The state will consider adopting voluntary safety standards rather than an all-out ban on bumper pads that line the inside of cribs and have been determined a hazard to babies.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has been pushing regulations that would make it the first state to ban the sale of bumper pads, but said Friday it will hold hearings to look at voluntary safety standards adopted by the manufacturers.
Studies have found that the bumper pads, often included as part of bedding sets, can suffocate or strangle babies. Manufacturers of the bumpers say the devices are safe if used correctly.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association has said the bumpers can keep infants from bruising their heads and can prevent entrapped limbs. The voluntary standards the group backs were developed and adopted by ASTM International, which works to improve product quality and safety through voluntary standards.
The bumper standards would help distinguish between the more hazardous, pillow-like bumpers and what the manufacturers call safer traditional bumpers. The standards also call for warning labels on bumpers.
The manufacturers association has also petitioned the Consumer Product Safety Commission to pass a rule to define the difference.
Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein said the department will look into the standards. The agency is taking comments through Sept. 28.
"If there is a standard that protects children from preventable harm in the crib, we would be very interested," Sharfstein said. "The question really is whether the performance specifications can meet that task."
DHMH had already begun the formal regulatory process on a ban of bumpers that would take affect June 21, 2013. It could still choose to adopt the voluntary standards instead.
Under the ban, retailers, including Internet sellers, would receive a warning for a first violation of the rule and be fined up to $500 for each baby bumper sold after that.
The ban would include a plan to educate parents on safe sleeping practices, such as removing blankets, stuffed animals and other objects from the crib. About 50 infants a year in Maryland die of sudden infant death syndrome.
Some studies have shown that babies can roll into the bumpers and get their faces stuck, causing them to suffocate. Others have been found dead with the ties from the bumpers wrapped around their necks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also warned against using bumpers in sleep guidelines for parents, which were adopted in 2011 and were aimed at reducing sudden infant death syndrome and other deaths.
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