HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Millions of infant inclined sleepers have been recalled in the past few months after regulators found they could pose a suffocation hazard, but a consumer watchdog group says more needs to be done to make the public aware of the hazards.
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group found in a study that focused on daycare centers in Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin, that across the U.S. it appears 1 in 10 daycares are still using the inclined-sleepers, despite the sleepers being linked to more than 50 infant deaths nationwide.
WHNT News 19 contacted 24 daycare centers in Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties over the past few days. The centers told us they don't use the sleepers and state law is very specific about how they must arrange an infant's sleeping environment.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources licenses and regulates daycares. We asked the agency about infant sleepers and their use around the state.
"Licensing rules only allow infants who are not walking to sleep in a crib with a firm waterproof mattress that fits snugly against all sides of the crib," DHR told WHNT News 19 in a statement. "We do not allow for any positioning devices to be used for sleeping unless a note is received from a doctor specifying the need for this positioning device. Once an infant is walking independently, they can be transitioned to a cot. We are not aware of any daycares using these inclined sleeping devices."
Adam Garber, consumer watchdog for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said the sleepers can be found all the country.
"More than 50 kids have died in infant sleepers that have inclines on them," he said. "These were very popular products. The two incline sleepers we looked at, sold more than 5.4 million units. And are used by parents and daycares all across the country."
There have been a number of sleeper recalls.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission began directing recalls in April. including Fisher-Price’s Rock-n-Play sleeper, which included more than 4.7 million units.
The Kids II rocking sleepers were also recalled, nearly 700,000 were included.
And in late July, 24,000 Eddie Bauer Slumber and Disney Baby Doze units were recalled.
"But unfortunately, it looks like only a small percentage of those will be returned, continuing to pose serious risk to children," Garber said.
Daycare operators around North Alabama offered a range of descriptions on how they were notified of recalls. Some said they receive word through DHR, others said they usually become aware of child product-related recalls through news reports and some said they signed up for alerts through the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
DHR told us in the statement that its employees -- known as licensing consultants -- who visit daycare centers, complete inspections and conduct investigations, are a point of contact for sharing recall information.
"If information is received by our Department concerning product recalls and these products could possibly be used in a day care facility this information is distributed to our licensing consultants for them to give to our day care providers," DHR said. "If providers continue to use products in their facilities that have been recalled, it would be considered a safety hazard and written on a deficiency report."
Garber said U.S. law is generally very effective at stopping the sale of potentially dangerous products, but less so, in notifying consumers.
"They fall woefully short of removing those hazards from our homes and lives," Garber said.
The problem is compounded by the sheer number of recalls, he said.
Garber also believes the large companies involved in recalls like the inclined-sleepers are well-positioned to reach out to consumers.
"Companies like Mattel and Fisher Price collect vast amounts of information about us," he said. "They know what we bought, and they know what we might want to buy. And they could use their marketing prowess to warn us more directly."
Families can sign up for product recall notices.
When it comes to infants and how beds should be arrayed, it's very straightforward, Garber said.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you only put your child to sleep on a hard flat surface with nothing else around it when they’re under under 1-year of age," he said.