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Drop-side cribs may be banned in hotels, day care

WASHINGTON - The government took a big step yesterday toward eliminating from stores, hotels and day care centers any crib with a side rail that can be raised and lowered - so-called drop-side cribs.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission proposed new rules that would ban the manufacture, sale and resale of drop-side cribs. The new crib standard, likely to take effect next year, would also outlaw drop-sides at motels, hotels and child care facilities.

The push to ban drop-sides came as the commission announced the recall of 82,000 cribs from popular retailer Pottery Barn Kids. The commission said the cribs could pose a suffocation or entrapment risk. The recall involves all Pottery Barn Kids drop-side cribs regardless of model number. The company is offering free kits to immobilize the drop-side rail.

Drop-side cribs, around for decades, have come under scrutiny in recent years because of hardware problems that can lead to the drop-side rail partially detaching from the crib. When that happens, it can create a dangerous "V"-like gap between the mattress and side rail where a baby can get caught and suffocate or strangle.

The commission agreed to develop a new standard to make cribs with four fixed sides mandatory. It also proposed more stringent tests for cribs and the use of more durable materials.

"We will have a new crib standard after 28 years," said chairman Inez Tenenbaum. "We've seen a number of tragedies because we had such a weak crib standard." Drop-sides have been blamed in deaths of at least 32 infants and toddlers since 2000 and are suspected in another 14 infant fatalities. In the past five years, more than 9 million drop-side cribs have been recalled.Wednesday's vote by the commission for a new crib standard will be followed by a comment period, with a final rule and vote expected in December. If approved, the new standard would probably not become effective until next summer.

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