July 15, 2010

Alright, We Get It. The CPSC's Gonna Ban Dropside Cribs.

Big news from the CPSC today: they are making a couple of procedural changes to the safety testing protocols for both full-size and compact cribs!

Actually, I think this huge announcement--accompanied as it is by statements from each of the three CPSC commissioners--is just an excuse to remind folks that this is the year the agency and ASTM will introduce new crib standards that will "essentially prohibit traditional drop sides (up and down movement of an entire side of the crib)."

I'd hate to be a used crib dealer in 2011, let me tell you.

UPDATE: Alright, this is a big deal. It took DT commenter Scott to point it out. What the CPSC announced is not just some minor-sounding changes about whether you retighten all the crib hardware between each phase of the safety testing process.

It's this: that the proposed rulemaking for full-size cribs includes "a standard for full-size cribs that is substantially the same as ASTM F 1169-10," which IS the new ASTM standard, PLUS the testing procedure modifications. And the non-full-size crib proposal, too, is based on the newly developed ASTM standard, but it's got even stricter modifications.

So the freshly negotiated [as of June 1], voluntary consensus standard is being adopted as the new mandatory federal standard. Which is a big deal.

Maybe the title of this post should be, "CPSC Takes Its Job, Balls, Back From JPMA."

CPSC Proposes New Rules for Full-Size and Non-Full-Size Cribs [cpsc]


This is a bigger deal than you think. The CPSC just announced essentially that the ASTM standard used for JPMA certification will become a mandatory Federal standard (except the CPSC version will be stricter!). So what exactly is the value in JPMA certification now? And if there is no value in JPMA certification, then what is the JPMA for exactly?

But hasn't that all been known for months now? I thought the CPSC was pushing ASTM changes because it was faster than legislating and crafting an actual mandatory standard.

And the vast recalls are essentially building the case that the current ASTM standard--which was really branded for most of the time as JPMA certification--was useless.

Of course, having the JPMA's largest member, Dorel, circumvent the certification program whenever it felt like it didn't help.

But I still don't understand the importance of this particular announcement--OH WAIT, NOW I GET IT.


I think it is really easy to blame the manufacturers and third party certification groups (like JPMA), however the US government could have just as easily been at fault. The federal regulations (16 CFR 1508/1509) for full-size and non full-size cribs are ridiculously lax, and they are dated from the early 1970s (around when the Consumer Product Safety Act was published). If you have some free time, I would suggest looking at these regulations and seeing all that the US felt was necessary to make a safe crib. Any of the cribs sold in the US, regardless of whether or not they were tested per the ASTM safety standard, would have been given the OK by the US government (well not directly, they would have had to be tested to comply with the US gov't requirements). Add to that the US government has been aware of the issues with these products being sold for more than several years, it would make them somewhat complicit. On top of that, I am pretty sure that the CPSC has been members of the ASTM subcommittees which develop these standards for as long as these subcommittees have existed! They have had just as many opportunities, and also, some weight to throw around.

Really what the shame is, is that these manufacturers have been hiding behind their legal departments and trying to avoid having to fix the issue that exist with their products --- and I won't be the first to tell you, but that the issue is not the design of the products, but rather the quality. Drop side cribs are a godsend for parents all across the US, saving backs from home to home, however cutting corners at the cost of quality will always end with the same result.

Yes, I agree with you, dod. The CPSC has been gutless and asleep at the wheel for decades. But that did not happen in a vacuum. The fact that there was basically little or no functioning, federal product safety regulator in place for the last 30 years was no accident.

The voluntary ASTM and JPMA standards were created for--and had the effect of--stifling any attempt at making new mandatory federal regulations. And it worked. For decades. The cry of bureaucratic meddling and caring companies able to manage themselves was all anyone heard. That dynamic reached its nadir with the Bush administration's attempt to install the manufacturers' top lobbyist as the head of the CPSC in 2007, then leaving the CPSC without a functioning quorum of commissioners after that failed, essentially preventing it from making any new regulations, or attempting any kind of serious enforcement. Again, all by design. Mission accomplished.

The Summer of Lead Paint and the multi-stage Simplicity cribfail led almost directly to the CPSIA and the current crib revisions. That, and a decade-old backlog of crib-related deaths and accidents which the CPSC knew about, but did not act upon. Because they were relentlessly told by manufacturers and lobbyists like the JPMA that the incidents were all the result of consumer error, not faulty design or defective manufacturing.

In this mfr-driven environment, and with the easy-to-thwart consensus process of the ASTM, consumer advocates were marginalized as whiny weirdos, and CPSC was browbeaten into either silence, or was told to treat the companies they were supposed to regulate as clients.

So while there is enough generalized blame to go around, it's important not to fall for fresh JPMA bullshit about how they've always been engaged and onboard with the CPSC's mission. Just like any attempt to strengthen safety standards befor it, they tried to kill the CPSIA, too, and only came out in support of it after it was clear it was going to pass.

I agree! The JPMA does not do a strong enough job of making sure that the standards they are testing to are really worth testing to!

PS, did you see that Health Canada had released a similar, proposed ban on dropside cribs?

The Canadian standards for cribs are much tougher than those in the (both voluntary and required), however I believe both the US has recognized this and will be moving towards Canada by harmonizing their requirements this upcoming year (2011).

"The Canadian standards for cribs are much tougher than those in the (both voluntary and required), however I believe both the US has recognized this and will be moving towards Canada by harmonizing their requirements this upcoming year (2011)."

Not anymore. The new ASTM (soon to be mandatory) standard is significantly harder to pass than the current Health Canada standard, in that it includes some completely new things, like slat breakage testing. Health Canada will catch up to the US standard in the next year or so.

And of course, the USA, as always, has Canada totally whipped on the number and severity of warning labels. Because legalese is the one area where we are unequaled. USA! USA! etc.

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