This issue involves a simple question and the question is this: Will we make it possible to get certain unsafe cribs off of retail shelves and out of consumers hands? Will we make it possible to do that in short order?
Without the proposed Section 30(d) rule in place -- switching jurisdiction over crib hardware hazards to the Consumer Product Safety Act -- the problem may be addressed prospectively, that is, for the future. For future production, these cribs may be trade safer. But without this 30(d) Rule, there will be no impact, certainly not in the short-term, on what's on retail shelves and what's in consumers' homes. The 30(d) transfer gives this agency the opportunity not only to eliminate hazards from future production of cribs, but to remove from the market, to recall from homes, those cribs already out there that demonstrate certain egregious defects -- defects that rise to the level of being substantial product hazards.
That's really what this issue is about. In just the three years from January 1980 thru March 1983, our staff knows of 67 incidents involving crib hardware problems, which include 27 infant deaths. One can argue that we might conceivably get these products off the market three or four years hence without this transfer of jurisdiction. But I'm not prepared to invite still more tragedy, more death and grievous injury to infants, over the next several years. That's about what it would take under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, with all the litigation one should expect from an industry that's been dragging its feet for far too long. The industry has shown no inclination, to date, to get these unsafe cribs off the market and out of consumers homes. It's demonstrated no real concern about the need for a possible recall of defective units already sold. So far, just the mere proposing of this transfer .rule has had a salutary effect on at least one manufacturer who, previously, refused even to sit down with our staff and discuss the problem; now, it looks like a recall is in the offing, with appropriate notice to families which may still have these cribs.
To paraphrase the words of a memorable folk song of the '60s -- 'How many deaths does it take, before too many children have died'...from unsafe cribs. These are cribs that have serious defects associated with their hardware that we, as a federal regulatory agency, simply won't be able to get at, and recall promptly, unless this rule is passed.
March 28, 1984