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Traveling With Baby: Watch Out For Dangerous Cribs

(March 2000)

Many traveling families use cribs and play yards provided by motels and hotels. Estimates show that children under the age of 2 spend more than 7 million nights per year in hotels, motels, and resorts. Last month, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned that most cribs found in hotels during a recent study were unsafe for infants. The warning stems from safety concerns about a number of cribs and play yards and from spot checks at some 90 hotels performed by volunteers from the Safe Kids Coalition. According to the Safe Kids Coalition, 40 deaths occur each year involving cribs, though not necessarily in hotels. Hazards were found in half of the 122 cribs that the Safe Kids Coalition volunteers inspected. The CPSC said unsafe cribs and play yards were found in 80 percent of the hotels and motels visited for the study.

Elements of cribs considered unsafe:

Slats spaced far enough apart that an infant's head could get stuck between them

Bedding that is so soft as to create a suffocation hazard

Cribs that are designed to collapse in the middle, which could lead to a child's head getting caught between the two halves of the device

Exposed corners and slide rails on older cribs which could cause serious injuries if a child's hands or fingers were to get caught in them

Adult sheets on the mattress-- a potential cause of strangulation and suffocation

Tears in the netting of play yards

Loose or exposed hardware

Unsecured mattress supports that could entrap a baby

With the findings, the CPSC has urged hotels to join a campaign for safer cribs. So far, out of the 24 that were invited, only one hotel group has agreed to join the crib safety initiative. Bass Hotels and Resorts, which owns and operates Holiday Inn, Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites, is offering to cooperate with the commission. The Bass group has promised to provide additional training for staff. In addition, they will conduct a "crib safety" week during which each hotel's housekeeping and maintenance staff will conduct thorough inspections of all cribs and play yards to ensure they meet current safety standards.

As the mother of two young children, one just leaving the crib, I was not at all surprised by the announcement. In my opinion, it is way overdue. I have been appalled by some of the cribs and playpens that hotels use. Many were so bad that I didn't use them, and I am not talking about budget hotels, but five star hotels. Cribs were often broken, worn out, and dirty. It became so bad the last few years that I opted to bring our own portable playpen along. However, this warning should be directed not only at hotels but also at cruise lines. In my experience, cruiselines have had some of the worst cribs of all.

CPSC and Safe Kids have prepared information that hotels and motels, as well as consumers, can use to make sure cribs and play yards are not hazardous. The CPSC encourages parents to ask ahead if the hotel or motel in which they are planning to stay has a system in place to ensure that their cribs are safe.

The CPSC crib safety and recall information is available at http://www.cpsc.gov or by calling the CPSC hotline at 1-800-638-2772.

More information on crib safety is available at http://www.safekids.org

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