Researchers warned that the number of infant deaths related to bumpers installed on cribs have spiked through the past years.
Based on their findings, the researchers are calling for a nationwide ban on crib bumpers to avoid additional accidents and even fatalities involving babies, Science Daily reported.
According to the researchers, bumpers are blankets or small pillows that can be attached on the interior sides of the cribs. These are designed to prevent babies from hitting the rails of the cribs or getting their limbs caught in between the protective bars.
However, contrary to their function, crib bumpers are actually doing more harm than good according to the researchers. They noted that as babies toss and turn while they're sleeping, their faces could get pressed into the bumpers which could cause them to suffocate. The researchers also said the infants could accidentally swallow the ties used to secure the bumpers which could also lead to suffocation.
"When a baby's nose and mouth is covered by a bumper, the infant can suffocate when his or her airway becomes blocked, or from breathing oxygen-depleted air," N.J. Sheers, the former manager of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and one of the authors of the study said in a statement.
"So if bumpers have not been in the cribs, these babies would not have died," he added.
For the study, which was published on November 24 in the Journal of Pediatrics, the researchers led by Dr. Bradley Thach of the Washington University in Missouri analyzed deaths linked to crib bumpers from 1985 to 2012 based on the data provided by the CPSC. The victims ranged from one to 22 months old.
During this period, a total of 48 deaths caused by the bumpers were reported. On average, eight deaths occurred every seven years after 1985. However, between 2006 to 2012, the average death rate jumped to 23.
Aside from fatalities, the researchers also noted that from 1990 to 2012, a total of 146 accidents related to crib bumpers were reported.
The researchers, however, did not offer an exact explanation regarding the increase in the number of deaths. But they suspect more doctors and states are reporting the deaths during the latter years.
Also, the researchers cited the actual number of reported deaths as one of the main problems they encountered while carrying out the study. Although they counted a total of 48 reported fatalities according to the CPSC, these do not include the additional 32 reported deaths in 37 states from 2008 to 2011.
"CPSC relies on death certificates to identify deaths caused by specific products," Sheers said. "Bumper involvement is often not specified on death certificates, so it is highly likely many deaths caused by crib bumpers are missed."
Due to the strong link between infant deaths and crib bumpers, various organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics have called for a nationwide ban on the soft beddings.