A mesh sided play crib (image credit John Moore/Getty)
Washington, DC (written by Jayne O'Donnell/USA Today) -- The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted Wednesday to enact a tough new safety rule for play yards, the portable mesh cribs and play pens many parents use for babies and toddlers.
More than 60 children were killed and 170 injured in play yards between November 2007 and December 2011, according to CPSC data. Many died when trapped in collapsed play yards, under mattress pads or when strangled by straps hanging in the play yard.
"Play yards and other products used to put babies and toddlers down to sleep really should be the safest products in the home," says CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.
Play yards were already covered by a voluntary safety standard, but the new rule makes it mandatory.
The rule tightens testing for durability and stability, sets a minimum height requirement for the sides and requires locking mechanisms to keep the products from collapsing on children.
Manufacturers must meet the rule starting in December.
Tenenbaum says the rule is important to prevent further injuries and death "but also because there have been more than 20 recalls of play yards over the past 25 years involving millions of units."
Last month, Amazon.com, Bed Bath & Beyond, Buy Buy Baby, Burlington Coat Factory, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart agreed to recall and stop selling Tots in Mind play yard tents after 27 tent failures including one death and one serious injury between January 1997 and April 2012.
The children's product safety group Kids In Danger had pushed for a change in how the bassinets found on most play yards are attached. This fix would have required the key parts of a bassinet to be permanently attached.
Kids In Danger Executive Director Nancy Cowles says a Chicago infant was killed a year ago when she slid into the corner of a misassembled bassinet and suffocated after one of the clips holding the bassinet in place released.
Cowles says "last-minute maneuvering" by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association forced CPSC to delay action on the fix. JPMA, which said it "is pleased" with the new rule, says the bassinet assembly requirement wasn't included in the original proposal or voluntary standard so shouldn't have been enacted at the same time.
The play yard rule was part of a sweeping children's product safety measure dubbed Danny's Law, after Danny Keysar, who died in 1998. He was trapped in a previously recalled play yard at his child care center.
The law required mandatory federal standards for more than a dozen children's products. Safety standards have already been enacted for cribs, toddler beds, bed rails, baby walkers and baby bath seats. CPSC is drafting new rules for bassinets and cradles, strollers and infant carriers.
Danny's parents, Linda Ginzel and Boaz Keysar, founded Kids In Danger after his death.
"I'm an accidental advocate," says Ginzel, who attended a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday announcing the rule. "We just knew we couldn't accept the status quo."