Friday, September 26, 2003

Baby suffocated in old crib

Newer model would have had less space between slats

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - A new crib likely would have prevented the death of an 8-month-old Northern Kentucky infant.

The decades-old crib Leah Gabrielle Roark suffocated in last week did not meet U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations developed in the mid-1970s. Officials said Laah died from "positional asphyxia" when she could not free herself to get air.

From the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
Tips on crib safety
Watch a video about crib safety
List of recalled cribs
"This death is why we do not want people to use old cribs," said Ken Giles, a commission spokesman based in Bethesda, Md. "Safety standards have eliminated many of the risks once associated with cribs. Old cribs should be put in the trash."

An average of 30 children die per year this way in old cribs in the United States, Giles said. That figure does not include suffocation due to soft bedding.

Leah got caught between crib slats that were 33/4 inches apart at Roni's Daylight and Nightlight Child Care in the 1700 block of Independence Road on Sept. 18. The commission calls for slats to be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. But that doesn't mean the in-home, day-care licensee was at fault. Kentucky state law makes no such specification.

The Cabinet for Health Services, responsible for inspecting and licensing the state's day cares, has suspended the business's license as Independence police and state officials investigate the baby's death.

While state regulations do not specify the width between crib slats, surveyors can cite a business for any crib deemed "unsafe," said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Cabinet for Health Services. He said unsafe cribs would not automatically mean a caregiver would lose a day care license, although the firm would be expected to correct the problem.

"This death is a good reason to strengthen Kentucky's regulations concerning cribs," said Elaine Ward, associate executive director for 4C, a nonprofit childcare resource and referral service serving 13 Greater Cincinnati counties. "The regulations say all equipment should be safe. That's a very broad rule."

She said state regulators might not be able to address every piece of equipment that might be used in a day care setting, but that cribs certainly should be looked at closely. Ward said state regulators already require mattresses in cribs to be a certain thickness.

There are about 2,200 licensed day cares in Kentucky, and the Cabinet for Health Services suspends, revokes or denies about 30 licenses a year, Lawson said.

Lawson said the in-home day care was licensed for seven children.

Day care operator Revonna Rogers is not facing any charge at this time, said Independence Detective Amy Chapman, but she stressed that the investigation was not complete.

Rogers could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Cabinet for Families & Children is also investigating the death, but spokesman Mike Jennings would not comment on specifics of the case.

Old cribs pose other dangers, experts say. They include corner posts that children's clothes get caught in, cutouts on headboards and footboards that children get their heads stuck in, and overall loose crib hardware such as screws.

Ward said the death of Leah should be used to highlight the dangers of hand-me-down cribs. She said there are simple tests parents can do to check the safety of a crib. If a pop can be slid between them, they are too far apart.

"Cribs get recycled too often," she said. "They are sold at yard sales, and sometimes people are just not aware of the dangers."


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