TRENTON, NJ - Following repeated requests from Keeping Babies Safe (KBS), a Warren based non-profit organization that has been calling for state legislation to remove the product from the market in New Jersey, Target announced it is the latest national retailer to remove the dangerous product from its line.
The announcement came on the eve of a critical vote in the state Assembly today to ban the sale of supplemental baby mattresses in New Jersey,
In making this important decision, Target joins a number of retailers who have stopped selling supplemental mattresses because of proven hazards to babies. Toys R Us, Sears, Kmart, Buy Buy Baby and Wayfair have already removed these products in their stores and online. Meanwhile, other major retailers, such as Walmart and Amazon, have, to date, keep selling the product – a known suffocation hazard.
Today, at 1 p.m., the Assembly is set to vote on the legislation (A-1139), which “prohibits the sale of unsafe supplemental mattresses designed for children products.” The bill had moved through the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee, which unanimously voted for the legislation to be moved to the floor, for a full Assembly vote.
Simultaneously, KBS has a petition docketed with the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, seeking a nationwide ban. Public comment for the petition was 99 percent in favor of the ban, with mattress manufacturers as the primary opponent.
The Assembly bill is sponsored by Assembly members Jamel Holley, Nancy Munoz and Angela McKnight. Holley, the driving force behind the legislation and a KBS “Legislator of the Year,” lauded the Target decision and urged his colleagues to pass the bill.
“The longer we have these supplemental mattresses sold in New Jersey, the longer we have a direct and proven risk to babies,” Holley said. “The industry has known for two decades that this product is a proven suffocation hazard, yet has done nothing. The state Legislature, and this governor, can finally put an end to this risk in New Jersey.”
There are a number of leading consumer and public health organizations closely following the Assembly decision, with the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Kids In Danger, National Center for Health Research, and Public Citizen all calling for New Jersey to pass a law. The American Academy of Pediatrics, representing 64,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical sub-specialists and pediatric surgical specialists, is also calling for the ban.
The AAP states: “Supplemental mattresses for play yards with non rigid sides do not have a place in a safe sleep environment. These products pose a suffocation hazard to infants… The availability of supplemental mattresses is contradictory to the safety standard for cribs and play yards and undermines efforts to promote a safe sleep environment."
Supplemental mattresses are mattresses sold individually, can be bought for use with play yards, and are advertised as safe. According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data from 2000 through 2013, at least 15 children died while sleeping on supplemental mattresses. These deaths involved a child being wedged between gaps created when the supplemental mattress was added to the play yard or portable crib.
The voluntary standard, ASTM F406-13, acknowledges this risk with a warning label telling parents not to use these mattresses, and instructing consumers to only use the original mattress pad contained in the play yard package. Still, these supplemental mattresses, seemingly in contradiction to this voluntary standard and the warning label, continue to be sold.
“The sale of supplemental mattresses creates significant confusion for consumers. How can these products be sold if there is a warning about their safe use?” asks KBS President Joyce Davis. “We saluted Target’s decision, which is important and well-timed with this key Assembly vote.”
The bill bans the sale of unsafe supplemental mattresses intended to be used by children in products, such as non-full size cribs, portable cribs, play pens, and play yards.
If the legislation is adopted, retailers caught selling supplemental mattresses would be fined up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for any subsequent offense. Additionally, there could be punitive damages and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured party.
"This is a sensible bill that would help keep young children safe,” said William Wallace, Policy Analyst at Consumer Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. “New Jersey policymakers should approve it without delay."
“The evidence is clear: These supplemental mattresses can kill children,” says Dr. Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D., President of the National Center for Health Research. “They should be banned. As someone who was born and raised in New Jersey, I’m proud to see my home state on the forefront of this important issue.”
The voluntary standard (ASTM F406-13) for play yards provides that mattresses in children’s products meet certain standard consumer safety specifications, such as setting forth the allowable thickness of a mattress, selling a product with the mattress included, only using a mattress provided by the manufacturer, and including a warning about the risk of infant suffocation.
Despite these requirements and standards, supplemental mattresses continue to be marketed to consumers for use in certain cribs, play pens, and play yards and present a risk to babies of injury and death.
“The bill introduced in New Jersey leads the nation in protecting babies from hazards posed by supplemental mattresses and gets rid of the current confusion in the marketplace. We urge other states to follow New Jersey’s lead and we hope that the bill will move successfully through the Legislature,” Davis said.
“Strong action at the state level not only will protect children but will send a clear signal to the manufacturers of these products and to the CPSC that there is a serious safety hazard posed by these products and a much needed solution is necessary” stated Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel at Consumer Federation of America.
“Public Citizen applauds this legislation to better protect infants in New Jersey,” said Susan Harley, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Our youngest and most vulnerable citizens deserve the safest sleep possible, and that means taking critical action to end the use of supplemental mattresses that can pose a suffocation hazard. And, hopefully this state action will help spur our federal leaders to address this proven risk to infants.”