Did the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) mislead the public on the safety crib bumpers?
Yes, says a new study published in this month's Journal of Pediatrics. Three researchers from Washington University's Department of Pediatrics came to that conclusion after comparing a JPMA statement on the safety of crib bumper safety and unpublished reports from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
How could this happen? First, a bit of background.
Earlier this decade, the CPSC first sounded the alarm about crib bumpers when it warned parents not to put any soft bedding in the crib. The CPSC published a picture of a "safe crib" (at right) which showed a baby with a blanket---but no crib bumpers (which are designed to keep baby from hitting their head against the side of the crib).
We should note that the CPSC did not explicitly say that crib bumpers were dangerous---but the picture spoke volumes.
This set off alarm bells at the JPMA, which is a trade association of baby product makers (including bedding manufacturers). While the JPMA claims one of its missions is to help promote the safe use of baby products, the organization lobbies government on behalf of baby product makers. In that role, the JPMA asked the CPSC in 2003 for data to back up its claim that bumpers were dangerous.
The CPSC provided the JPMA with unpublished data on crib deaths. After an analysis, the JPMA soon issued a press release:
“CPSC Determines Traditional Infant Bedding Does Not Cause Death," said the headline on the JPMA's web site. Based on its analysis of the CPSC data, the JPMA stated:
No deaths (were) directly related to the use of traditional crib bumper pads, infant blankets, and stuffed toys in infant cribs. This clarifies confusion over whether suffocation incidents are caused by such products.
Again, this analysis by the JPMA was done on UNPUBLISHED data.
As it turns out, that is NOT what the data said. Writing in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found the opposite:
In summary , we report that a number of fatal accidental infant deaths directly attributable to crib bumper pads. In direct contradiction to the JPMA interpretation of a CPSC staff data review that there were no incidents directly related to normal bumper use, we found 27 cases of death reported in the same CPSC database.
This embarrassing revelation is the latest hit to the JPMA's credibility, which took a beating over their reaction to the recent baby bottle controversy. First, after reports surfaced questioning the safety of some plastic baby bottles, the JPMA issued a press release "JPMA supports plastic baby bottles!" (yes, JPMA actually put in an exclamation point).
Then the JPMA issued another press release saying that exposure to a chemical in polycarbonate baby bottles "do not pose any serious risk" to infants." Right---the federal panel said there was only "some concern" for neural and psychological effects of the chemical on babies. Sure, "some concern" isn't "serious concern." But who's to quibble when you have the JPMA's assurances that everything is fine!
As we have previously reported, the JPMA has also quietly worked with the plastics industry to quash bottle legislation.
Meanwhile, the JPMA is busy this month promoting (what else?) "Baby Safety Month." Yes, let the irony sit there and melt on your tongue.