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Did Deaths or Publicity Prompt Crib Recalls?

As you have probably heard, Simplicity and the Consumer Products Safety Commission have recalled over a million baby cribs after numerous children were injured or killed while using the cribs. But now, many are starting to ask whether the CPSC made the recall soon enough.

The Chicago Tribune, which broke the story, had a startling follow-up today, where it questioned the timing in the recall. The first victim, Liam Johns, died in April 2005. When discussing the timing of the recall, the Tribune noted:

But the company and the Consumer Product Safety Commission didn’t warn parents across the country about the potentially fatal flaw in Simplicity cribs–not after Liam suffocated, not after more complaints about the crib rails and not after two more infants died.

Instead, the Tribune contends, the recall wasn’t initiated until Tribune reporters started investigating the story. And the facts seem to bear them out. The article continued:

Interviews and records show that the federal investigator assigned to Liam’s death failed to inspect the crib in his initial inquiry and didn’t track down the model or manufacturer.

“We get so many cases,” the investigator, Michael Ng, said in an interview this month. “Once I do a report, I send it in and that’s it. I go to the next case. We could spend more time, but we are under the gun. We have to move on.”

Only last week, after inquiries by the Tribune, did Ng return to California to find the crib. It had first been held as evidence by sheriff’s police and later was put in storage by a lawyer retained by the family.

It’s important to note that the Tribune isn’t the only one questioning the timing of the recall. ABC News also ran its own story questioning the timing.

Even more troubling in all of this is that it appears that the some of the same cribs were subject to another recall in February 2006. It’s hard to understand why these current dangers weren’t mentioned at the time of that recall.

And most importantly, at a time when the federal government continues to try and preempt state laws and regulation, this is another example of a failure by the governmental entity that is supposed to be watching out for the public’s safety.

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