Manufacturers Agree To Provide Warning Labels On Crib Sheets

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a joint campaign with a national child product trade association and three manufacturers to educate parents on the dangers associated with ill-fitted crib sheets.

The Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA) is joining the Attorney General's Office in an aggressive consumer education initiative aimed at parents of infants using cribs. Specifically, this initiative will focus on concerns that certain infant crib sheets do not properly fit mattresses, creating a risk that the sheet will pull off the corners and present a potential entanglement and asphyxiation hazard.

"It is especially important that products geared toward infants be held to the highest safety standard possible," Spitzer said. "I applaud the industry for its commitment to develop crib sheets that are safe and to educate parents about appropriate precautions for their use. In agreeing to appropriate warning labels, these manufacturers are acting responsibly to address a safety concern for millions of American babies."

In October of 1998, Dateline NBC and GoodHousekeeping Magazine announced the results of a joint investigation into the safety of fitted crib sheets. The news organizations found that many products did not properly fit standard crib mattresses, and when minimal pressure was exerted, the crib sheets were easily pulled off.

Information obtained from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that at least two children, including one as recently as October 2000, suffocated when they became entangled in fitted sheets that came off the mattresses for which they were designed. Several other infants have died from sheets that were clearly too big for the mattresses on which they were placed - as in bassinets, port-a-cribs, and play yards.

"The lesson learned from these tragedies is that poorly fitting sheets present a potentially fatal risk to helpless infants put down to sleep for naps or for the night," Spitzer said.

It is estimated that hundreds of other infants have become entangled in their crib sheets, fortunately without being injured.

Spitzer's office took the lead in enlisting crib sheet manufacturers from across the nation toattach a warning label to all future productions of crib sheets, as well as a warning statement on the packaging. Through the JPMA, the industry standard for warning labels was recently put into effect. Taking the lead through written agreements with Spitzer's office are: Mount Vernon Mills of Greenville, South Carolina which manufactures Riegal sheets and Carter's by Riegal, Gerber Childrenswear of Freemont, Michigan and Simmons Juvenile Product Company, Inc. of New London, Wisconsin. These companies also have paid the Attorney General's costs of the investigation totaling $10,500.

Consumers should begin to see the warning labels on crib sheets in retail stores over the next few months.

n addition, at a cost of approximately $150,000, the three manufacturers have signed an agreement with Spitzer's office to sponsor an education campaign to warn parents about the risks associated with poorly fitting sheets. In addition to a direct consumer education agenda, this campaign will include outreach directed at national retailers, the New York hotel industry, and New York licensed child care providers. Inserts in packaging explaining the hazard, feature editorials to be published in nationally circulated parents' magazines, and poster displays at 20,000 retail stores throughout the nation also are part of the campaign.

As a result of Good Housekeeping's investigation and under the agreement with Spitzer's office, the industry is developing an objective safety design test for production of crib sheets in the future.

"I am very pleased to see that the Attorney General is taking this action," stated Ilyssa DeCasperis, a mother who had contacted Spitzer's office after her 7 month old son was found stuck between his crib sheet and the mattress and feared that if she hadn't heard her baby's cries for help, he would have suffocated. "When we put our babies down to sleep for the night or for naps, parents would like to sleep peacefully knowing they are safe in their cribs.

"Parents go to great lengths to make sure the cribs slates have the correct spacing and that the mattress is the current thickness. We make sure there are no unsafe toys or stuffed animals in their cribs. Hopefully the actions taken today will further increase the awareness of parents and safeguard our children," Ms. DeCasperis said.

"Until such time as the industry can develop an appropriate standard to ensure safer crib sheet designs, warning labels and education drives will serve to remind parents and care takers that great care needs to be taken with regard to an infant's bedding," Spitzer said.

This investigation was handled by Assistant Attorney General Joy Feigenbaum of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.

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