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If they won’t build them right, ban them

Submitted by on Monday, 23 November 2009 No Comment

boots_cribHere’s a great example of how we’ve improved products over the years to the point of making them heaping piles of junk.

The crib I slept in as babe decades ago now lives in my parents’ attic. After 10 kids over the decades, it deserves the rest. It’s had a few new mattresses, but otherwise it’s all original equipment. The drop side still drops when it’s supposed to – with the help of a foot lever I’m so happy manufacturers discontinued lest Big Guy decide to bounce his brother out of bed – and stays up when it should.

The crib Big Guy and Boots slept in is less than a decade old and parts of it have been replaced three times. It broke when we took it apart to move to Boots’ room. It broke while it was in Boots’ room. And it broke again when we dismantled it for the last time at our house before passing it on, along with a pack of replacement parts. I ordered three sets the first time it broke – I’m OCD that way.

Yes, it was a Stork Craft, very similar to the 2.1 million recalled Monday as officials finally determined that the cribs are suffocation hazards.

The reason: The plastic pieces holding the drop side together break easily – believe me, I know – creating space between the crib frame and the mattress through which a baby can fall. The funniest part of the recall stories: Reports the describe the frail plastic pieces as “hardware.” Clearly, it’s not all that hard if it won’t hold up for a few years. In contrast, the drop side on my former baby bed had all metal parts – parts that can withstand decades of wear.

Which leads to the second chuckle of the day,  in articles that quote safety advocates as saying the cribs are not designed for years of use or to be taken apart and reassembled. Why on Earth not? Did the safety engineers think they were designing disposable diapers? It shouldn’t shock a manufacturer that a parent is going to use a $200 piece of furniture for more than one child or that it might be passed along when a family is finished having babies.

ASTM International, a U.S.-based standards-setting organization, claims drop-side cribs can’t be built safely and is proposing a ban. The new standards would allow a small fold-down portion at the top of the railing though. Several major retailers already are refusing to sell drop-sides, which means a de facto ban already is in place.

If manufacturers won’t build safe drop-side cribs, then they should be banned. It’s just funny that the  U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends, not a ban, but that drop-sides be made with all metal parts.

Hmm … That sounds like the way cribs were built 45 years ago.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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