/part-voluntary, part-legislated/part-industry "consensus" safety standards regime the US has right now. I could totally understand a manufacturer throwing up his hands, moving offshore, and deciding to just deal with the bare minimum required by law. Except that it's the manufacturers and the JPMA who have built this standards mess over the last 30 years in order to thwart any actual strengthening of the safety laws.

[update: I'll have details in a separate post, but I spoke with a Dorel reprsentative who said the company does test its cribs to both CPSC and ASTM standards, not just to the "mandatory" ones.]

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