KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission is warning parents and caregivers to immediately stop using a popular brand of bassinet after the death of a second baby attributed to the product. Six major retailers have stopped selling the bassinets.
The warning covers the Simplicity 3-in-1 and Simplicity 4-in-1 bassinets. CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese said Thursday the danger is so severe that the agency was compelled to issue the warning late Wednesday ahead of a likely recall.
"Recalls can take time, and the commission felt that time was of the essence and that warning the public about this product was so important that we could not wait until a recall was announced," she said.
Wal-Mart, one of the largest distributors of the product, said Thursday it is pulling the bassinets off its shelves and its website.
"We are working with the supplier and CPSC and are directing store managers to remove product identified in the CPSC press release from store shelves and initiating a register block to prevent sale," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "In addition, we are in the process of removing this product from sale at Walmart.com."
In addition, Toys "R" Us Inc., Kmart Corp., Big Lots, Target, J.C. Penney have also recalled the bassinets, the CPSC said late Thursday.
Last week, a 6-month-old Shawnee, Kan., girl was strangled after trying to slip through the metal tubes that run down the side of the bassinet. Police say her body fit through the tubes, but her head was too big and she became hung.
In September 2007, a 4-month-old Pineville, Mo., girl died after being caught between the rail of her Simplicity 4-in-1 bassinet and the mattress.
The CPSC says the "close-sleeper/bedside sleeper" bassinets have metal bars spaced farther apart than the maximum 2 3/8 inches allowed under federal crib safety standards. The bars are covered by an adjustable fabric flap that is attached by Velcro, which can fall if not properly attached and allow an infant to slide between the bars.
Vallese said the agency is acting under new authority granted under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, signed by President Bush earlier this month.
"It is now clear what the foreseeable danger with this product is," she said. "The fact that we have put out this warning pretty much has determined that this is a product that should not be used by consumers."
Simplicity recalled about 1 million cribs Sept. 21, 2007, after reports of three deaths and seven babies who had become entrapped in its cribs. Vallese said the recall put Simplicity out of business, and its assets were purchased by SFCA Inc. in April.
In a release Wednesday, CPSC said SFCA "has refused to cooperate with the government and recall the products. SFCA maintains that it is not responsible for products previously manufactured by Simplicity Inc."
In a statement Thursday, SFCA insisted the warning does not involve any product it manufactures or distributes. It noted that the CPSC said its warning does not include bassinets produced in recent months that have fabric permanently attached over the bar — a feature SFCA says its bassinets include.
"All bassinets produced and sold by SFCA are produced in this manner, with fabric permanently attached over the lower bar, and meet or exceed ASTM standards and CPSC guidelines," the company said.
The model number of the bassinet in which 6-month-old Kennedy Jones was killed on Aug. 21 in Shawnee is 3112DOH7.
Vallese said there are about 1 million of the affected bassinets, which have been on the market for about seven years, in stores and in homes across the U.S.
Jeff Slaton, an attorney for the family of 4-month-old Katelyn Marie Simon, who died in September in Missouri, said his clients will be relieved when the defective bassinets are pulled off the shelves.
Slaton said he filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Simon family against Wal-Mart and Simplicity Inc. on Aug. 20, the day before the Kansas baby died.
"It's rather obvious when you look at this bassinet that it's defective and dangerous," he said. "The problem is that people don't think in those terms. When you go to Wal-Mart and find something covered with Walt Disney's Winnie the Pooh, you don't think like that."
Slaton said he hasn't been hired to handle the Kansas case.